How To Host A SURJ House Meeting

“Can the white activist not try to comes alive in the black community, but can he be a man who’s willing to move into the white community and start organizing where the organization is needed?” — Stokely Carmichael 1966

Why hold a house meeting?

Our role as white people in the fight for racial justice is to move into our communities and work to undo racism by getting more white people to join the fight for racial justice. People join movements when they are invited in! People make commitments to other people, not just to causes. In this work, we must build and nurture our relationships with one another and develop a supportive, affirming community that people want to be part of. House parties are a great way to grow and deepen the engagement our base and practice our leadership skills. House parties are gatherings in our homes to bring people together we want to deepen relationships with. This guide is designed to support you in holding a house meeting, or supporting others in your group to host.

Planning Steps: How to Hold a House Meeting 

  1. Pick a date and time. You should give yourself about a month to plan the meeting.

  2. Set goals. It’s important to get clear on what you’re trying to achieve through your house meeting. There’s no one right way or outcome, but it’s helpful to get clear with yourself about what you’re trying to accomplish.

    In general, we are offering four ideas: volunteer recruitment, campaign-specific canvassing, persuasion conversations, and fundraising. These are potentially overlapping goals.

    Volunteer recruitment: Recruiting new people to join your SURJ chapter in an ongoing way. You can think about recruiting folks to:

    *Attend your next SURJ meeting
    *Campaign work
    *Taking on additional work the group needs to survive (fundraising, communications, etc)

    Campaign-specific action: Educating and moving people to action around a specific campaign that’s trying to make policy change.

    Persuasion conversations: Talking to people who don’t agree with you yet or may have conflicting opinions about racial justice.

    Fundraising: Raising funds for SURJ and movement partners to continue to do it’s powerful work.

  3. Build your list. Spend a few minutes thinking about folks you can invite. Cast a wide net: who is probably with you, but hasn’t been asked how they feel about what’s happening in our country? Who just needs an invitation to participate? A good way to generate a list is to think about everyone who would pick up the phone if you called them. It’s important to not make decisions for people or make assumptions about folks. Invite them and allow people to make their own decision.

  4. Invite everyone. Send out an email, or better yet, make individual phone calls or texts. A sample script is below you can use on the phone. It’s important to be clear about the purpose of the meeting.

  5. Do turn out. Don’t assume that folks are coming unless they tell you, twice! Reminder phone calls the day before or day of and reminding folks how excited you are for them to come will help ensure a good turn out.

  6. Host! See below for sample agenda and discussion questions.

  7. Follow up. If there are action steps that come out of the conversation, be sure to follow up. Also, please share any contact information with the SURJ group recruitment volunteer to be sure that the folks you recruited can stay in touch with what’s happening in the SURJ network and upcoming opportunities for action.

House Meeting Checklist

These are questions to ask yourself as you begin to plan, or to walk through with someone in your group who is planning a house meeting for the first time.

  • Who is hosting the meeting (co-hosts?)
  • Date of the meeting
  • Times of the meeting
  • Location of the meeting
  • Goal turnout
  • Goal fundraising
  • Would you like to do paper or electronic invites?
  • How many invitations will you need printed?
  • Are you going to include a map with the invitations? Who will the reply envelopes go to (if paper)? 
  • Name
  • Address (city, state, zip)
  • Are there any special guests/ artists, etc that should be mentioned on the invite. If yes, who?
  • Do they have artwork that should be included on the invite? yes/ no
  • What kind of meeting will this be? Please describe:
  • What materials would you like for your meeting? 
  • When will you be doing follow up calls? 
  • What kind of support do you need or want to be able to pull this off? 
  • Will you have food, or just snacks and refreshments? 
  • Who are a few people who can help and what do you want them to help with?

Sample agenda for house meeting

1 hour 35 minutes total

  • Welcome (5 min) 
    • After giving some time for people to interact and get refreshments, share who you are, why you are called to this work, and why you’re taking action in this moment. 
  • Introductions (15 min) 
    • Have folks introduce themselves and say a few words on why they came tonight and/or any questions they are coming with. 
  • Share SURJ values to ground the discussion (15 min) 
    • Calling in, not out 
    • Accountability through collective action
    • Making mistakes, taking risks, learn and keep going
    • Mutual Interest 
    • Enough for All 
    • Growing is good 
  • Discussion (45) 
    • See below for quotes and discussion questions
    • Discussions should be aligned with your goals! 
  • Make an ask (10) 
    • This the the opportunity to make the ask - sign up to volunteer, give a financial donation, continue the conversation at another time, etc. 
  • Close (5) 
    • Choose a ritual to close the space. It could be a poem, song or a check in about how everyone is feeling at the end of the night.

Discussion Questions

These discussion questions are meant to help prepare you and jog some great thinking as you begin to prepare the content of your discussion based on the goals you’ve set.

Volunteer recruitment

  • Share the SURJ values and spend more time reflecting. Some additional questions you can use to prompt discussion include:
    • Is there a time you have ever been called out by another white person? What did that feel like? What was the impact on your relationship with the group? 
    • What is your mutual interest in ending racism? How would would the world be better for you if we could end racism?
    • What’s a mistake you made that you learned from? What allowed you to learn from it?
    • Why do you think we’re taught there isn’t enough for all of us? Who does that belief benefit? 
    • When’s a time you took action with other people about something you cared about?

  • Share one of the following quotes and ask what that brings up for people. 
    • "The battle is and always has been a battle for the hearts and minds of White people in this country. The fight against racism is our issue. It’s not something that we’re called on to help People of Color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because really, in truth, they do." — Anne Braden

    • “Black people don’t need to be convinced that anti-black racism, structural inequity and skin privilege are facts; white people do… White people have to do the hard work of figuring out the best ways to educate themselves and each other about racism. And I don’t know what that looks like, because that is not my work, or the work of other black people, to figure out. In fact, the demand placed on black people to essentially teach white folk how not to be racist or complicit in structural racism is itself an exercise of willful ignorance and laziness.” — Darnell L. Moore


  • Share a racial justice campaign that’s active in the community. Share facts around the campaign, stories of people impacted and then give folks an opportunity to discuss. 
  • For example: In New York State, there is currently a “Raise the Age” bill pending in the state legislature to stop sentencing 16 and 17 year olds as adults and sending them to adult prison. Share a few facts about the campaign and stories of people who have been impacted by it. Then ask questions that include:
    • What is something that happened to you as a child that still impacts you today?
    • What was your interaction with the police when you were a teenager? How might that have been different for you as a white person than for people of color?
    • How do we want to treat young people who make mistakes? 
  • Make a concrete ask that moves people to action. For example, on the Raise the Age Campaign asks could include:
    • Join a lobby day to tell our state Senator they should support the bill
    • Write a letter to the Governor
    • Donate to support the campaign 
    • Get 20 signatures 
    • Get your church to sign onto the campaign 
    • Hold a house meeting of your own to educate more people on the bill

Coming soon


  • Spark a discussion using either the campaign or volunteer suggestions above. 
  • Share a bit more about Showing Up for Racial Justice. You can share the following information:
    • SURJ is a national network of white people organizing white people for racial justice. 
    • We have over 150 chapters across the country 
    • SURJ provides coaching, training, convenings and opportunities for groups to participate in strategic racial justice campaigns. 
  • The ask is to make a financial contribution to SURJ and a matching gift to a people of color-led organization. 
  • You’ll want to have membership forms and the list of people-of-color led organizations that folks can make their match you. You can find fundraising resources on the SURJ website.


Thanks to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and JFREJ, two SURJ affiliates for sharing resources we’ve included in this toolkit. Have suggestions on how to improve this guide? Want to share a story of a successful house-meeting? Email our organizing director Erin Heaney at






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