Welcome to our toolkit!

Dear First 5 Colleagues:

One significant promise made by Proposition 10 is the promise of First 5 as an influential voice on policy change on behalf of California’s young children both at the state and county levels. The investments and partnerships of First 5 and its life-changing outcomes for children and families across California have created a crucial policy story that must be shared with policy makers. Whether the goal is finding resources to prevent the erosion of impactful local investments, using our experience to better hone child and family support policies, or taking innovative First 5 pilots to scale statewide, we have a responsibility to share the First 5 story with every elected official.

So why did First 5 California create a Town Hall Toolkit? As the saying goes, “All politics are local.” Policy education for individual elected officials and policy makers in each county is a linchpin in furthering the goals of Proposition 10. Town hall forums provide a traditional and effective stage for local public engagement on policy issues, and drive home to elected officials and the general public the importance of a town hall’s specific topics.

However, an issue-based town hall meeting with elected officials and stakeholder attendees can be a complex event to execute successfully. This Toolkit is intended to serve as a resource for interested First 5 county commissions to engage with their local, state, and federal elected officials, and build public will for the First 5 movement at the local level. This online Toolkit will provide First 5 county commissions with crucial advice and information for designing an effective town hall-style meeting, whether your commission is conducting this public service for the first time, or as old pros.

Please let us know how we can help. We know trying to pull off a first-time town hall or expand existing efforts needs more support than just this Toolkit. We are working in collaboration with the First 5 Association to offer technical assistance on a first-come, first-served basis to interested county commissions in 2016. Interested commissions should contact for more information.

Here at First 5 California, we look forward to continuing our work with all our First 5 partners to engage policymakers, build influential local constituencies, and, ultimately, further the broader First 5 movement across communities to compel policymakers’ commitment and accountability to children’s issues. Together we can make progress on the shared priorities for First 5 California, the First 5 Association, and First 5 county commissions across the state.



Camille Maben

We want to acknowledge and thank the First 5 Association of California and its members for their policy insights and contributions to the development of the First 5 Town Hall Toolkit.

Why Is This Important?

While tobacco tax revenues continue to decline, the promise of First 5-funded best practices continues to thrive. As such, policy education for elected officials in each county is a linchpin in furthering the goals of Proposition 10. Town hall forums are an incredibly effective stage for educating and influencing elected officials and other policymakers. Town halls can be the perfect combination of issue expertise and constituent relevance — a huge resource for any policymaker.

This Toolkit is intended to provide any First 5 county commission or partner with a basic guide to launch an inaugural town hall, along with practical tools for even the most experienced event planner. In our “What’s Inside the Toolkit?” overview below, you’ll find a menu of advice and tools, including templates for your essential in-print items such as agendas, issue papers, and panelist questions.

The best part about hosting a town hall is that any approach is right — whether your commission is comfortable with a tough sell on specific policy issues, or prefers to stick to general issue education. The most important outcome of any event is to make your county First 5 a trusted resource for your local representatives who will influence the future of children's policy and funding.

What's Inside the Tool Kit?

The links below lead you through all of the tips and tools available to help you plan and execute a successful town hall event. Each section begins with an overview of the featured topic followed by customizable templates, samples and resources. Each section is intended to build on the one before it. Throughout the Toolkit, you will find helpful “First 5 Tips” and references to other sections for related information and additional details. For a walk-through of the Toolkit and a step-by-step “how-to” on hosting a town hall, watch our June 1, 2016 webinar.

    1. Event Structure: How to Structure Your Town Hall
    Get an idea of how your town hall could be structured to meet your goals. Tools in this section include Sample Internal and External Agendas (hand-outs) for your event.
    2. Participants: Who is Involved?
    Learn about key participants involved in making your town hall a success. Tools in this section include a Panelist Prep Packet, Policymaker Invitation Letter Template, and Sample Partner/Guest List.
    3. Planning and Hosting Strategies
    Learn the “nuts and bolts” of planning and executing your town hall. Tools in this section include a Planning Timeline, Sample Event Budget, First 5 Pledge Cards, and more.
    4. Promotion and Media Strategies
    Access tips and tools for promoting your town hall before, during, and after the event. Tools in this section include Pre- and Post-Event Press Releases, Sample Media Plan, Menu of Story Pitching Angles, and more.
    5. Policy Tools: First 5 State and Local Policy Tools
    Access issue-specific policy tools and other resources that will help inform your town hall audience and participants, and lay the groundwork for an engaging panel discussion. Tools in this section include First 5 Issue Paper Templates, First 5 Association fact sheets, Sample Panelist Questions, and more.

First 5 Town Halls in Action

Before you dive into the Toolkit, here is how First 5 Counties have used it!

First 5 Fresno

First 5 Placer

First 5 Sacramento

1. Event Structure: How to Structure Your Town Hall

The town hall concept is envisioned to achieve a shared outcome in each county — an annual community event focused on the state of young children — that can be customized to feature issues most critical to reaching your county’s policy education goals. This Toolkit provides you with techniques and tools for creating your very own town hall event! In this section, we outline ways to structure your town hall to cover all the bases.

Sample Internal Agenda
Customizable Sample Internal Agenda with a suggested format and timing to help conduct and guide the town hall planning and day-of-event pacing.
Sample External Agenda
Sample External Agenda (hand-out) for you to customize and distribute to your audience.

2. Participants: Who is Involved?

In this section, you will learn more about the key participants involved in making your town hall a success, from choosing strategic panelists to targeting your guest list.

Panelist Prep Packet
Panelist Prep Packet for you to customize and give to policymakers as soon as possible after their participation is confirmed.
Policymaker Invitation Letter Template
Policymaker Invitation Letter Template for you to customize and send to invite your policymakers.
Sample Partner/Guest List
Sample Partner/Guest List of suggested list of organizations to consider inviting as your event guests and/or partners/co-hosts.

3. Planning and Hosting Strategies

In this section, you will learn the “nuts and bolts” of planning and executing your town hall. From finding partners to help share in the event workload, to doing the post-town hall follow-up work that will lay the groundwork for next year’s not-to-be-missed town hall.

Planning Timeline
Planning Timeline checklist to keep track of all your planning- and promotion-related tasks beginning three months out from the event.
Sample Event Budget
The Sample Event Budget includes price range options (low, moderate, maximum) and cost-saving tips for an event with 50 guests in a mid-sized, semi-rural community.

4. Promotion and Media Strategies

In this section, you’ll find tips and tools for promoting your town hall — to attract an audience for your event, as well as to get exposure for First 5 issues and your work in the community. This section addresses outreach through three primary avenues: traditional media, social media, and paid advertising.

Pre-Event Media Advisory Template
Pre-Event Media Advisory Template customizable template to promote your town hall to the media one month ahead of the event.
Post-Event Press Release Template
Post-Event News Release Template customizable template to continue the positive media exposure after the event.

5. Policy Tools: First 5 State and Local Policy Tools

Access these fully-customizable issue-specific tools that will help inform your town hall audience and participants, and set the stage to ask policymakers to take the First 5 Pledge. These resources are meant to make it easy for you to customize the content based on the issues you believe are most important to your local community.


First 5 Issue Paper Templates and Resources

These customizable templates are tailored specifically for a town hall-type setting. Each of the five issue papers is written in simple language targeted to a policymaker audience. They include specific actionable policy changes, which were developed in partnership between the First 5 Association and First 5 California, and are targeted for state-level policymakers in the 2016 and 2017 legislative years.

First 5 Association of California Policy Fact Sheets

The First 5 Association has developed a series of policy and advocacy materials, including one-page policy fact sheets that reflect the Association’s policy agenda. While not developed specifically for a town hall audience, these materials provide additional background information on each topic that may be useful as you plan your event.


Select an area below to view the corresponding tools.

Event Structure
Planning and Hosting
Promotion and Media
Policy Tools
Issue Papers
Fact Sheets