First 5 California Logo


First 5 California Logo

Dear First 5 Colleagues:

Twenty years ago, voters passed Proposition 10, creating and entrusting First 5 to be an influential voice for policies that provide better opportunities for California’s young children and families. 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.

As the saying goes, “All politics are local.” That’s why policy education for individual elected officials and policy makers in each county is critical for furthering the goals and intent of Proposition 10. First 5’s 20th anniversary provides an ideal opportunity to highlight the work we’ve done in our counties in the last two decades, while also illustrating the continuing needs of our kids and families, and First 5’s vision and plans for addressing those needs.

Town hall forums are 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 the town hall’s specific topics. When we use the term “town hall” in this document, we mean to suggest an event whose purpose is policy education and change. However, the form this event takes is up to each commission; a town hall could comprise a panel discussion, a lunchtime table-top conversation among attendees, or an informal celebration. Commissions know best what makes the most sense in their communities.

This toolkit is meant to be a resource for interested First 5 county commissions to engage with their local, state, and federal elected officials, and to build public will for the First 5 movement at the local level. It contains crucial advice and information for designing an effective event, whether a commission is conducting this public service for the first time, or as old pros. We recognize that an issue-based event with elected officials and stakeholder attendees can be challenging to execute successfully, and a toolkit cannot address all situations and details. Please let us know how we can help. We are working in collaboration with First 5 Association to offer technical assistance on a first-come, first-served basis to interested county commissions in 2018 and 2019. Please contact or for more information.

Here at First 5 California, we look forward to continuing our work with all of our First 5 partners to engage policymakers, build influential local constituencies, and, ultimately, advance the First 5 movement across communities. Together we can make progress on the shared priorities of First 5 California, First 5 Association, and First 5 county commissions across the state.



Camille Maben
First 5 California Logo

We want to acknowledge and thank the First 5 Association and its members for their policy insights and contributions to the development of the First 5 20th Anniversary Toolkit.

First 5 Association Logo

Why Is This Important Now?

The 20-year anniversary of First 5 is an ideal time to take stock of how far First 5s have come in achieving our goals for young kids and families, as well as to set a course for the future. In the face of tobacco tax revenues that continue to decline, First 5 and its partners continue to refine their programs and practices to best meet the needs of young children. A critical element to continuing our work is impressing upon our elected officials how important and influential our work is-- and what we still need to bring it to scale. Town hall forums are an incredibly effective stage for educating and influencing policymakers, providing the perfect combination of issue expertise and constituent relevance.

The best part about hosting a town hall is that any approach is right; the structure and content can be determined locally. Since many issues that affect counties are in fact regional, we encourage regional coordination in planning events. The main goals of the event are to:

  1. engage with key legislators and leaders;
  2. talk about unmet needs of children and families in your counties
  3. offer solutions to local or state challenges, when applicable

The most important outcome of the event is to make the county or regional First 5s a trusted resource for local representatives who will influence the future of children's policy and funding.

What's Inside the Tool Kit?

In our “What’s Inside the Toolkit?” overview below, you’ll find a menu of advice and tools to help you plan and execute a successful town hall event marking First 5’s 20th Anniversary. The links below lead you through all of the resources available, including templates for in-print items such as agendas, issue papers, and panelist questions. Each section begins with an overview of the featured topic, followed by customizable materials; each section builds 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.

    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.
    2. Participants: Who is Involved?
    Learn about key participants who can make 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

Fresno County has one of the highest infant mortality and preterm birth rates in California and across the country. To highlight this local issue, First 5 Fresno hosted a live town hall meeting on its local TV news affiliate. The town hall included a diverse set of panelists (including the district attorney, a county supervisor, a rural mayor, a county superintendent of schools, and a state senator) to discuss preterm births and infant mortality from all aspects.

The news anchor who moderated the town hall also helped produce three story packages to communicate the issue across the community. While the live town hall was only one night, these video stories continue to be shared and convey the message of the community’s work to address preterm births.

● Watch the video here.

First 5 Santa Barbara

Why not show instead of tell? First 5 Santa Barbara, alongside partners and sponsors, invited community and philanthropic leaders to join a day-long bus tour to the north side of county to see key First 5 investments in action, and visit an area of the county that is often overlooked and misunderstood.

The day not only featured First 5 investments, it also highlighted the effectiveness of the public, non-profit, and private investments that comprise the safety net in the north side of the county. The event was so popular that First 5 Santa Barbara ended up hiring a second bus to accommodate those interested in attending.

● First 5 Santa Barbara Bus Tour Guide


Additional videos that First 5 Placer and First 5 Sacramento made for their Town Halls can be seen below.

First 5 Placer

First 5 Sacramento

1. Event Structure: How to Structure Your Town Hall

Town hall events are meant to be customized so that commissions can focus on the policy issue(s) most critical to the wellbeing of young children in their counties or regions. Once the issue(s) are determined, commissions can use the example format and agendas in this section to begin planning the overall structure and content of the event.

Overview and Tips
Also available in the Event Structure section are a Sample Internal Agenda, with a suggested format and day-of timing; and a Sample External Agenda, for you to customize and hand out to your audience.
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.
You can use the back of your External Agenda for biographies of your expert speakers, policymakers/panelists, and moderator. Be sure to include information about First 5 and your county commission. This also is a perfect place to further recognize any partners/co-hosts and sponsors.


In this section, you will learn more about the type of topics and the key participants that can make your town hall a success.

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 20th Anniversary Video

This customizable 20th anniversary video provides a high-level overview of who First 5s are, the work we have done over the last 20 years, and where we hope to go in the future. Click below to view, or if you would like to customize the video, click here to download.

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