We’re so thrilled that you’re interested in hosting a MADA dinner! If you’ve never done it before, it can certainly seem daunting, but this guide is here to show you the way. The easiest way to start is to host an online conversation with the help of our partner Living Room Conversations. If you'd prefer to host an in-person dinner, here are the steps that we suggest:
For more detail than you could ever want on each part of the dinner-planning process, keep scrolling... :)
First you’ll want to figure out where your dinner will happen!
Should be convenient for the group, so if you live in an area where everyone drives, make sure your location has ample parking. If you live in a place where public transportation is king, make sure your location is near a central stop.
Conversation can get quite intense, so make sure to choose a spot with space and noise control so your guests can hear each other. Whether this is a private room at a restaurant, a living room at home, or a meeting room in a workspace.
Dear [insert venue coordinator’s name if available],
I’m hosting an event called Make America Dinner Again, in an effort to bring unity to our country during a time of division. Would you be interested in being part of our efforts, by allowing us to host our next dinner at [insert restaurant name]? I’ll be paying out of pocket [if applicable], so any creative ways to make the menu cost-efficient would be much appreciated! In return, Make America Dinner Again would list you on the website as a past participator, providing you with a backlink and publicity.
If you're interested in working together, we'd love to see a quote for a party of __ guests on [insert date] for 2 hours, in a private area if possible.
[Insert Your Name]
Community Centers / Common Areas / Workplaces
If you do not have the budget to foot the bill yourself, there are a few ways to cut costs, or get help from others.
You can ask for a donation via Venmo or PayPal ahead of the event in your follow-up email, and you can have a donation box ready at the event.
Optional Donation: We will be paying for food and venue out of pocket, so if anyone would like to donate, we welcome small contributions (no more than $20). This is completely optional though, your presence and thoughts being the most highly valued contribution.
As mentioned, if you’re hosting at home or in a common space, a potluck is a great, affordable option. If you can provide a main entree and invite guests to bring sides, drinks, and desserts, this ensures that there will be something yummy to eat, even if a couple guests do not follow through. Having a signup sheet for the potluck can help you be prepared for how much food you need to bring yourself.
This is the hardest part — gathering a balanced group of people with different opinions who are interested in coming together to get to know one another and talk about our country’s challenges.
Give yourself at least one month to recruit guests, bearing in mind you might need to make adjustments to the guest list all the way through the day of; it’s possible there will be a couple last minute additions and cancellations.
We recommend aiming for 6-8 people depending on your space. An even number will ensure more productive partner activities. Fewer than 10 allows everyone to feel space for their voices to be heard. Even a group of 4 can be a wonderful learning experience, so don’t feel like you have to invite the whole town in order to have a good conversation!
The most approachable way to recruit is word of mouth. Leverage your existing networks of friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances by:
If you or any of your acquaintances voted for [whatever voters you're missing from your guestlist], let's connect! We're trying to organize a dinner in [insert city] where different political perspectives can sit down together and start to build some understanding. Thank you!
We’ve had thousands of signups across the country, so chances are, we may have a few contacts for you in your area. We can also create a signup sheet for your city or town, and promote it on our website and Facebook! Don’t hesitate to ask.
To cast your net even wider, reach out to established political groups and organizations in your area. For example, in San Francisco we reached out to the Berkeley College Republicans, the Trump Bay Area group, the Bay Area for Bernie Sanders group, the San Francisco for Jill Stein group, etc. Building these partnerships also ensures that you’ll have a pool to draw from for future gatherings!
I'm [insert your name] and [optional sentence or two about who you are and a connection you might have to the organization]. I'm hosting an event called "Make America Dinner Again" in [insert city] on [insert date or date range like "in two weeks"]. It's going to be a small dinner, where guests who voted for different candidates can sit down and eat something delicious together.
The goal is to gradually grow a climate of understanding among Americans who may have voted differently. This is just a small step, and we'd love it if you or anyone in the group would join us for this upcoming dinner or future dinners. Please email us at [insert your email], if you’re interested.
Once you’ve looked over your signups and know who you want to invite to create a balanced conversation, reach out to them over email with the details of the event. We suggest providing all the important things they’ll need to know (day, time, format), and asking them to RSVP by a certain date, so that if they’re not able to make it, you have time to invite others. Here’s an example invitation email:
Hello [Guest's Name]!
Thank you so much for signing up to attend Make America Dinner Again!
[Co-host's name] and I are hosting a dinner coming up in [Location] on [Day of the week and Date] — and we would love to have your perspective at the table! [Description of format — potluck? Catered? Cooking together? etc].
The goal of this dinner is to build understanding among differing viewpoints, to ask each other questions, to listen, and to enjoy each other’s company. The goal is not to convert one another or to win points in a debate. We all win when greater understanding and respect are built :) There is no need to study up on politics beforehand — just come ready to share your story and experiences.
Are you able to join us? We're trying to invite a range of people from all sorts of backgrounds in addition to your own, from different politics to different life experiences. We'd love to have you at the table! Please let us know by [RSVP date],so that if you're unable to join, we'll have time to fill your seat.
Let us know if you have any questions!
Hope to see you soon,
To help guests follow through on their commitment, we recommend sending a friendly reminder once all or most guests are confirmed. This should be sent 1 to 2 weeks ahead of the event. The main purpose of this email is to remind guests of all the information they need. You can also attach a calendar invite (.ics file) to the email so they can easily save it in their digital calendars (e.g. Google, Outlook, or Apple).
Subject: Make America Dinner Again Details
Hello dinner guests!
We are so excited to have you all for dinner this [Date]. Each of you brings an invaluable viewpoint to the table, and we personally feel honored and humbled to host such an impressive group.
A few things to communicate before the dinner:
If you have any food allergies or aversions, please email us back with your needs by [Date]. We plan to have [menu], but are happy to adjust based on needs.
A local journalist has shown interest in our event, and might want to take a few photos and record a few audio clips for a potential story. If anyone objects to this, please let us know by Sunday. No images or audio clips will be used for any purpose without your specific permission.
A Recap of What To Expect
Come ready to share, ready to listen and learn, and ready to eat!
About the Organizers
[A little something about the co-hosts. Here’s what we wrote for our first dinner: Justine Lee and Tria Chang are concerned citizens who felt disheartened by the polarizing and vilifying language used during and after 2016's election. Make America Dinner Again is their way of building empathy in their community, one conversation at a time.]
[Names of co-hosts, if no funding] will be paying for food and venue out of pocket, so if anyone would like to donate, we welcome small contributions (no more than $15). This is completely optional though, your presence and thoughts being the most highly valued contribution.
If you are not able to join us, please let us know as soon as possible, as we'll need time to draw from our waitlist in a way that maintains a balance of opinions. If you are able to join, confirm with us, too, and feel free to download the attached ics file so that you can save the date on your calendar.
We're looking forward to [Day]!
This is meant to be a little nudge reminding guests and getting them excited for the dinner. It would be wise to reply to your Detailed follow up email (above), so they have all the information in one thread, at the top of their inbox. This followup is also an opportunity to mention any last minute changes or things to be aware of like weather or traffic conditions. You should also provide your cell phone number in case guests need to reach you.
Morning [Guest Name]! We are looking forward to having you this evening. The rain outside will make it extra cozy inside, and make us extra grateful to have your unique perspective at the table. :)
If you have any questions or need to reach us, you can call my cell [insert cell number].
See you at [insert event start time]!
This can happen, and it’s tough! Have handy a waitlist of folks who you know are eager to attend and have relatively flexible schedules. If anything, have a close friend or significant other in the wings, ready to jump in.
Hi [Guest Name],
Ah, we're disappointed we won’t get to meet you, and were really aiming for a balance of perspectives! Are you are able to connect us with one or more people who might like to join us in your place? That would be so appreciated!
Hopefully with each cancellation, you have an addition. Forward the new guest the Detailed follow up email so they have all the most pertinent info, and at the top of the email, express how thankful you are they are joining so last minute.
Hi [Guest Name]!
So glad to hear you’re in! Thank you for joining us for dinner tomorrow evening so last minute. Below you’ll find all the info you need, and here, just a couple more tidbits:
[Any other things they should be aware of or questions for them e.g. how they identify politically to ensure balance of opinions]
If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to email me here, or text/call [Insert Cell #] (my cell).
We always like to have a detailed schedule in place, even if we don't end up sticking strictly to it. Each group will have a slightly different dynamic, and may take the conversations to places you don't expect — which keeps things interesting! Having the schedule written out ahead of time can make you feel as prepared as possible. As mentioned, we've created templates that you are welcome to follow:
You can also create your own schedule, and focus it on whatever topic you think would be most engaging for your group. People have taken our dinner formats to discuss socioeconomic differences, religious differences, and current events. Feel free to make it your own! The one thing we highly suggest is having ground rules stated at the beginning of the discussion, as this reminds everyone to be civil. People also appreciate having a noisemaker of some sort to signal when things are getting too heated for them.
We have collected a few moderation tips from our friends Anna Kawar, Raman Frey, and our resident facilitation expert, Jessica Baen. If you have specific moderation tips, do not hesitate to reach out to Jessica.
Here are a few ways to keep the momentum going in your communities.
Post pictures, before or after quotes, or brief write-ups from your event on social media and use hashtags #MakeAmericaDinnerAgain and #MagicOfMADA. If you’re posting quotes from guests, please use the #OverheardAtMADA hashtag. We might draw from these and post on our social channels (example).
In general, we’d love if you tagged us in your posts so we can easily re-post, re-tweet, and get a sense for how things went. On Twitter and Instagram we’re @MADA_Hosts, and on Facebook, we should come up as @Make America Dinner Again.
Attention folks attending #SXSW this year: you can now RSVP for our workshop on Designing Dinner to Bridge Political Divides on March 9th. Feel free to re-tweet or let your friends and colleagues know, too! #MagicOfMADA @sxsw https://t.co/kxgvRhLZDA— Make America Dinner Again (@MADA_hosts) February 19, 2019
Think dinner parties get awkward? Try adding strangers to the mix. And strong political opinions. That's the idea behind #MakeAmericaDinnerAgain, a U.S. supper club for voters with clashing views.— Matt Kwong (@matt_kwong) October 16, 2018
I went to a #MADA potluck in D.C.: https://t.co/9AFLyaTc1R @MADA_hosts
This is amazing! I'm so glad to have been a part of @MADA_hosts #makeamericadinneragain and love that it's picked up this kind of attention. Let's keep up the open dialogue. #Murica https://t.co/KBadH0vaQt— Kasey Randall (@kasey_design) April 25, 2018
Send a follow up email to guests within a week after the event to thank them, ask for feedback, and encourage them to keep in touch and host their own dinner.
Hi [Guest Names]:
Can you believe it's been a week since we were all together in a room talking politics? Again, we want to thank all of you for joining us and coming to the table with an open mind, ready to listen, and to share. You took a chance on us, and each other, and we really appreciate it.
As we promised, this is just a quick email with next steps.
Anything else? Don't hesitate to reach out.
Here's to dinner and understanding!
Schedule ongoing dinners with the same group or a different group on a monthly or quarterly basis. We imagine each dinner will be slightly different depending on the individual guests, and the news cycle. That's what makes this so fun! Keep the conversation going, and see if folks might form friendships as a result of sustained meetings. Some groups of people like to meet up on a more casual basis, like for coffee or drinks, and some are interested in volunteering together, for example doing a neighborhood cleanup together. See what best suits your group!
Reach out to your local newspaper, radio, and publications to see if they would be interested in covering the dinner, by attending as a fly on the wall. They might request to interview guests before and after the dinner. Of course, please make sure that this is OK with your guests beforehand.
If guests are interested in continuing the conversation with other Americans across the political spectrum, invite them to join our discussion group on Facebook. It's a closed group, so request to join and the administrator will sign you up! If you or any of your guests would like us to create a closed group just for your specific dinner guests, we can help with that, too.
We’d love to hear how your event went, learn from you, and provide feedback if it’s helpful. E-mail us: firstname.lastname@example.org.