I have two sessions proposed for RootsCamp 2012 at DC’s Washington Convention Center.
Already scheduled for Saturday in Room 149B at 10:30 AM (first session) is: “Where are we & how do we fix it. Auditing campaigns to right a sinking ship, even when already under water.”
You can find the handout for this session here.
Beth Becker of Progressive Social and I have also proposed a session entitled: “The word Consultant really isn’t the dirty word some would have you believe. How to find the good ones!”
You can find the handout for this session here.
A few weekends a year Democracy for America sends me to a new community to participate in their Campaign Academy program as a trainer. DFA posted a profile of me as a trainer on their blog recently. This past weekend, we took the Campaign Academy show to Miami’s FIU Graham Center. Thank you to our hosts, the FIU College Democrats.
As I promised to those in my sessions, here are digital versions of the materials I referenced during the training:
I hope all the trainees had a great time at the Miami Training Academy!
I spent this past weekend at the southeastern regional training for trainers (t4t) of PowerShift 2011
This spring, over 10,000 young leaders will converge on Washington, DC to stand up for our future. At Power Shift 2011, we’ll stand together to reclaim our democracy from big corporations and push our nation to move beyond dirty energy sources that are harming the health of people and the planet.
To train 10,000 in DC, they held regional trainings throughout the nation this past weekend. In Atlanta we had roughly 80 attendees learning to be Coaches and Facilitators, sharpening their skills as organizers and activists. PowerShift itself is a program of the Energy Action Coalition, which includes 50 youth oriented environmental and social justice organizations.
Through the New Organizing Institute, PowerShift gains a great program, training materials and some very talented master trainers. The regional program was a three-day adventure, not without logistical & communication lapses and mishaps, but overall execution was very good. The base of the training materials comes from Marshall Ganz‘s organizing model, as many of you may have learned through the Obama campaign. The materials themselves are published by NOI to coincide with the program, with some occurring a bit out of sequence from the program as it was presented in Atlanta. You can find some of NOI’s great training materials online at their Toolbox.
There was a pre-training session for Coaches Friday evening at a quaint little hotel North of Atlanta, with a nice drive through blooming dogwood trees along the way, but the feature venue for the Southeast Regional training was Fuzion Lounge at Atlanta’s Underground at the end of “Kenny’s Alley.” I’ve done trainings in all sorts of venues, from living rooms to civic centers, I even chaired a caucus in a Las Vegas Casino once – this was my first training in a night club, giving or receiving. My team’s breakout sessions were held in the “VIP” Area (I think they call it “the Blue room”), complete with stripper pole. No, I didn’t try it out. I won’t speak for the rest of my team though. Quite an experience, we could have done without the black lights, but we worked through the breakouts and much learning was done.
Saturday started with a narrative journey down the timeline of PowerShift’s history as well as the first examples of Story of Self. For those who never heard of him, the story and actions of Tim DeChristopher are quite remarkable, a young man who stood up against all odds for justice, when few others were even paying attention. We heard about Dan Cannon’s involvement with student organizing on campus and Anita Poushan’s border crossing revelation. Through their stories, everyone became more engaged and inspired, this is the strength of this snowflake organizing model. We found unity when Dan asked the crowd, “Do you know who Monsanto is?” The resounding chorus of boos was instant and passionate. In general session and in our group breakouts we heard diverse stories of how people came to be at this event, part of this movement. Some were well aware of the moment they became inspired, the events and experiences that caused them to join the movement. For others, it was the beginning of a process by which they will gain self awareness and through a better understanding of themselves, become better at understanding and persuading others to join the movement.
If you are organizing an event with a bunch of activists that starts early in the morning and is expected to go well in to the evening, what is the one logistic you can’t fail to deliver? Yeah, so there was a coffee deficiency, it happened, we got through it, and much learning was had. It isn’t a big deal to me, as I don’t drink coffee, I brought my own caffeine source with me, for others the situation was dire. Everyone survived, no blood was shed, and due to hydration deficiencies, there weren’t even tears. Logistics were managed by the Master and Lead trainers, and coffee was had by all that desired – this is a lesson in having faith in organizers. Another lesson was had with the failure of technology was an inability to get a laptop working with the projector, an easel, pad and marker were located, teamwork was employed and training was conducted with great success. One big lesson I learned early in my campaigning/organizing life – things are going to go wrong, in ways you couldn’t have possibly imagined, and some in ways you should have, all we can do is move on and find solutions to accomplish our goals in spite of the unexpected obstacles. Getting through such obstacles is the mark of a good organizer, never panicking, expressing despair, or becoming consumed by the emotional roller coaster – that is the makings of a great organizer.
I was placed in a group that later became known as a the Green Tigers, an homage to the bulk of our group being students at Clemson University. With a wide array of ages, experiences and interests. Through our breakout exercises, we shared our stories of self and helped each other improve our presentation of our individual inspirations. In the process we learned just how different our lives have been, and yet each of us was drawn to the same place and time for this shared experience. In the beginning of every DFA Training Academy, the lead trainer for the opening session informs the attendees, “You are not normal.” Showing up for a training about improving your capacity to participate in Democracy early on a Saturday, that isn’t normal. Knowingly subjecting yourself to the physical, mental and emotional abuse of running for office, that isn’t normal. Volunteering to work (paid or not) on candidate or issue campaigns, very not normal. Within this group, the Green Tigers, the members may feel a sense of normalcy they don’t typically find in other groups and settings.
The second key early morning lesson at a DFA Training Academy is, “There is no magic. There is work.” The PowerShift Training, like DFA is about providing activists with the skills and understanding they need to do the work needed to create change. In a little over a week, 10,000 participants will have the curtain pulled back, they will see that it isn’t magic, that they can make a difference. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? PowerShift 2011 is still seeking facilitators, can you do your part to help achieve the goal of training 10,000 youth energy activists? Discount registrations are available for facilitators who participate in pre-training (5-7 hours of webinar and/or phone based training), contact me directly if you are interested.
From my tweets during the Southeast Regional T4T:
@mpiscatella: I’m @ #PowerShift because as one, my power is limited, as an empowering trainer my power is limitless – join us in dc #pfla #p2
A couple weeks ago, amid the discussions of Egypt’s uprising, this came in to my email box:
What Country Is This?:
“The state was thus increasingly seen to be a state for the few. Its old base in the rural middle classes was rapidly declining as young people moved to the cities. It was doing little for the urban working and middle classes. An ostentatious state business class emerged, deeply dependent on government contracts and state good will, and meeting in the fancy tourist hotels. But the masses of high school and college graduates reduced to driving taxis or selling rugs (if they could even get those gigs) were not benefiting from the on-paper growth rates of the past decade.”
With a link to the following story, explaining, in depth, the background of what has been happening in Egypt: http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/egypts-class-conflict.html
How many of you read that paragraph and thought, “that doesn’t sound any different from what is happening here in America.”? It was President Eisenhower who first spoke out in concern of the Military-Industrial Complex in his January, 1961 Farewell Address. Since then, what have we really done to alleviate the dangers? What would President Eisenhower have to say about behemoth defense/government contractors like Halliburton? What about enormous subsidies to companies pulling in record profits and paying no federal taxes? Of course, if you really wanted to piss him off, you could have had a large state, like say, Florida, tell him, “No thanks, we don’t want your stinkin’ Interstate Highways.” Which is what Governor Rick Scott did this week.
Over at Hullabaloo, Digby posted a Judy Woodruff/PBS interview with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, talking about the budget proposals. The piece that sticks out to me is Senator Bernie Sanders reminding us of this:
This year, ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world, is not paying a nickel in federal income taxes, despite having made $19 billion last year. In 2005, one-quarter of corporation — large corporations in America making a trillion in revenue didn’t pay a nickel in taxes. You have got a military budget which in many ways is still fighting the old Cold War.
We have the Right banging the drums about regulation and tax oppression, crying that they can’t create jobs with out tax cuts. But reality tells us that tax rates are at their lowest point since 1950 and most of the biggest corporations doing business in America are not paying any Federal taxes. None. Some of the largest recipients of government contracts have moved “off shore,” to avoid paying corporate taxes on their massive profits, including Halliburton.
Union membership has fallen to less than 12% of the American workforce, wages have been stagnant for decades, all the while executive compensation and the wealth gap have expanded exponentially. Wall Street’s massive arrogant gambling led to economic collapse just a couple years ago, leading them to beg for relief from the tax payers. Last year, Wall Street responded by paying out the most compensation EVER. Huge bonuses, large salaries. What lesson should they learn from this?
State Governments, like Wisconsin’s massive overreach by Governor Walker and Florida’s crushing proposals by Governor Rick Scott are all intent on dismantling unions and privatizing every aspect of the state. No lessons were learned from the deregulation of California’s energy sector (Enron), from decades of data showing that union states outperform non-union states in nearly every educational metric, that costs go up, not down, when services are privatized.
So in Wisconsin, the teachers, students and so many of their supporters have stood up. They have organized and acted. They are living in the capitol and telling their government their voices will be heard. Just as the people of Egypt stood tall against their repressive and corrupt regime, Americans are doing the same. In Florida, organizing has begun, with more than 1000 people following “Awake the State“, an idea conceived just a couple days ago, which could lead to our own “Madison Moment.”
The focus I wish to convey is that it is organizing in action that drives these actions to success. A few students showing up with signs at the capitol will be written off as nuisance and achieve nothing. To make lasting change, one must make a case for such change, one must convince others, en mass, to stand up and express their belief in that change. Violence is not the answer, organizing is. Use your phone, your Facebook AND your twitter, not one or the other, to engage and activate your friends and family. Give them a direct action to take, not just a vague statement of support. Call your Governor, Congressman AND Senator. Tell them it is time for the nonsense to end. No more Corporate giveaways and worker sell-outs. Education must be fully funded and accessible to every child, free and in their neighborhood. Voting districts should be drawn with the communities interests first, not to benefit the incumbent office holder or party in power. Women should have the absolute right to make decisions about their bodies. Human rights should be extended to all within the borders of our nation, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or how they came to be here. Every man, woman and child should receive the absolute best health care possible, without having to sell their home to pay for it. We must look forward with investment in infrastructure, innovation, imagination and inspiration. The cost of not doing so is too great. It is the permanent economic collapse of our great nation.
What are you doing to make your voice heard? Are you calling the Governors office? You can reach Gov Rick Scott at: (850) 488-7146. How about your Congressman? Senator? The time to act is now.
OK, you are considering a run for public office, now what do you do?
At this point, many first time candidates expect support and knowledge to come to them. It rarely happens, like anything else, you must seek it out and work for it. The first step should always be an unbiased and realistic evaluation of the potential candidate and their capacity to fulfill the requirements of a campaign for the district. This involves basic questions about time commitment and financial situations. Dishonesty at this point is common, that is, candidates lying to themselves about what they can and cannot put in to a proposed race. Common factors to look at:
* Why does the potential candidate want to run?
* Why is the potential candidate a Democrat (and progressive/liberal)?
* How many hours per week will this campaign require now, next month, three months from now and for the remainder of the campaign?
* Financially can the candidate and their family survive the costs of the campaign, including any loss of pay, time and energy?
* What will the average day look like for the candidate at various points during the campaign, is the candidate prepared to commit to that? Are there health concerns that might impede such a commitment?
* How will the geography of the district, weather and transportation impact the candidate in this campaign?
Once we have all those physical/logistical (and additional related questions) answered and written down, we move on to the campaign finance aspects:
* What is a realistic cost of a minimally competitive campaign for this race? A strong campaign?
* How much money will the candidate themselves put in to the race, and in what form? (I personally restrict candidates to less than $50k in “loans” to the campaign, as startup cash only, anything else should be contributed with no expectation of repayment from donors.)
* What is the contribution limit and any related fundraising rules (like public financing, matching funds, etc)?
* What is the strength of the candidates social networks, is 300 donors in the first month possible? 500 in the first quarter? Refer to this exercise: Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising and further detailed here: Tools for a Better Organized Campaign
* Reinforce the reality that 80% of the candidates time will be fund raising, phone to face, in a closed room. It isn’t all fairs and pig roasts.
If the candidate has the desire to run and the answers to all of the above questions indicate the candidate has the capacity to run, the next question to assess is whether or not they have the temperament and traits to be a good candidate. Some weaknesses can be overcome with training, others cannot. If the candidate isn’t interest in improving/changing, it isn’t going to get any better later in the campaign. Creating an honest assessment at this point in the process allows periodic review throughout the campaign, charting progress and allowing for adjustments to correct or compensate. Too often, heavily “recruited” candidates are led in to the race under the impression they are perfect as they are, they hold on to that belief to the bitter end and everything invested in them throughout the campaign (money, time and sweat) is thrown away. Weeks later someone tells them, “By the way John, you probably lost 5,000 votes to your halitosis, didn’t anyone ever offer you a breath mint?” (Yes, this is a simplified issue, they are rarely this easy on a campaign.)
For (potential) candidates, one of the biggest struggles is finding people to serve as their campaign advisors and staff. They often fall in to traps of paying large sums for minimal returns, consultants and advisors that are more hype and reputation than experience and performance. There are a few good email lists and websites that are of some use, such as Jobs That Are Left, but the best place to start is right here at MPA Political by contacting us and reading Conventional Un-Wisdom: Hiring Staff. Really, any potential candidates should read everything on our How To’s and Training page. Lower tier and long time elected officials running for higher office often stick with the people who have worked on their previous campaigns and worked in their government offices, this often creates a closed campaign, where no new thoughts or talents are brought in and the campaign is unable to compete on the larger playing field of higher office. Campaigns should include new thoughts, differing experiences and ideas. If your campaign strategy meetings result in everyone agreeing 100% with everyone else, you need to find some thought-diversity for your team.
Somewhere in these early stages, there needs to be a compliance check with all applicable laws, rules and authorities. Is the potential candidate legally qualified to run for the office they are planning to seek? Do they understand the finance rules and regulations and have a plan to comply with all required reporting procedures? If elected, what actions are they required or recommended to take, for legal, ethical or public relations reasons? This might include turning control of a business over to a blind trust or resigning from Boards or similar positions. Are they restricting from fundraising or campaigning due to the Hatch Act (or any similar state/local law)? In Florida there is a “resign to run” law that impacts state level elected officials, it is important to know how and when that impacts your campaign. You can and will be thrown off the ballot for failure to comply with related laws and procedures. If you are seeking Federal Office, filing with the FEC is mandatory.
The last of these first steps is to build a timeline for the campaign including goals and benchmarks. To do this, one must have a complete understanding of the candidate and landscape, including vote goals and turnout expectations. If you haven’t figured this out, and haven’t already brought in a professional for all of the processes listed above, you absolutely need a professional for this, for smaller races it might be a one time fee for a week or two of work, or it might be the first payment beginning a monthly relationship with a general consultant.
This is a discussion of the first steps, which doesn’t include all of the steps of learning to sit up and crawl…the process can begin as early as middle school and as late as however old you are today. This would be a good time to look over What Inspires Candidate to Run? if you haven’t done so already.
As I looked back on 2010 and saw the great big failures, they troubled me. Messaging failures, generally unprepared or unqualified campaign staff, candidates unwilling to learn, listen and/or improve, and of course strategies that were designed to fail from the start… But then there was a feeling of downright anger. How the hell can Democratic campaigns fail so often at the very basics of setting up an event? Does no one teach this stuff anymore? Do people not learn from event to event? Do they not see the big greasy piles of fail due to some form of rose colored glasses?
What am I talking about might you ask? Podiums with corporate logos instead of campaign logos, candidates speaking in front of mirrors or distracting paintings, rooms with 10 times as many chairs as attendees… This stuff isn’t at all hard to avoid and the positive impacts on your campaign are high for low cost in terms of time, effort and money. Why not give it a shot?
Starting from the beginning, long before the event. In political campaigns, this could be months in advance, or it could be a day or three prior. Fill out an Event Request Form, just as I explained in Tools for a Better Organized Campaign. This will give you the basics of the event, written down, because as we learned in Organizing – The Foundation of Progress, rule #9: If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Some where in the future, I’ll introduce a full event briefing, which will put even more of the details on paper (or on your smartphones) and better prepare you and your candidate for the event.
In this first step of completing the form, you will answer some very important questions such as:
Is this an event we the campaign are hosting, executing and in “full control” of? Is this an event someone else is hosting, executing and in “full control” of? What are the objectives and opportunities of this event? Who will my candidate, surrogate or staffer be meeting, speaking to or with? Will there be press present, audio? video? both? print? Will we, the campaign, be able to record/photograph the event? Will the host have photos taken? What potential challenges are there and how can we mitigate those challenges?
In this process, it is important to talk to as many people with information and experience with the event as possible, particularly with regard to events external to the campaign that are repeated/annual. History is a strong data point with regard to events. If the event has had 30-40 people attend the past 4 years, but the organizers are telling you they are going to have 200 this year, be realistic. Assume 30-40 is more likely until significant evidence indicates otherwise. You should visit and walk the venue, take pictures. Think about where attendees with enter, where they will gather, will there be food/drinks somewhere drawing the mingling crowd? How many chairs will there be, how will they be arranged, where will the walkways be? Are there tables? Sketch these things out as best you can.
Where will the candidate enter the room? Will the candidate have access to a “green room”, or a restroom, prior to entering the venue? When they enter, will they be overwhelmed with the crowd as they enter? Who will walk the candidate in, meet the candidate at the car/bus? Will someone be introducing the candidate to the attendees as they mingle? Will the candidate be going straight to the “stage” upon entering to speak, and straight out after speaking? How will they enter and exit? Is the facility handicapped accessible? Where are the rest rooms and are they Handicapped accessible? Where will people park and how far will they walk to the entry. What can we do if the weather is bad, do we have umbrellas and volunteers to meet people at their vehicles and walk them in?
One of the aspects to think about is photos/video, what will be seen and how can we make sure the candidate looks good and campaign logos are included in photos? If the event is “campaign owned”, you have very few restrictions on where you can put signs, banners, balloons, etc. Every organizer should have high weight clear fishing line, sticky-tack (the blue stuff is better than the white stuff), clear tape, a staple gun (and staples), coat hangers, paper clips (variety of sizes, binder clips as well), and whatever selection of rope/string/twine you can amass. Having your own folding tables, table cloths and such also comes in handy as well, plus a chair or two – you may be able to borrow these from local supporters, organizations (VFW halls, churches, local county party, even a friendly restaurant/bar, if you don’t ask you won’t ever get what you are looking for.)
So you have your adhesives and such, where do you put signs? I start with where the candidate will be speaking, the front of the podium if there is one, and then behind the speaker’s primary location, picture a tic-tac-toe board on the wall. Put signs in the top and bottom corners, and in the center…obviously if you start with the center at the candidate’s chest height it is easier to achieve symmetry. The logic is that you want any picture taken to include the campaign logo (and url if possible), assume photographers will reject any preset media areas and take photos from wherever they please. The sign over the candidates shoulders will be the most visible in photos, often you can remove the center sign after
putting up the outer corners and use that sign for the front of the podium or somewhere else in the room.
If there are flags behind the candidate, this is where those coat hangers come in to play. First, research flag code and observe the rules therein. Here is a key passage, Section 7.k.:
When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.
Now, the coat hanger… When you have flags hanging from staffs, they are generally limp and in many cases hard to identify. As photo backdrops, they can look a bit “lacking” as a result. To correct this, take the coat hanger, upside down, and tape the stem of the hook end to the staff just below the bottom of the flag, as seen in the photo at right. The end result can be seen in the photo at left featuring three hanger’d flags
behind a microphone stand/podium at an Alvin Brown for Mayor (Jacksonville) Press Conference. Note that the American flag is the tallest, slightly forward and at the speakers right (photo left), with the State of Florida flag in the center and the city of Jacksonville flag on the right. Be sure not to put the hanger too high on the staff, causing a very unnatural draping in the flag, angles can be used as I did with the Florida State Flag to alter the drape and emphasis a key symbol or section of the flag (Florida’s state seal in this case).
To the left, you have the final product, candidate Alvin Brown surrounded by some of the areas elected Democrats. Positives: Flags are visible and identifiable, well presented and adhering to code. Podium/mic stand has a campaign placard with logo including the candidate’s name. Negatives: podium/mic stand is a bit low or the placard should be affixed higher, to be sure it is included at least partially in photographs (particularly in newspapers that will crop the photo down significantly.) The large placard below the podium is angled quite a bit, thus creating a reflective glare in the photo, it needs to be firmly propped up and affixed to prevent it from shifting during the presentation and fixed at closer to a 90 degree angle to prevent glare. There is no url on the placard on the podium. Nit Picking: Voters and people in general have preconceptions of leadership and appearance is part of that, in this case, one of the focuses will be height, the candidate looks tall if you crop the right of the photo off, but with State Senator Tony Hill behind him (over his left shoulder), the candidate “loses a few inches” in perception. Project power and power will be perceived. If your candidate is not tall, create presentations where they appear taller. In this case, the short podium does that nicely, but the offset of Senator Hill erases that effect.
Throughout the rest of the room, if you have the opportunity, you should place placards at or just above shoulder height on walls at whatever density you can achieve with a pleasing aesthetic. Assume people will take photos during the mix and mingle portion of the event, the logo/candidate name/url should be displayed in those photos if at all possible. In a very large room, you might put one placard on the wall every 4-10 feet, in smaller rooms, put them closer, even down to just the width of one placard between placards. You can create nice visuals by “stair stepping” or “checkering” the placards. Affix them all in a straight line adjacent to one another (add a laser level to your tool kit), then adjust the 1st placard up one placard height, so the bottom right corner is touching the top left corner of the 2nd placard in the row, then drop the 3rd placard down one placard height, so the top left corner of the 3rd placard is touching the bottom right of the 2nd. There is all sorts of visual art that can be achieved, you can take out the center row leaving the high and low…get creative, find a good look that works in the room. HANG THE PLACARDS WITH STICKY TACK AND COLLECT AND RE-USE the sticky tack when the event is over. The placards and sticky-tack should last the duration of the campaign. Store it in a zip lock back (add a box of bags to your tool kit, as well as trash bags, large heavy duty trash bags, don’t go cheap, you will suffer the consequences, I prefer drawstrings too). Look around the room, think about where people might want to take photos, how can you make sure there is a logo in that shot? If you had taken photos when you first walked the venue, you should have looked at those with that thought in mind and had a plan. If you have banners or 4×8 signs, is there a good place for such in the room? Will it be effective or distracting? Putting a 4×8 with the candidate’s face right behind where the candidate is speaking will not play well. Placards on the doors entering and leaving, 4×8 or banners at the sign in table can be useful in drawing attention and indicating “this table is official.”
An important aspect of setting up and event is knowing who and how many people will be there. You must have a hard count, people you are certain will show up, people who have verbally told you (or an organizer, staffer, volunteer) they are attending for certain, within one week of the event. Anyone confirmed more than a week out should be reconfirmed a few days prior to the event. EVERYONE should be called in the last three days and reminded, typically the script of this something like so:
Campaign_Caller_001: Good evening Mr. Jones, My name is Campaign_Caller_001 with the XYZ_Candidate campaign. How are you this evening?
Mr. Jones: I’m fantastic, Michigan lost, how could life be better?
Campaign_Caller_001: That’s wonderful, I’m calling to ask if you have any questions about Tuesday’s event at Your_Town’s High School Auditorium with Celebrity_Draw_002?
Mr. Jones: What time am I supposed to be there again?
Campaign_Caller_001: 5:30pm sir, do you need directions to the school?
Mr. Jones: It’s at the high school on Unpleasant View Drive, right?
Campaign_Caller_001: Yes, that is correct, and you will want to park in the back and enter through the East doors, we will have signs directing you there around the school.
Mr. Jones: Great, I’m really looking forward to it, thanks for the call.
Campaign_Caller_001: My pleasure, please call us at 555-867-5309 if you have any questions. See you Tuesday at 5:30.
Now you’ve reminded them to attend, and likely generated a bit of positive mojo for being “on top of it” as a campaign. Adjust your hard count based on the feedback of these calls. Facebook “I’m attending” doesn’t count in a hard count. Call the people and make sure they verbally commit to attending. Maybes don’t count. Numbers matter, be precise. Once you have this hard count, and you know what the setup of the room is, if you are doing a presentation with attendees seated, take the hard count, subtract 10-20% and setup that many chairs. You can always add more chairs (make sure they are available, but if there are more chairs, people will naturally filter to the back and the ends of aisles, creating a sparse crowd. You want the candidate, press and attendees to feel like the place is packed, whether it is 20 or 2000. If my hard count is 45, I set up 25 to 30 chairs, depending on the room configuration. As you configure the room, remember to allow for a “press box” area, if possible a media riser (a platform typically 6″ to 32″ in height that allows the media to setup a camera on a tripod to see over the crowd, typically the same height as the stage or a bit higher). With a higher riser, you can put people directly in front of the camera shot, causing the room to look more full, with a lower riser, you may want to leave an aisle to allow a clear shot of the candidate and presentation. The media riser should have a “Mult Box” for the media to connect to the microphone audio feed and any other sound feeds (if you are presenting a video or have a call-in speaker for instance) as well as access to power (via extension cords, taped and covered with a mat for safety if possible).
Behind the flags in the photo above you see a curtain obscuring what’s behind the presentation, in this case it is the stage/podium of a union hall. They utilized what is called “pipe and drape” to create a false background behind the candidate, making the event look more formal/official. These are fairly simple in design and can be rented relatively inexpensively and also allow you to hang banners from the pipes, particularly handy in situations where there is no other means to hang a banner in the room. You can also create pvc pipe frames for your banners fairly inexpensively, find someone crafty – this can be particularly handy for walking in parades with banners. With the pipe and drape, you can create an alternate entry method for the candidate or other speakers, potentially allowing a “surprise effect.”
Candidates/campaigns often shoot for quantity over quality with events, trying to hit 5, 7, 10 events in a day, as was discussed in Conventional Un-Wisdom: Scheduling, in most situations, quality is more important than quantity. The candidate should take the time to speak to as many people in the room, specifically ask for their support (vote, money, and/or time), and thank them for coming out to the event, as is possible. If you over schedule the candidate and rush from one event to the next, you are missing opportunities to activate volunteers, increase output from existing volunteers, and of course positive donor and voter impacts as well. If your campaign feels like speed dating, you are probably doing it wrong.
The candidate should work the room with a local surrogate, someone who knows much of the audience and easily connected with them, and ideally a campaign staffer is also nearby to collect notes, business cards and answer any questions beyond the candidates purview as needed. That staffer can also assist in increasing efficiency by helping to transition the candidate away from one target and on to the next by either taking over the existing conversation or introducing the next person. This requires talent and practice to be executed gracefully and without negative impacts, but in larger rooms a necessity or the candidate will be bogged down by the small handful of people who are already maxed out in support or rejection of the campaign, extra time with the candidate isn’t going to change anything.
Signs identifying the presence of the campaign event should be visible along the path leading to the event as far as a few miles down the road. People who were already soft on attending will absolutely flake if they become unsure they are at or headed to the right place.
The last piece of the basics is flow in and out, with data capture and personal contact. Ideally you want a sign in table just inside or just outside the main entry, if you have a large hallway outside the event room, setting up outside the room will allow you to have some control getting people signed in before they enter. If the event is ticketed, you have further control, as well as additional complexities I won’t get to here. Sign in should be efficient and orderly, and if an extra staffer/volunteer and “work the line” to keep people happy, calm and understanding the process, things will go smoothly.
If you do sign in outside, you can do further data capture inside, with staff/volunteer asking “ID questions” to those that enter, and then re-asking the same questions to those same people post event. ”Do you support XYZ Candidate?” Coming in they may be unsure, going out they may be excited and strong supporters…take the time to ask why and of course ask them to volunteer, donate, etc. There is a delicate balance between approaching attendees enough and harassment, courtesy and friendly demeanor go a long way to maintaining balance. Apologize and take the blame, don’t pass it off on your peers, staff or boss.
Capturing sign in only on the way in is not enough, you need to capture feedback/data on the way out too. Was the event good? Did they like what the candidate had to say? Did something said or done upset them? What corrective measures can be taken before their support/vote is lost?
The more you do it, the better you get at it, and you will learn and grow, as with everything else. These are just a few of the basics, there is so much more that can be done, and good event/advance staff are extremely valuable. Anyone can be trained to do the basics, but there is real talent and doing great events top to bottom.
Back in December, I posted Organizing – The Foundation of Progress, the most basic rules of organizing. I also promised to begin posting some forms and other tools to assist in organizing campaigns. I’m going to start with a basic fundraising spreadsheet, based on what is used on my December 7th post on fund raising: Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising and an event request form that will be involved in a future post on basic event execution.
On this spreadsheet, as described in Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising, you find a simple setup for collecting and tracking fund raising. This spreadsheet is not a replacement for a full featured fund raising database, like NGP, and certainly not an alternative to a qualified finance staffer. Across the base, you will find four worksheet tabs, Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 and Phase 4. These tabs are for use in this exercise, start from Phase 1.
Phase 1/2 is the first steps, as detailed in Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising, it is the first step of listing everyone you (the candidate) know, are related to, went to school with, worked with, shared a cab with or saw pass out at 31 flavors. Focus on the names and how you know the people at this point, friends, family, volunteers, interns and later finance/campaign staff can help fill in details.
The immediate focus is creating a list that will help determine whether or not your candidacy would have the necessary support in the first 90 days to push forward. Unless you are a self funding candidate or some form of “rock star” candidate, there is no need to send mail or email in this first phase, except thank you notes. As such, mailing addresses shouldn’t be fretted over during “call time hours”.
As you flip to Phase 2, you see the addition of phone numbers and email addresses, and first ask/pledge tracking. Phase 3 adds more ask/pledge/collection data, and in Phase 4, you have a complete process sheet. There are notes columns for each fund raising quarter, and you will note that the first two donors are given a red background as they have maxed out and can no longer contribute to the campaign.
Some of the terminology / codes used:
|1st Contact – M – Ask|
= First contact – Method – how much is the ask
|1/11/2011 – F2F – $1000|
= the date of first contact – face to face – asking $1000
Other Methods of contact: Ph = Phone, Ev = Event, S = Surrogate (You might use S# to indicate a particular surrogate, ie S1 for the candidate’s wife/husband, they might be keyed as “S1 Ph” for instance.). At later stages of the campaign you will have contributions come in through methods that are not instant-direct contact, ie letters, the interwebs, etc. Of course, don’t expect this to be significant – roughly 80% of your fundraising will come from direct solicitations by the candidate via call time. That is, if you are raising money effectively, efficiently and on a level to compete in six and seven figure races.
I think all the other abbreviations/terms are understandable, but please feel free to post in the comments if you seek further clarification.
The second tool is an Event Request Form, a basic form identifying the who-when-what-where-why and how for events that the campaign is requested to appear at. The use of these forms will help campaign management triage the candidates schedule as well as the schedules of staff and surrogates. The more you know about an event in advance, the better prepared the campaign can be to properly execute the event.
This is a sample of a completed event request form using a fictional event hosted by the Fredonia City Democratic Party. The request is for the candidate, John Dough, the time, date and location are given as well as a contact number for the venue itself. The candidates arrival and departure times are provided, this is very important given that in some cases a candidate may have a very narrow window to appear at event, or may need to attend the entirety of a 2 or 3 hours event.
The event description identifies the event as a Pig Roast and that the MC will be the local party chairwoman. The keynote speaker is identified as well as the subject of the keynote speaker’s remarks, the program is vaguely described, though more information is desirable. Often at the times these forms are initially completed, some of the details are still in flux and thus follow up is needed. Before the day of the event, the campaign should ascertain where in the speaking lineup the candidate will appear, any additional information on appropriate attire, and more information about the audience composition.
We also note who is filing the request, in this case it is a campaign field staffer named Kelly Marks, and her contact information is readily available. Below, in the box, we have the contact information for the host organization.
As with everything else, the best thing you can do is hire high quality professionals to run your campaign, implement efficient processes and of course, bring in the best trainers. Before and after that, I hope tools like these will help your campaign deliver the results needed to advance progressive values.
In honor of the FDP’s dentist endorsed sugar coated retrospective of the 2010 election season, a look at how candidates and campaigns should handle the aftermath of a campaign in preparation for a future campaign.
First, despite amusing quotes projected by some of 2010′s candidates, no campaign is perfect, no campaign is without mistakes, no campaign is without missed opportunities. If you can’t locate your mistakes and missed opportunities, you need to seek help with the process from actual campaign professionals, not sycophants or cronies with titles of professionals, actual professionals.
Second, admitting weaknesses is the only path to correction and (continued or future) success. Often the notion of “protecting morale” is put ahead of admitting weakness, thereby causing the use of excuses. The biggest problem with excuses used to protect morale is that the people projecting them, begin to believe them. Those that are ignorant of the reality of history, including their own, are doomed to screw the constituents of their district again. Please spare us from that – we have too much experience with that already.
In the later stages of a campaign, there is value to morale and the general projection of a positive attitude, in this retrospective time, preceding the next campaign cycle, there is only value in honest assessments that result in improvements for the campaigns to come. However, even in those late stages of campaigns, while projecting confidence and positive attitudes, you must be able to assess your weaknesses as a candidate/campaign and take action to correct those weaknesses or mitigate the impact of those weaknesses on the outcome of the election. This is something that Republicans traditionally do very well and that Democrats typically do terribly, particularly in states of “inbred talent”.
If you ran in 2010 and are considering running again, in 2012 or some other future date, how do you proceed? First you need to start from the beginning, what were the goals set at the start of the campaign, where they the correct goals? Were those goals achieved, where did the campaign come up short? How does the landscape assessment from the start of the campaign match with the reality of what happened during the campaign? Were key factors ignored in the setting of goals or drafting of the landscape memo? What additional goals should have been set and tracked? What goals were set but never measured? Can we go back and measure them now?
Second, look for the most obvious mistakes, identify them and follow the trail thereafter to how many later missteps were caused by that “big mistake”. Identify each individual component of the mistake and think about how you/the campaign could have better handled the situation. Look at both the near and long term effects thereof…such as supporters you had that were lost and the potential future supporters that were lost before they could even be found. Utilizing timelines of different aspects of the campaign can be very helpful, charting fundraising, volunteer hours, voter commitments, event attendance and other measurable aspects of the campaign and then being able to overlay those timelines with the “missteps” as well as the “shining moments.”
Given a thorough assessment of the campaigns goals, mistakes and a complete timeline of the larger events/actions of the campaign, now we can drill down to more specific time usage. In campaigns there are three primary resources:
While many (novice) advisors will focus on the first two, as they are easily measured and leave a direct impression on observers, the most important and the only non-renewable resource is time. You cannot get back time wasted, you can recruit more volunteers and raise more money, but you can’t go back to the beginning and apply those volunteers and money to the campaign retroactively. The easiest time to gain money and volunteers is in the last stage of the campaign, the final 15-90 days preceding election day, they are both infinitely more valuable 91 to 300 days prior to the election.
Look at the candidates time expenditures in the first stage of the campaign, how were the hours of the day consumed in the first weeks and months of the campaign? Was there a staffer or volunteer assisting with the management of time and ensuring that time was utilized efficiently and effectively? Are there notes and reporting of productivity? Did the candidate have tangible goals throughout this early stage or were they flailing around trying to generate support haphazardly? Were long term relationships being built and did those relationships bear fruit later or was time invested that never paid off? Why? Was money being spent in this early stage wastefully?
In most “blow out” campaigns, you will find that the biggest problems occurred in the early part of the process, candidates were not provided with the proper training, knowledge and/or staffing to adequately build an effective campaign — or the candidates rejected that training/knowledge in belief they could do it different. If you as the candidate still believe you can win your race by having a million dollars fall in to your lap from some miracle online action, I can’t help you. If you expect the party (local, state or national) to carry you, raise the money for you, convince people you are worthy of their votes, I can’t help you. If you are ready and willing to do the work, the work starts now.
Through this process one must assess every staff person, from candidate on down to super-volunteers, and assess whether the person was in the right position, up to the tasks and responsibilities they had or would have in an alternate position and whether or not that person should be a significant part of any future campaign involving this candidate or district. Often we are quick to promote people in Democratic campaigns strictly based on the “top line” of their experience, the title they had — we need to look deeper and assess actual competence, talent and whether or not they learned and grew through the experience. Were they provided mentor-ship for moving to the next level? Expecting someone to magically attain the knowledge, training and understanding to do a very intense job through enthusiasm and desire is foolish, and yet common in Democratic campaigns. There are a number of great organizations that provide training like Democracy for America, the New Organizing Institute (new toolbox here), Emily’s List, Wellstone, and of course… MPA Political.
Many of the “powers that be” in the Florida Democratic Party and 2010 statewide campaigns are pushing out the notion that “national messaging” and “factors outside of Florida” doomed the 2010 campaigns in Florida. This is ridiculous. Was National Democratic messaging bad? Yes. Did it have an impact on Florida in 2010? Yes. Was that the most significant reason Florida Democratic candidates got smoked up and down the state and lost the Governorship to an unlikable crook? Hell no. Florida Democrats failed to project any quality messaging while the opposition worked unified effective messaging from early 2009 and through election day 2010. Florida Democrats campaigned for just a portion of the state while Florida Republicans went after the whole state. Fun fact: had every minimally financially viable Democrat running for state house and state senate won, we would still be in the minority in both bodies. In nearly all of the counties Alex Sink lost by 10% or more, we failed to field a candidate at either State House or State Senate. This failure to recruit and even try to compete was extremely costly, we also failed to effectively compete at the Congressional level, even in districts where we fielded quality candidates. Further costly was Democratic candidates being ashamed of Democratic values and attacking Democratic achievements. You didn’t see Republicans, even Tea Party super conservatives, trashing Republican achievements or distancing themselves from the GOP brand. They found ways to provide contrast without projecting embarrassment. If you are running as a Democrat, here’s a newsflash, the Republicans are going to portray you as a raging liberal, whether you are or not. The people who buy that aren’t ever going to vote for you, you can’t win them over by taking stabs at the left or adopting anti-progressive positions on key issues. All you will do is fracture your base and reduce the quantity and quality of volunteer support you will receive. Project strength and confidence in your values, whatever they may be.
None of our statewide Democratic nominees had good messaging post-primary, the first demonstration of effective unified messaging by the slate was 1/8/2011, with the projection of the message that the FDP committed no crimes and endured no investigations under the reign of Chairwoman Karen Thurman. Congratulations on unification, now lets find messaging that doesn’t suck. Being proud to have not (been found to have) committed crimes is the epitome of aiming low.
Nearly all of the emphasis at the 1/8/2011 meeting was put on improving performance in the later stages of campaigning, GOTV, Vote by Mail, etc, where yes, improving systems and strategies for those aspects of campaigning is always good, but problems in those areas can also be a symptom of greater problems in the early stages of campaigning, for which late stage process improvements cannot help. The greatest problems we face are in recruitment and training of candidates AND STAFF and message development and dissemination. Those problems won’t go away because we came up with a killer method of signing people up to vote by mail or a great database for managing volunteers on election day.
Maybe the projections and posturing of the 1/8/2011 meeting was just that – not the realities of the focus of the FDP, just a projection to maintain and improve morale while real changes are being made behind the scenes and honest assessments of mistakes have been made and significant changes are being made to correct those flaws/weaknesses in 2012. But, I’m not optimistic. I’ll wait for my phone to ring, I’m sure the FDP will call me to help train candidates and/or staff any day now…
Whether you are talking about Civil Rights, Labor, Health Care, or cleaning up your local community parks, the one constant is that organizing is the most efficient and effective means of achieving progress. On many of the better campaigns I’ve been involved with, at some point, the same document (or one of the many variations in circulation) has been used or recited. ”15 Rules of Effective Organizing” – I’ve seen variants with 10 rules, 20 rules, 11, 17…some are “Commandments” rather than “rules”. But the basics are the same on all of them, and so I’ve reproduced the document here and in pdf format. I don’t know where the document originated or the identity of the author.
Will Rogers has the definitive quote on the subject: “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” Let’s fix that, read on and follow the rules.
15 Rules of Effective Organizing
- You are an Organizer.
- Things are always great. BE POSITIVE.
- Think with your head; be driven by your heart.
- People come to a campaign for a candidate…they stay because of you.
- Empower yourself, empower others.
- Respect your co-workers.
- NEVER lie.
- The phone is your weapon.
- If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.
- Numbers win campaigns.
- Have goals. Be accountable. Make others accountable.
- Some is not a number, soon is not a time. HARD NUMBERS COUNT.
- Keep it simple, stupid.
- Time is the most valuable resource you have. Don’t waste it.
- When you are not working, the other side is.
Some of you are looking through these and think, “well, that’s just common sense.” Unfortunately, many of these principles are absent from Democratic Campaigns. I can’t begin to convey how many campaigns I work with that have none of the most basic information written down. Some campaigns operate in ‘protected mode,’ where the candidate, staffers, and/or consultants are unwilling to share information in any kind of portable format out of fear of losing control of some aspect of the campaign, large or small. Some staffers think they are protecting their jobs by hoarding data/information. When there is a campaign in crisis, that’s the first guy to eject. If you aren’t confident in your own worth to do your job right, which means sharing information and creating necessary documents, you don’t belong on a campaign with a short timeline and a limited budget. It is more efficient to re-create the information from scratch than to pry it out of the mind/hands of a staffer who practices “hoarding.” It it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist.
The phone is your weapon is one of the most undervalued concepts in “rookie” campaigns. Everyone focuses on media, free & paid, and speeches. As if their candidate is going to give speech of the caliber of JFK to the local Democratic Club and that will somehow catapult them to victory on Election Day. Here’s the rough reality, even if your candidate was capable of delivering a speech on JFK’s level, and your campaign (or the candidate) could produce a speech of that caliber…it still wouldn’t do much of anything for them on Election Day. People have to be listening, enough people to deliver a majority in the election, the only way to reach that many people is by reaching out to them. Not one room at a time, but one call at a time. This is why volunteers are so coveted.
I’m also frequently disappointed to encounter issues with the twelfth item on the list – Some is not a number, soon is not a time. Too often campaigns and organizations think that emails and Facebook are adequate methods for inviting people to an event and knowing how many people will attend. The only means of confirming attendance and conveying an invitation is direct with instant response complete with tone of voice recognition. Yeah, that means a phone call or face to face. People clicking “will attend” on Facebook or with an RSVP email have demonstrated no real commitment, they are not reliable attendees of any event. Even ticketed events with monetary cost, attendance is not secured with an online ticket purchase. It is common for people to buy tickets to support an organizations event and then not attend. Every invitee should be called and notified of the invitation, persuaded to attend, and then receive a follow up a day or two prior to the event reminding them to ensure that the room is full. If you are doing proper follow up, you will discover donors that have purchased tickets but have no intention of attending…RE SELL THOSE TICKETS. My personal best is selling more than 300 tickets to an event with less than 150 seats, and still only around 125 people attended, leaving far more open seats than I would prefer.
Whether it is event attendance, door knocks or dollars raised…”some” is not a valid answer. There must be exact record keeping, goals and performance measurement. If goals aren’t being reached, changes must be made, to procedures, to accountability practices and possibly to the goals. I’ve been involved with campaigns that had goals way out of line with reality, both high and low…if you set the goals too low, you never achieve your full potential. If the goals are too high, organizers and volunteers can become disheartened or even give up. Track everything, have goals, and make them matter. Reward performance, on the individual and team level. Recognize achievement and foster positive competition.
The fourth item on the list is really amazing to see out in the real world. I love talking to someone and having them say something like, “I voted early for Kelly, the organizer for my neighborhood, she’s great.” Organizers that do their job right, they become beacons for the communities they organize. People feel responsible and accountable. It isn’t about some politician the voter may meet once or twice for a few seconds of grip and grin, its about the organizer who sat in their living room, calls them regularly and responds to their questions promptly. Sometimes, it becomes very intense and personal, “I know that if I don’t vote, it will reflect poorly on Kelly, I did my part so she can post good numbers and get a great recommendation for her next job.” Successful and repeated demonstration of follow through is the best means for building a strong organizer-supporter relationship. Create opportunities for follow through when possible, but make sure you do follow through.
Right now, Republicans/conservatives are working everywhere to undermine the progressive agenda. What are you doing to combat their efforts? What are you doing to support those that are combating those actions? When you aren’t working, the other side is. Always.
It really is simple stuff – get organized, stay organized, win with organization.
Over the next several weeks I will post a number of forms and documents to assist with organizing. The first one is the above list in PDF format: 15 Rules of Effective Organizing.