Posts tagged Hiring
An associate offering condolences for this past Tuesday’s election results offered the reminder that we need a Constitutional Amendment to fix campaign finance. Amending the Constitution is the only certain means of leveling the playing field between self funders trying to buy seats, those willing to sell their values for special interest money and establishment support and those tried and true progressive warriors honestly trying to make the world a better place.
The decline in the quality of media coverage of elections has been a perverse accelerator of the downward spiral, favoring big money, the establishment and creating the illusion of similar qualifications/values where vast differences exist. Why? To make money, profit over truth, profit over quality of governance, profit over everything.
Until we have major campaign finance reform and media reform, we as progressives (and Democrats in general) need to stop making the same mistakes campaign after campaign. We need to invest drastically more in infrastructure that supports candidate campaigns. The key phrase being, “that supports candidate campaigns.” We have a number of great organizations out there that are improving some of the message and starting to push back on some of the right wing attacks on our Democracy in favor of the 1%, but they aren’t doing nearly enough to help us actually win elections and shift the balance of power.
We need a return to the 50 State Strategy. It isn’t even debatable which strategy is more effective. When we run more quality campaigns, we do vastly better at controlling the message and we win more seats. We raise more money. We inspire future candidates and activists. Incumbency protection is best served by expanding the playing field, not contracting it to a defensive posture.
We must do more to provide candidates with the resources to compete – not just money, but training, quality staff and research. Candidates need to start by recognizing that being a candidate is not easy, and they should do more to learn to how to be better as a candidate. Progressive organizations need to begin their actions six months or more before primaries/elections, they need to get in early to make a big impact. They need to to do more to promote the positive narratives for progressive candidates.
We need to stop hiring/promoting staffers based on arbitrary measures, winning or losing a prior race isn’t necessarily indicative of any one individual’s talent and capacity. Being on a winning team in one capacity is not at all indicative of a capacity to succeed in a completely different capacity on the next campaign. Carrying staff not getting the job done is extremely detrimental to campaigns, where resources are highly limited and the impact of team morale is far greater than many recognize. A person not living up to the responsibilities of their job will drag everyone else down, any temporary drop off felt from firing that person among the rest of the team will be overcome by the greater impact of bringing in someone capable of doing the job. Rip off the band aid, don’t let it fester.
We should be willing to pay quality wages for quality staff. When you buy at a bargain rate, too often you get less than a bargain of quality and capacity. Which leads to this – donors need to get involved earlier, need to get involved in primaries, and need to recognize that their money can and should be spent on things other than TV. When progressive donors opt to sit out primaries, they are giving a huge advantage to the big money/establishment candidates and crippling our progressive heroes. Money has a decreasing value over the course of a campaign – the earlier you have it, the better you can plan and execute a campaign for victory. Late campaign TV is rapidly declining as an effective means of communicating with voters, the value of field, online and targeted mail campaigns are all increasing rapidly. All of these require having money earlier. More staff, less consultants.
We MUST MUST MUST do more to keep quality staffers in the campaign system between cycles. We must pay them living wages in and out election season. We must provide health care and career advancement training. We must strive to keep the best of our warriors on campaigns for 5 cycles. 10 years. That should be the goal. We need to make it a viable option by increasing the quantity and quality of mentorship, by providing employment options designed to fit between campaigns that continue the work for advancing progressive values, and by doing more to make sure the right people are hired by the right candidates at the right time to be successful.
We have a handful of strong progressive candidates running across the nation and Democracy Corps tells us 54 House Republicans are in danger right now. We can make gains this November, and we need to work our butts off to make that happen. We can make bigger gains in 2014 and beyond if we start learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over.
For my part, I’m currently looking for the best opportunity to make a difference between now and November 6th. If you have ideas about what I should be doing, use the contact form.
After an intense three months spanning the nation, working with Connecticut’s Chris Donovan to sharpen his message and write an acceptance speech for the nominating convention and then packing the car, passing through Mount Rushmore and on to the Pacific Northwest where I ran Darcy Burner’s campaign for Washington’s First Congressional District, I’m now looking for what is next.
Does your campaign need a communications director? Some quality control auditing? Training and process improvement? I can make your campaign better. So long as you are a progressive Democrat that is.
Whether you are looking to hire a consultant or a full time staffer, you should contact us here.
Notes from the closing session of RootsCamp 2012, “Some Guy Candidates: How they Delay Progress & How to Make Them Suck Less.”
You can find some background here: ‘Some Guy’ vs Contender – which are you?
Reviewing, the basics of the ‘Some Guy’ candidate: Lacks money, social network and the experience/understanding of how to be a candidate.
We talked about the common ways ‘Some Guys‘ push back – blaming the system, proclaiming too much purity to be sullied by doing the work, and of course attacking those that try to help them.
We explored the common motivations of ‘Some Guy‘ candidates, that they typically have a high degree of ideological (or egocentric) resolve. This means that if you are trying to move a ‘some guy‘ out of a race, you better have an idealistic win-win proposals for them, the right advocate to make the case and an expectation that their resolve is much stronger than rational logic can conquer.
As an idealist, I admire the confident idealism of these candidates. But, I’m also a strategist – one that recognizes that these candidates running on sheer idealism are hurting the progressive movement and damaging the Democratic party brand.
The best thing you can do to help these candidates is get them to attend a Democracy for America Training, like the ones coming up in Miami (March 17-18) or Gainesville (March 24-25). The DFA Training program is a comprehensive overview of campaigning designed to help people at all levels of experience and engagement. Whether you are a 5 hour a week activist/volunteer, full time staff to a candidate running for office, the DFA Training Academy will make you more effective. The DFA Training Manual (provided to Academy attendees or purchased direct from DFA) is also a fantastic resource that you will use day after day throughout your adventures in campaign politics.
After they attend the training, the next step is rule #9 again, If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. This means writing a landscape memo and campaign plan (and all the component parts, field, finance and communications). Somewhere in the midst of this process, if not sooner, the (former?) ‘Some Guy‘ candidate should begin to recognize that the water is way over their head. This is the best time to do a ‘right size’ analysis. Very few candidates should be running for Congress the first time out. State House, State Senate and city/county offices are much more attainable and can help build the foundation for a later campaign for Congress. This is also the point that we should remember that local offices hold the most power.
Long term, ‘Some Guy‘ candidates need to work to expand their social networks (offline more than online). This means reaching out to like minded organizations, attending meetings and conventions, building relationships and working to earn media. This process can also serve to help (future) candidates improve their campaign skills without the pressures of an impending election. If you are not certain three hundred people will give your campaign money in the first 30 days, you aren’t ready to run for Congress. Write down the list.
It was a great discussion, thanks to all who attended.
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.
For your conveinence, here are all the Conventional Un-Wisdom, Unconventional Wisdom, and other posts that pertain to better campaigning sorted by what aspect of the campaign they primarily pertain to. You will also now find this list as a big button on the bar above and in the menu to the right. Please visit our Services page or Contact Us if you have any questions or desire more specific and intensive training.
Organizing – The Foundation of Progress – The basic rules of organizing
Tools for a Better Organized Campaign – Basic Fund Raising Spreadsheet
Events / Advance:
Tools for a Better Organized Campaign – Event Request Form
As promised, here is the complete breakdown of performance versus the democratic performance goals I had projected for the Florida Governors Race. I will use the same sorting I used yesterday for the turnout breakdown, but I have adjusted the reference of the turnout – each county is reported by what percentage of expected turnout it experienced ie. Sumter is reported as 127.5%, or 27.5% over expected turnout.
Starting with the highest performance counties in the state, we see that in only one of the nine overachieving counties did Alex Sink take greater than 50% of the vote, Gasden County, where Sink/Smith took a whopping 72%, 3.88% over my projected goal. In Union County, Sink/Smith exceeded the goal by just over 7%, with 46.6% of the vote – a small positive negated by the higher turnout assisting Rick Scott’s majority of the vote.
Performance wise, Sink didn’t fare terribly in any of these counties, with Calhoun being the farthest under the goal, by 4.6% with 13.5% increased turnout. But as was discussed in the turnout analysis, these were mostly Republican base counties, so any increase in turnout was very beneficial to the Scott/Carroll campaign.
On the right, is the chart of counties that experienced high turnout, 105-110%. Look at the Sink % column, we again can note that nearly all of these are counties Sink lost, the only exception is Orange county. Orlando delivered for Sink/Smith with 108% turnout and nearly 4% better than the goal. Sink over performed in six more of these counties, but four of those just resulted in higher scores in the 30′s and one just pushed the score out of the 30′s to 44.8% (Seminole). All of these increases are offset by the higher turnout delivering a greater increase in votes to her opponent.
In ten of these 18 counties the Sink performance was within 2.2% of goal, the biggest differentials were Taylor, Seminole, Santa Rosa, Walton and Duval. The 4.6% over performance in Duval was very unexpected, north east Florida was seen as a dead zone for the statewide Democratic campaigns with minimal candidate time and very little staffing. Without additional data I would wager the most influential actor in this was the Kendrick Meek campaign, led by local organizer Tyler Fort and driven by several visits by Kendrick Meek in settings and events focused on driving out minority and union voters. I would further posit that had President Obama visited Jacksonville at any point in the last six weeks of the campaign, Alex Sink would be Governor-Elect Sink right now, particularly if his visit to north east Florida included a pop at Bethune Cookman (or nearby).
I won’t forget that certain Democratic nominees scheduled and cancelled stops in the Jacksonville area throughout the campaign – get your scheduling in order before making commitments and don’t forget your base organizations in the opponents base regions, 40% performance is bad, falling to 25% because you didn’t bother to show up or do anything to engage the activists – that’s just sad. Play the whole field, not just the area between the hash marks.
Sink gets one short smile for this bit… in Collier County, home of Rick Scott, turnout was 109.36%, but Sink out performed historical Democratic performance there by 1.29%. The smile ends fast though, that 1.29% over goal is still an abysmal 32.4%.
In the thirty four counties that performed within 5% of historical projections for turnout, it is a mixed bag for Alex Sink, the bottom seven counties on the chart (Left, yellow) shows under performances by the Sink campaign compounded by lower than expected turnout. Among the seven is Hillsborough, home of the Sink for Governor HQ in the city of Tampa, this was supposed to be a highlight of the campaign, part of the famed un-wisdom “I-4 Corridor” focus. The FDP/OFA/Sink coordinated effort had a large number of staff working the county and put a great deal in to media in the region. To have finished under 50% is a huge let down, and even worse when compounded by reduced turnout (96.5%). Pinellas (St. Petersburg), also part of the corridor/focus, also experienced low turnout (97%) and slight under performance (1%). If you are going to make one region your focus, you need to significantly over perform in both percentage and turnout, Sink/Smith went under both ways in these two key counties. Knowing there is a significant GLBT community in this region, one must wonder how different these results would be had Alex Sink been less reluctant to talk about GLBT issues and been more supportive of GLBT rights. The same can be said for Miami-Dade and a number of the counties in the next (lower) segment of turnout performance.
At the top of this chart, it is notable that five of the top six counties, while mild over performers in turnout, were significant under performances for Sink/Smith. Flagler county went for Obama in 2008 (as did Volusia and Monroe) and produced just 43% for Sink while experiencing 103.7% turnout. This is one of the counties hardest hit in the nation by foreclosures and should have been an opportunity to over perform for Democrats. The lack of support for (and recruitment of) the “under card”, challengers for open and Republican seats is certainly a factor in Flagler and most of north and eastern Florida. This is one aspect severely neglected by the FDP and a significant departure from the 50-State Strategy employed under the growth years of Howard Dean’s DNC. All 50 States, all 67 counties, we need to put up strong challengers to every seats, we need primaries and coordinated messaging — that is how you win.
Both Osceola and Leon are striking bright spots for Sink/Smith, slight over performances in turnout with significant over performance to the goal (5 and 8.7% respectively). Dixie was an oddity, as pointed out by the St. Pete Times crew in this geographic Sink v Scott breakdown, produced 7.1% of the vote for independent candidates, more than double their statewide performance, while turnout remained just a smidgen under projection (99.13%).
Gulf county was a significant under performance, 7.6% below goal, 35.3%, with slightly low turnout (97.9%). Gilchrist clocked in 4.7% under goal (33.2%) with 96.5% turnout and Brevard and Putnam were also 3.7 and 4.9% under goals as well, both just outside the boundaries of the “I-4 Corridor”.
Alachua experienced both low turnout at 95.1% and under performed for Sink, 1.7% shy of the goal at 59.2%. This is a strong progressive county that a few months back elected an openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe, and is the home of Sink’s running mate, Rod Smith. This is another instance of where Sink’s positions and reticence on gay rights may have hurt her campaign.
Finally, we have the poorest performing counties with regard to turnout (chart on right). Massive under performance in Palm Beach is a huge obstacle for a Democratic candidate running statewide in Florida, this is one of our strongest base counties and a source of large numbers of high energy volunteers and activists. Not to mention donors. Turnout flopped at 93.8% and Sink/Smith fell 5.1% short of the performance goal at 58.1%. Broward, another crucial Democratic Base county showed close to goal performance at .2% under, but was nearly 10% under turnout projections. Joining the south east Florida turnout collapse are St Lucie (90.4%) and Martin (above chart left, 97%), St Lucie was a 2.3% under performer (50.9%), while Martin, a Republican base county, went slightly better for Sink/Smith at 1.5% over goal (40.5%). Glades, Okeechobee and Highlands are adjacent to those four counties in south central Florida, all Republican base counties, and all well under turnout expectations in the low 90′s. Sink/Smith under performed in south central as well, down more than 7% in both Glades and Okeechobee and a slightly more respectable 1.4% below goal in Highlands.
We also see the statewide totals on this chart, white text on blue background, turnout was right at the projection (off 0.26%), but Sink’s performance was 5.6% below the goals, and just short of victory.
This campaign was a massive undertaking planned well in advance and executed pretty much on the tracks laid years in advance. The FDP made a concerted effort to project Alex Sink as the party nominee well in advance of the primary, often regurgitating the same tired un-wisdom about the primary date being too late for a Democrat to win after a primary. News flash, many states have later primary dates and both parties are able to have primaries and win competitive elections. Rick Scott and Bill McCollum…brutal primary, that must have made Scott a sure loser in the general…Governor-elect Rick Scott…wha? Three Republicans engaged in a fairly fierce primary for the Attorney General nomination, surely that made it impossible for one of them to defeat Dan Gelber who only had to defeat one primary opponent to get the nomination…oh, oops again. How about that US Senate race where Charlie Crist got challenged for the Republican nomination…surely Marco Rubio had no chance….oh…damn. The gaggle of Republicans who fought to run against Alan Grayson…surely that ensured a second term for one of my favorite Congressmen… dammit. This logic sucks.
We need to adhere to our own rules and processes at the very minimum, the Democratic nominating process needs to be…well…DEMOCRATIC. I am a supporter of moving the nominating contest earlier, even if it means bearing the cost at the party level, a number of other states are able to do that and utilize the process as an excellent party building and candidate quality improvement opportunity. I would support using a caucus over a primary in that situation to reduce cost and increase the quality of participation, though one must acknowledge that it would potentially reduce the quantity of participation.
Had Alex Sink had a strong primary challenge, her campaign would have had greater urgency earlier, they would have been tested and improved, had she emerged victorious, it would have given her additional momentum forward in to the General election. What we can’t have is crappy primary challenges. We can’t have candidates that argue over petty things instead of the real substance, I like both Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg but watching them in the primary was more akin to a contest for Junior High Class President than Attorney General. Arguments over who is more or less supportive of this and more or less qualified because of that. Less about me vs him and more about what you will do if you get the job to solve x,y,z problems and make life better for the people. More narrative, more message. No ageism, racism, sexism or arrogance/patronizing towards your primary opponents. Bring it real and elevate the level of debate of Democratic issues for a change.
One of the other commonly noted flaws of the Sink for Governor campaign was her presentation and engagement at events and the lack of emotional attachment/passion in her speaking. I don’t know if they hired any consultants or advisors for this aspect of the campaign**, I don’t know if Alex Sink herself thinks she’s great at this, but it was a huge flaw and a big reason she failed to motivate volunteers and activists throughout the campaign. Many times people have said Sink does not like “working rooms”, I have observed her at many events bounce between the 10-15 people she has preexisting relationships with in rooms of 200-500 people. That does not get the job done, you need to shake every hand and speak to every person who took the time to come out and hear you speak. A number of young women commented to me at one major event how she was a hero to them and she didn’t even acknowledge their presence as she walked by them. That cost Sink a few hundred volunteer hours, at least, and she had another hour or so at the event to make up for it, but it was never a consideration.
Alex Sink was often over dressed, creating an unneeded barrier for attachment to many attendees. Nearly every time, or both times, I saw her dressed casually, her speech was also more lively and passionate and audience reaction was much stronger. This is a frequently delivered un-wisdom, we need to put an end to it.
The level of competence displayed by your staff will be heavily reflected in the level of volunteering, contributions and actual votes you receive. They should be properly considered before hiring and paid well for their work, which is a brutal commitment to dedicate their lives to your candidacy 24/7 for as long as you have until election day. They should be paid until two weeks following the election, win or lose. The last thing you need on a tight race is staffers looking for work during crunch time. The pay offered by campaigns in Florida Democrats is generally bordering on embarrassing, with highly qualified people taking lower level jobs in other states for higher pay (and benefits!). Of course, given the level of performance demonstrated, maybe paying crappy wages is justified…or is it the cause? The FDP should provide training to candidates and staff early and throughout the campaign season, they should provide assistance with hiring, providing the resources and knowledge needed to avoid candidates who dump a bundle of money on a consultant, staff, etc that produces no/little benefit. They should provide these resources to any candidate who qualifies as a candidate and is a member of the party in good standing for no fewer than two years. It is not the FDP’s job to decide who is and who is not a viable candidate, it is not the FDP’s job to decide who the best candidate is. It is the FDP’s job to make every Democratic campaign better and deliver Democratic victories in the general election.
The amazing but sad truth to Alex Sink’s campaign is that she ran exactly the campaign she said she was going 18 months out, and the results are almost identical to her husband’s campaign, which she discussed in the early part of this campaign…was lost by failing to turn out liberals in south Florida. Just as you can’t play half the game and expect to win, you can’t play half the state and expect to win. Trying to be more moderate to appeal to independents and Republicans doesn’t work either.
Join the conversation about how to improve the Florida Democratic Party with Twitter hashtag #FDPideas – we don’t know if anyone will listen, but it needs to be said. Take a bigger step and come out to RootsCampFL.
Conventional Un-Wisdom: To win in this district, you need to hire locals to work on your campaign.
This is a Conventional Un-Wisdom that happens early in the campaign assembly process and creates a rapid spiral in to more un-wise actions than a campaign can typically recover from. Typically it comes from a “party elder” or even an elected official or party chair from within the district, giving it a great deal of credence, particularly to young and ‘outsider’ candidates. The logic behind it is often based on local people not being accepting of outsiders or outsiders not being able to understand the district.
Good organizers are good organizers, some organizers are particularly good at organizing dense urban areas, some excel in rural or ex-urban communities, but they all know and understand organizing. Beyond that, organizers on many campaigns are first time campaigners who are trained to organize based on the specifics of the campaign. On a Presidential campaign, 20 or more (typically young) activists with very little experience start training on Friday and by Monday are ready to go out to their regions in Iowa or New Hampshire and organize for their candidate.
Hiring for upper level positions it becomes even more crucial that professional talent be valued over local ties, I’ve been in districts that haven’t been won by Democrats in more than a decade and heard “you need to hire a local to run the campaign to win here.” If the locals knew how to win, it wouldn’t take a decade or longer to get the district back.
Among the advantages of hiring non-locals is that you bring in new ideas and experiences, it is the combination of these experiences and ideas that helps us build a stronger base and more effective infrastructure. This is one of the things that Republicans have historically done better than Democrats, they do a better job of rotating staffers to different regions and types of districts and communicating the ideas. The further do a better job of making sure promotions are earned, not given automatically, that staffers attain a more well rounded experience before escalating to a position of management. It isn’t unusual for senior staff in a Democratic campaign to oversee aspects of the campaign they have no experience or understanding of. Frequently, Democratic campaigns have campaign managers that have only experience in one of the three major aspects of campaigning, most commonly finance. While fund raising is extremely important, you need to know how to spend the money effectively. This becomes particularly damaging long term when donors feel their money was wasted or mismanaged, potentially causing them to stop giving to the party or future campaigns.
When you bring in staff from outside the district, while they lack any prior knowledge or ties, they also lack any preconceived notions, grudges or biases. They start fresh and look everywhere for information and support, rather than sticking to a closed network typical of a local organizer. This may turn out to be a difference of hundreds of volunteer hours, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars raised and enough votes to push your campaign to victory. That locally bred organizer likely has relationships both good and bad that could help them within their circle and prevent them from reaching beyond their own circle. They may risk lifelong loyalties and relationships whereas an outsider coming in won’t be penalized at all for reaching out in all directions.
Another advantage of non-local staffing, and one that should not be underestimated, is the quality of commitment and distractions. Staff without significant local ties are less likely to be distracted by personal matters, they are more likely to live and breathe the campaign all day, every day. The more focused your staff is on your campaign, the more invested they become in your victory. Come September and October, your campaign will need every minute and every ounce of focus your staff can offer.
The stress of staffing decisions and hiring can be overwhelming, particularly early on. After a candidate becomes comfortable with their campaign manager/general consultant, the candidate will become less worried about the processes and decisions. Candidates and their family should be a minimally involved of the processes of staffing as possible. A common mistake candidates make is being unwilling to dismiss a staffer who is not performing or who is somehow disrupting the campaign. There may be pains and transitional stress with the removal of a staffer, but that pain will be far less than keeping them around, absorbing payroll and continuing to disrupt the campaign in foreseeable and unforeseeable ways.
Hiring family members, or family of top tier activists/elected officials is also discouraged due to excessive risks far outweighing the benefits. If those staffers don’t work out, you not only have to deal with the normal pains of dismissing someone, but further the issues of alienating their top-tier activist family members. With family of the candidate, it becomes even more delicate and potentially destructive. Family members should be supportive and volunteer at the direction of the campaign, but if they want to help their wife/brother/father/son win, they need to respect that the campaign is run professionally and has a strategy and message that cannot deal with the conflicts of a family member going ‘off the reservation’.
All staffing decisions should be made with capacity to do the job and the constraints of the budget first and foremost. Often, campaigns with small or slow developing budgets will distribute titles to volunteers either as reward or encouragement to contribute more. This becomes detrimental down the road as those titles conflict with the titles and responsibilities of professionals hired as the campaign grows. Recognition and encouragement of volunteers is very important but you must keep long term plans and objectives in mind throughout the process. If you title a super-volunteer as the “Volunteer Coordinator” 18 months prior to the election and then hire organizers or a professional volunteer coordinator later, how will that super volunteer deal with the demotion? It can become particularly problematic when the hired professional is seen by the super-volunteer as being “a kid fresh out of college.” The professional is going to work full time (and then some), using extensive training and accountable for their actions, the volunteer will not be accountable and is very unlikely to give the same time commitment or willingness to be trained.
On the right you can find some resources for hiring, and like a number of other consulting firms and organizations, MPA Political does hiring and training for all levels of campaigns and staffing, contact us now about your staffing or training needs.