Monday, March 10, 2008

Four Things Every Local Democratic Party MUST Do

Every Local Democratic Party's Goal: To Win Elections.

But how do we get to that goal?

Four Things Every Local Party MUST Do:

Before getting started, it is important to do what every business or campaign should do: make a plan. A party should write out a definite, concrete plan that touches on specific goals and sets timelines. Without such a plan, there is no accountability and there is no improvement. By having set goals, it forces the party to work toward solid, achievable results.

It is definitely a good idea to ask your local party what its goals are and if they have them. Otherwise you’re being involved or supporting an organization without any thought being put behind it. It’s exactly like how you feel as a Cleveland sports fan during the bad times for a team. When a professional sports team has bad management, lousy players, and a terrible record- they lose fans. We question offensive play calls, the number of total rushing yards, field goal percentages, and all kinds of other minutiae. Why would you hold your political party to a lower standard than your favorite sports team?

First things first, make sure you have a written plan.

For every action or potential action that a party is considering, a party should make sure it fits into a category that will help it achieve its ultimate goal:

1. Fundraising:
This key helps a party achieve its goals. It is rarely what people think about when they think about getting involved in politics- but it leads to the things that make the differences. Without it, the rest is not possible. When you complain about a candidate not being able to respond to a message, when you see a television ad, or a newspaper ad, or you wonder about where the yard signs come from- that’s all about money.
Just like when you start up a business, it’s important to budget and get the money to meet that budget. Donors invest money in a business, a candidate, or an organization where they know the money is going toward specific goals.
The most valuable fundraiser for any organization is the organization’s leader. That could mean the CEO, the candidate, or the Chair of the local party. That person is in the best, and sometimes the only, position to ask for money. If the organization’s leader doesn’t believe in what the organization enough to ask for you to take money to support it, then what person will want to give money?
Money gets yours message out, it builds your party, and it helps recruit your candidates. It’s the basic fundamental that drives the rest. Plan out how much money your party needs, how they plan to raise it, and by what time they will raise that amount. If you don’t know, ask! If you like what you hear, you should give money to help them reach their goals.

2. People:

Every local party covers a set amount of physical area that includes a population of people. While this point seems incredibly obvious, what we can conclude from it is not. It means there are only so many people in each area and we can keep track of them household by household and know a little bit about what each voter wants or needs. It takes time, but it’s about ID’ing our potential market. Just like a good marketing campaign, we need to keep track of who wants our product and who will vote for our party.

(Notice that we’re building a party, not a candidate. There will be good and bad candidates, but we’ll always have the Democratic Party. Remember: Crystal Clear Pepsi didn’t sink the entire brand. )

We have to keep track of every person that contacts our party, at a bare minimum. Is there a phone line they can call? Is there an email address? A website? There should be guidelines as to how long it should take for someone who contacts the party to get a return contact. Is there any other business where it is acceptable to ignore people who contact it for months at a time? It’s simple customer service
Remember: Today’s volunteers are tomorrow’s candidates and tomorrow’s donors. If someone wants a yard sign, they should get it right away, that’s a voter. People who work with the party should feel liked, appreciated, and encouraged to return.
Plan for how you want to keep track of, encourage, and nurture the people involved in the party. Most businesses have policies on this- thank you cards, phone calls, prompt contacts. It’s the difference between involvement and apathy.
And the voters who might vote for your party- why waste your time with someone who will never, ever, vote for your party? Focus on the voters who will vote for you, figure out who they are.

3. Candidates:
Easiest way to get candidates? Make a list of the people you have or would like to run. Figure out how to get them involved in the party, the community, and push them to run.
One of the key reasons the Democratic Party never seems to have enough candidates is because we do not push our people to run for every office possible. We don’t control enough school boards, city councils, and local government areas.
What steps is your party taking to develop and create candidates? Far too often parties fall into the trap that candidates magically fall from the sky- that’s not the case. We should be planning during the 2008 cycle for the 2009 and 2010 cycles. Each party should have a list going NOW of the candidates and people they see in the future cycles and for what position. We can’t start over every year hoping that candidates materialize from places we haven’t planned for.

Ask your local party who they plan on running in 2009 and 2010.

4. GOTV:
Get Out The Vote. The party should be responsible for its voters that they know, on election day and in early voting, that will vote for the Democratic Party. We’ve ID’s them and we know how to get a hold of them. The party should provide ways to get people to the polls, to make sure they’ve filled out absentee ballots or early voted.
How can a candidate expect to work on both the I’s and the D’s in the final months leading up to the election? And if a local Democratic party cannot make sure that the Democratic voters are voting… then what exactly are they doing?
Ask your local party what it plans on doing for the 30 days before the election and on election day in 2008. How many votes are they creating for the Democratic Party? Ask for numbers.

What else?:

Everything the party does should work to achieve one of the four things laid out here. If it’s not doing that, it’s not meeting a goal.
There should also be a message- but the message ties to a function. If you issue out a press release- does it help attract people into the party? Does it help a candidate? Does it raise money? Will more people vote on election day for our party?
Parties should also consider basic functions that tie to others. Does your party have a regular, comfortable, meeting place? That helps bring in people, for example.

Each thing that is done by the party must be in support of one of these goals.There’s more to this than I’ve laid out here in this- but it’s a great start for you to start to ask your local party how they are planning to meet their four core functions.

1 comment:

Jill said...

This is a great post - thank you very much!