On Balloon Juice, are we ahead of the curve in what we’re focusing on in our fundraising efforts? I would argue that the answer is yes! Read on and see if you agree.
Josie sent me an article this morning that I think you’ll find interesting. I know I did. Yes, it’s Politico. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
A group of Democratic strategists is trying to spread a novel organizing tactic in this year’s election. Technically, it’s called “paid relational organizing,” but it boils down to this: paying people to talk to their friends about politics.
Democrats think it helped them win the Senate in 2020 — and are hoping the get-out-the-vote strategy will help limit the pain of a brutal 2022 election environment.
Conversations with friends, family members or neighbors are more likely to earn a voter’s support than chats with a stranger at their front door, which is the traditional way campaigns have run paid canvassing programs in the past. And an important test case for deploying the strategy at scale came out of the Georgia Senate runoffs in 2021 when now-Sen. Jon Ossoff’s (D-Ga.) campaign, flush with nearly unlimited cash but only two months to spend it, used a paid and volunteer relational program to get people talking to acquaintances instead of strangers about the election.
In particular, the Ossoff team hired 2,800 Georgians, specifically targeting those with little or no voting history themselves to do this outreach to their own networks. The campaign was making a bet that many of the friends and family of their highly political volunteers were already engaged in the runoff election, but that this group could expand the electorate with relational outreach into their networks — which were likely to include more irregular voters or non-voters like them. The campaign folded this data into their vast field program, tracking conversations and whether those contacted had voted. They could even notify organizers, based on their own network, which voters were tagged as “only reachable by you.”
A post-election analysis found their efforts boosted turnout by an estimated 3.8 percent among the 160,000 voters targeted through their relational program. Ossoff and now-Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) won by 1.2 points and 2.1 points respectively, flipping the state and the Senate to Democrats.
In 2021, we raised significant funds for Four Directions for multiple states: Georgia. Arizona. Wisconsin. Michigan. And Georgia again! Four Directions employs this relational organizing strategy with Native people. In $25,000 chunks, with a match or a double match. So that netted Four Direction $50,000 to $90,000 for each of those states. Plus more that comes in every month from the people who set up recurring donations.
In 2021, we raised something like $32,000 for Voces, and $25,000 of that was matched. Thanks to us, they now have their field organizer; that’s what our funds went to, as agreed. But Voces de la Frontera also employee this strategy with their relational organizing. It puts money directly into the community they are serving, and people are more influenced by people they know and trust.
Think about it. I never watch advertising. But I have the Weber grill that Steeplejack talked about over Easter weekend a few years ago. I have the Spot Bot that Cole raved about for when kitties puke on the carpet. I have the air purifiers that you guys bought during the fires last summer. I have all sorts of stuff that you guys have recommended.
So now we are in our first political fundraising cycle of 2022. We are aiming to raise $25,000 for this Michigan group too, and what we have arranged for them to spend our money on fits this exact same relational organizing strategy. Our $25,000 can fund 5 paid fellowships – with each of the 5 coming from an underserved community – and they organize within their community.
This one is off to a slow start – is it because we don’t have matching funds or BJ angel matches to help drive enthusiasm? I know I’m really focused on Ukraine, but I also know that if we lose in November, the whole world will be in a worse position than we are now. And where we are now is pretty rocky. If we can’t stop or slow our own slide into autocracy, we can’t effectively help anybody else.
When the thermometer reaches $15,000, the Michigan group can start hiring for the fellowships. We surely hope we can reach this goal. Gretchen Whitmer and all of Michigan can sure use our help, especially after today when the would-be kidnappers and murderers got off scott-free.