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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Today's DEC Structure

This is how most DECs are GENERALLY organized:

Click on the image for a larger view.

As you can see, today's DECs are completely dependent on volunteers and committees. Each of its major responsbilities has a committee dealing with the issue.

In an ideal world, all of this would flow nicely, each committee would have a group of 7-15 members who would world cohesivley to come up with specific solutions and prescriptions to the issues affecting their area of focus. Also, each committee would work with each other and arrange their agendas, operations, and plans accordingly. Designated committee members would make regular reports to the Executive Board (the top 4 elected positions) or a Steering Committee (not mentioned in this DEC model, but is used in some DECs.) The Executive Board or Steering Committee would coordinate and organize all of these committees around a few (3-5) main objectives and guide them in the same direction.

Unfortunately, this isn't an ideal world. As mentioned in my previous post, volunteers aren't terribly reliable, many lack proper training, background, or experience in the necessary fields (communications, events coordination, campaign/project management, fundraising, etc...) and have their own narrow agendas and priorities. These committees usually meet irregularly, if at all in some DECs, and even those that meet regularly usually only meet once a month. This, of course, is not enough to adequately plan and enact operations needed to unseat an entrenched Republican majority, or keeping elected Democrats well supported and reinforced.

We need large structural reforms in DECs if we are to be successful in 2006 and beyond. My next post will be on the ideal DEC structure at different levels (in small, medium, and large counties.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Completely Volunteer-Based DECs to Professionalized DECs

Today's DECs: All Volunteers, All The Time
The vast majorty of DECs today are completely and totally volunteer based. All operations, from creating accurate voter files, to working with local campaigns, to canvassing neighborhoods, getting out the vote, and so on, are all done by volunteers.

Volunteer-based DECs generally have several committees which deal with major responsibilities of the local party. There is usually a Campaign or Coordinated Campaign Committee, a Fundraising Committee, a Volunteers Committee, et cetera. These are all run and operated by volunteers. They tend to meet once a month or irregulalry.

Volunteers are great. They are generally community activists who have a sincere and deep committment for a better future for their communities. They are dedicated, work hard when given clear and understandable goals, and will get things done if harnessed and coordinated correctly.

However, there are many reasons to believe that completely volunteer-based DECs are the DECs of the past, and that future success at the local level in local, state, and national elections are dependent on DECs evolving into what I call "professionalized" DECs.

I will discuss this in a minute, but let me detail why the current DEC system is ineffective to the needs of the present.

Why DECs Must Change
First, volunteers, with varying schedules and busy lives, are not the best folks to sustain party operations day-after-day and keep things moving in a certain direction. Also, being mostly community activists, they have their own personal agendas and ideas which they will fight for, hell or high water, and will not compromise. What happens in today's DECs is that volunteers, who once again, have their own personal agendas, get together for irregular or only monthly meetings, push and push for their ideas to get enacted, and no one goes anywhere. This goes on, month after month, with folks getting more frustrated and more frustrated, until volunteers get completely dissolusioned, and leave.

Meanwhile, what is happening to everything else? If the party has a headquarters, who is running the office, does anyone know where the party stands, or what its doing? Where is the party going? All of these issues, combined with poor and lacking leadership from above (see my previous posts entitled "The Main Ingredient for Success: Leadership" as well as "The Purpose of This Blog") create an environment of complete and confounding chaos.

Plus, volunteers and community activists are not necessarily trained for have experience in the very things they are put in charge of or are told to put together or organize.

Becoming "Professionalized"
First, let me say that I am extremely against hiring or bringing on board consultants to "rebuild" DECs. Consultants are expensive, and are not necessarily effective. In fact, many Democratic Party reformers (including myself) believe that expensive DC consultants give bad advice and are one of the main reasons why Democrats are where they are today.

By "professionalizing" DECs, I mean working with existing volunteers and activists, training, organizing, coordinating, and finally compensating them properly. This, of course, requires leadership. Some DECs have it, many don't. When it seems leadership is absent, the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) needs to step in. Regional organizers or the state DEC coordinator should step in and heavily assist the DEC in the reorganizing process, which should include professionalization.

Through the successful implementation of a recurring donor program, as mentioned in a previous post, a DEC can be receiving thousands of dollars monthly. One of the DECs first priorities with this money should be to rent, lease, or over the long term, buy a facility to house a central headquarters. I'll explain more in a previous post in the dire need for ALL DECs to have a headquarters.

The next priority for DECs with recurring donations is to hire activists with particular talents in communications, reception work, fundraising, and managerial skills. I'll discuss more in another post on what various paid positions should be.

Volunteers Still Play An Important Role
After all of this, you're probably asking yourself, "What about the volunteers, paid staff can't handle everything!" You're absolutely right, and I'm certainly not advocating the complete removal of volunteers from DECs - that would be foolish. But important, integral operations which must be kept up constantly to ensure that DECs remain a powerful political force in the community, need to be left to paid staff.