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Friday, November 02, 2007

Who's On Your Email List?

Via Donor Power Blog:

... almost 80% of the over 50 age group does not respond to email marketing, preferring to use email to communicate with friends.... However ... 36% of this age group are happy to communicate with brands online once initial contact has been made using other media.

Most donors (by a large margin) are over 50.

This is why it's critically important to segment your lists, whether they be email or direct mail, not everyone responds to the same stimulus.

For DECs, who have memberships largely over age 50, it's important to realize that pushing fundraising via your email lists isn't always the exact way to go. People have to be slowly but surely persuaded. My suggestion is to use your email list to send informational emails (like newsletters and event signups) to get your constituencies to recognize the value of opening that message from the local DEC. Over time, you'll develop the loyalty that's required to finally send a fundraising email.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

When DECs Get It Right

Most of my life, I've had a pretty negative opinion of DECs. The image I had -- based on some evidence, but probably not enough -- was that they were simply a collection of entrenched good old boys who cared more about their own fiefdom than actually winning elections or changing society for the better. The more I get involved in politics, the less accurate I find this stereotype to be. For example, I've recently joined the Leon County DEC because I really, really like what they've been doing. A lot of people are contributing to the success of the Leon Democrats, but as people from commissioners John Dailey and Andrew Gillum to Congressman Allen Boyd to Senator Barack Obama has publicly said, the key to the great things happening in Tallahassee is Chair Rick Minor. Here's what is going on under his supervision:

1. 2006 elections were a rousing success in Tallahassee. If I remember correctly, no Republican defeated any Democrat in local elections. Most of the statewide elections were significantly more in favor of the Democratic candidate than the Republican.

2. Barack Obama appeared at the annual Collins-Steele fundraiser. Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but Obama only appeared at two fund-raising events in Florida -- Tallahassee and Miami. Miami is much more of a swing district has a lot more donors for presidential campaigns and has a lot more voters. And yet we got Obama too. And he helped Leon Dems raise a whole heck of a lot of money -- Enough money to impress even Ray Seaman. ;)

3. The DEC is pursing policy proposals. Instead of passively waiting for things to happen, the Leon Dems are actively seeking to push the local policy agenda. After a campaign finance scandal with a county commissioner, the DEC has stepped up to push for non-partisan lobbying reform. In addition to pursuing an actual policy proposal with the help of Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, we also spent the last meeting with a diverse panel of speakers who not only gave us the run-down on the issue, but answered the exhaustive questions of the large audience. It would be difficult for anyone who attended that meeting to not have a good grip on the issue.

4. The Takin' It to the Streets program is a great idea. What is happening is that each month at the DEC meeting, instead of having the meeting at the same old stuffy city commission chamber, the meetings are rotating to different locations in each district. This not only benefits those people who don't want to drive across town every month, it has brought out tons of new people to each meeting, the last of which was standing room only (in my district).

5. Rick is great at community outreach. My theory is that no public event in a county should go without a Democratic Party presence. I don't go to every event out there, but I couldn't tell you the last time I went to something in the community when our DEC chair wasn't present and actively talking to people to promote our agenda and learn what the people are saying and thinking.

6. We're also trying to improve outreach to African-Americans in the community by focusing on No Party Affiliation voters. Leon County is like a lot of the state where African-American turnout in elections is lower than we would like it to be. By reaching out to the NPA voters and letting them know about Florida's closed primary rules, we have a chance to change that.

And all of this is just in the three months I've been actively participating in the organization. I hear talk of numerous other things that I don't even know enough about to get into. The point is that this is exactly the type of activity I think a DEC should be engaged in and the activity and excitement you see around here is impressive. A lot of that has to do with Rick Minor.

Like I said before, Minor didn't do any of this alone, but that's one of the keys to why he (and we) have had so much success lately -- he recognizes others, regardless of race, gender, age or personality, who want to help and can help and he gives them the trust and responsibility to succeed and they, and he, do succeed. That helps all of us.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Addressing Latinos at Univision DEM Debate. Miami-Dade DEC Shines Tonight

Tonight is the first ever Univision debate. DEM presidential candiates will be on the air at 7pm. The GOP will not participate in a debate.
Joe Garcia, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, believes the telecast will be a landmark event in the Latino world, drawing millions of viewers who have felt left out of American politics: "I believe more eyeballs will be watching this one than any other so far."
Take a look around the Democratic Executive Committee site . Many ideas.
Goals of the Democratic Executive Committee.

To promote individual freedom within the framework of a just society, and political freedom within the framework of meaningful participation by all citizens.
To elect Democrats as our representatives on the County, State, and National levels.
To strengthen the base of the Democratic Party through community outreach and visibility.
To further Democratic causes and initiatives that will benefit all demographic areas and groups.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Marion Democrats Launch New Website

After several months and a lot of learning and hard work, the Marion DEC has launched their new website:

I have to say that despite all of the work and some hard lessons, this project was a lot of fun for me and my two nerdy compatriots: Peter Manon and Mr. X.

We still have some bugs to fix, but most elements are working just fine. The site combines Drupal and CiviCRM into a very good package.

We also launched the Marion County Democratic Party Facebook group at the same time. You can check that out here. If you're on Facebook, anyone can join our group!

Update: Did I mention we have a blog, too? Bookmark and link to us as much as you can!

Monday, August 27, 2007

State Democratic Convention: Netroots Panels

A group of us are helping the Florida Democratic Party organize a series of Netroots panels at the state convention.

By Netroots, we're referring to bloggers and other online activist who use the Internet for such things as organizing, fundraising, and getting out the Democratic messsage.

We will be having three panels:

Netroots 101 - this would cover basics like what is a blog, what to write about, building your readership and using stuff like MySpace, Facebook and beyond.

Netroots Tools - discuss the more advanced online tools and digital media one can use in blogging, campaigning, or party building.

Working with the Netroots - discuss how the party and the netroots can work together from the DEC's perspective, a candidate's perspective, state party perspective and the national party perspective.

I'd appreciate it if you would take this survey and give us some feedback on the kind of things you'd like to learn more about at these panels. There are only 5 questions and you don't have to answer them all - just the ones where you have an opinion. The survey ends on September 7th at Noon.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Let's Focus on Republicans in County Commissions

Many county commissions in Florida represent more people than some states. Hillsborough's County Commission represents 1.15 million people. That is more than Wyoming (515,004) or Montana (944,632).
The past week has been an example of Republican developer funded County Commissioners gone wild in Hillsborough County. Politicians build their base at the county level and then move on up the line. Keeping an eye on them and who contributes to them when they win the county is a way to keep track as they go for state or even national office.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

She Should Run

Local activists should take a look at the great website, She Should Run.

Those involved in candidate recruitment should pay particular attention to female candidates. In Marion, we found out in 2006 that voters were tired of voting for men. Undecideds, and in races where voters didn't know much about the candidates, voted overwhelmingly for the female candidate.

Besides, regardless of electablility, we need more diversity in Florida government - at all levels.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Something For Your DEC To Get Involved With

The idea is simple: hold every congressional Republican accountable in Florida. We all know we can't simply depend on the mainstream media to do the job, so bloggers and local activists must step up and fill the void.

DECs should do their part.

Ken Quinnel of Florida Progressive Coalition has launched a number of blogspot blogs for each Republican member of Congress for Florida. I've signed on to the Kick Out Keller blog, as Tricky Ricky is my congressman.

So if you have a Republican representing you in Congress, sign on the appropriate blog by emailing Ken at quinnelk at hotmail dot com, and let's start bringing an end to Republican rule in Florida.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Precinct Captains Are The Key

so says Mike Lux of OpenLeft.

Of course, Mike is saying this in the context of the Iowa Caucuses. But it matters just as heavily to DECs and campaigns here in Florida, too.

Precinct captains who have been well trained and know their neighbors well alter the outcomes of elections and make polls seem inaccurate. Of course, precinct captains alone sometimes don't do the job completely - they often need the help of block captains, who manage pieces of the precinct.

Precinct captains are indeed the key.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Never Forget Why

When you're building any organization, much less a DEC, you will undoubtedly run into frustration and stress. If not, you're probably not changing anything.

There are setbacks, mistakes, arguments, etc. which can bring you down. However, in times like these, just remember one thing: why you're working hard in the first place.

For me, I grew up in Weirsdale, Florida, a rural country "town" in the middle of nowhere. Ocala and Leesburg were the "big cities." You get the picture. Poverty and desperation was everywhere with the exception of wealthy lake shore homeowners and those in nearby gated retirement communities.

The poor and their situation were largely ignored, the local elementary school was one of the worst in the entire county. It didn't start changing until people in the community started waking up, and through the leadership of local churches (one of them being my father's - Weirsdale Presbyterian) good things started happening. The school is now an "A" school and is no longer ignored by the School Board. I can't say the economic situation has improved (that will take both a Democratic President and a complete public policy priority shift at all levels) - that problem remains.

I learned that ordinary people, when organized, could do extraordinary things.

So when I face obstacles and frustrations, I always think "If we don't organize and fight - who will?" Kids aren't going to get better schools, better jobs aren't going to be created, healthcare access won't improve, growth won't be better managed if we sit around and complain.

That keeps me going - what about you?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Belated Weekend Links

Blogger flagged BFDECS over the weekend as a possible spam blog (which prevented me from posting all weekend), but that's all cleared up now.

On to links!

Myths About Online Volunteering
by Jayne Cravens of Tech Soup

Whither Progressive TV? by Shai Sachs of MyDD

Finding Strategy for the Progressive Movement by Shai Sachs of MyDD

New Tools: Engage the Blogs by Jerome Armstrong for the New Politics Institute (NPI)
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"Better Know" Who?

Is there an elected official or candidate for office at the state or local level that you think the public ought to know more about?

Submit your suggestions in our Better Know Survey and your suggestion may be used in an upcoming profile on Florida Netroots. The survey ends Tuesday August 7th at Noon.

Friday, July 27, 2007

FDP Chair Karen Thurman Answers Your Questions

Last week, I put up a notice that the Florida Netroots site had the opportunity to interview Karen Thurman, the Chair of the Florida Democratic Party and invited you to submit your own questions. Here is our Q&A.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Death By Committee

We Democrats love our committees. In fact, we some of the time love them too much. It is necessary to have a number of standing committees to carry out basic functions of the DEC no doubt. In fact, there are a number of committees that are mandated to be in existence by state bylaws (Affirmative Action Committee, for example) and DEC bylaws.

However, not every problem needs a committee, and having too many committees end up stifling innovation, ideas, and potential new leadership.

When DECs are organized and reshuffled around at the beginning of every new leadership team, the structure that is developed should take care of basic tasks and provide for new ideas and innovation. The key here is only having committees that are doing something beneficial for the DEC and helping it progress. If there's a committee where there is all talk and no action, if it only seems to be an echo chamber, or the personal lobbying group of a particular member - its time to bring out the axe.

Its also important that committees don't turn into this, as told by BMW:

Or this

Here are some tips to make existing committees better, particularly if you're in charge of one (via Fundraising Success magazine):

1. Limit your comments. Hold your tongue and suggest changes only when you are squarely within your expertise and you have facts to back you up.

2. Work to enlighten fellow committee members. Bring in documentation from the experts. Build the case for fact-based judgment over opinion-based judgment.

3. Advocate restraint. You might be able to impact your committee’s culture and make it less destructive. Your fellow members likely are open to becoming a different kind of group for the good of your organization.

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Survey Results

Thanks to all who participated in our recent survey which gaged both reader loyalty and interest in the various elements of the site as well as opinions about the future.

A total of 35 people began the survey, and 17 fully completed it. This is actually a well represented sample of our readership.

Reader Interest
Roughly, how often do you read Build Florida's DECs?
More than one time a day: 11.4%
Daily: 22.9%
Weekdays Only: 11.4%
Weekends Only: 2.9%
Weekly: 42.9%
Monthly: 8.6%

Primary Links
The number after the primary link is the one chosen by a plurality of the voters. Remember, this was on a 1 to 10 scale, 10 being the best.

Donate- 5: 47.1%

Invest- 5: 47.1%

Store- 5: 47.1%

Find Your DEC- 5: 29.4%

All elements had many votes in the 6-10 range with only one or two votes in the 1-4 range.

Sidebar Elements

People Who Make It Happen- 5: 41.2%

About- 5: 52.9%

Proud Member- 5: 35.3%

Useful Links- 5: 29.4%

Archives- 5: 47.1%

Again, most votes were in the 6-10 range, and only one vote in the 1-4 range of all 5 elements.

What is your opinion of our collaborating with the Florida Progressive Coalition for the creation of the Virtual Think Tank?
Approve: 88.2%
Disapprove: 0%
No Opinion: 11.8%

Would you like to see Build Florida's DECs continue to work with organizations like the Florida Progressive Coalition and collaborate on projects?
Yes: 88.2%
No: 0%
No Opinion: 11.8%

Would you like to see Build Florida's DECs start doing interviews with DEC officials and grassroots activists through possible mediums such as podcasting, internet radio, or simply live blogging?
Yes: 94.1%
No: 0%
No Opinion: 5.9%

Would you like to see Build Florida's DECs use a more interactive platform other than Blogger, such as Word Press, Drupal, or Joomla?
Yes: 11.8%
No: 5.9%
No Opinion: 82.4%

This was a very interesting survey. The vast majority of respondents like what they see here and want to see it do even more. I plan to do a survey every now and then to keep track of any new changes we implement.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

50 State Strategy: Required Reading

MyDD has gotten an exclusive first copy of The Nations series on the 50 State Strategy. This article is entitled: "PURPLE AMERICA -- The Democrats' Fifty-State Strategy Stokes North Carolina's Grassroots"

You can read the full article here.

As a huge fan of the 50 State Strategy, we really need to do everything we can to preserve it - particularly once Dean leaves in early 2009.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

DEC Fundraising: Q2 2007

I've only received a little more than half of the DEC figures back from the individual Supervisor of Elections office. I'll update this post as new data comes in.

Alachua $44,067.69
Orange $34,070.00
Okaloosa $20,781.18
Martin $20,085.00
Pinellas $16,197.55
Manatee $9,969
Broward $9,903.00
Hernando $9,285.41
Brevard $8,648.58
Escambia $7,231.00
Duval $6,928.74
Seminole $6,307.08
Santa Rosa $5,342.74
Marion $5,236.00
Sarasota 4,952.64
Lake $4,551.55
St. Lucie $4,199.88
Indian River $3,046.00
Putnam $2,695.00
Monroe $2,500.00
St. Johns $2,448.05
Okeechobee $2,330.00
Holmes $2,150.00
Sumter $2,098.00
Osceola $1,852.97
Nassau $1,725
Baker $1,700.00
Walton $1,495.00
Clay $1,430.00
Polk $1,410.48
Jefferson $1,337.81
Charlotte $900.00
Pasco $733.44
Bay $645.00
Leon $470.00
Gulf $450.00
Calhoun: $0.00
Liberty: $0.00
Taylor: $0.00
Lafayette: NO DEC

The big surprise is, of course, the Martin DEC. Martin County has only 25,615 Democrats (compared to 47,307 Republicans.) Raking in $20K is no small feat. It also demonstrates the potential of DEC fundraising. Now compare the Martin DEC to Broward's stats this quarter. Broward County has 480,689 Democrats (nearly 19 times that of Martin County) and was only able to rake in $9,903.00.

DECs have a long road ahead of them to build viable fundraising operations. Posts like this (every reporting period) are designed to let people within DECs know how well they are performing in relation to other counties. Its also great ammo for DEC fundraisers to use - "If Martin County with only 25,000 Dems can raise $20,000 - we can do that - and better."

Update 11:29am: Okaloosa comes in at a resounding $20,781.18. Osceola rakes in $1,852.97, and St. Lucie $4,199.88.

Update 2: A small handful of DEC people have been grumbling to FDP about this post. I thought that would happen. Let me just say that this post isn't intended to shame DECs. We all know that DECs tend to have big annual fund raisers which therefore don't necessarily show up in these Q2 numbers. This is only the first post of its kind. I will be posting summaries every quarter which will demonstrate progress.
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Hosting "The Daily 15" Today

I'm hosting Florida Progressive Coalition's "Daily 15" today. Tune in at 12:30pm, listen in, and hopefully call in. I'll try and not screw it up :)

Monday, July 23, 2007


Hey folks. Just wanted to let you know that I've been spending some time collecting data on the amounts of contributions received by DECs in the last quarter. Its all public information, of course, but its often unattainable from local Supervisor of Elections sites. In Marion, its all right there on the website - not so in most counties. So I've sent out around 60 emails requesting this information.

I'll hopefully be able to post on this tommorrow or Wednesday...hopefully.

Update 1:54- 16/67 in. Some Supervisor's offices are pretty fast!

Update 5:00- 26/67 in. Getting better...

Update 11:25am- 34/67 in. Halfway there.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Florida Progressive Radio Tommorrow

Please tune in for another great Florida Progressive Radio show tomorrow afternoon from 2-3pm. Ken will be interviewing special guest Clint Curtis, Democratic candidate for Congress running against the diabolical Tom Feeney.

Learn more about Clint here.

Voter Registrations, Pt 2

Any discussion about the possibility of moving Florida into the Democratic Presidential column in 2008 has to look at the trend that went from a 537 vote loss in 2000 to an almost 381,000 vote loss in 2004.

So I thought I would look at party registrations for voters who have registered to vote since the 2004 presidential election.

It's a very mixed bag.

Statewide, there isn't a lot of change. Through 3/31/2007, there were 23,349 more Democrats registered than Republicans (563,110 to 539,761). However, during this period, there were 534,794 third party/no party registrations. Given the current political climate, it might not be unreasonable to expect that a Democratic candidate could do extremely well with this group, pull in disenchanted voters who went for Bush in 2004 and hold onto those who voted for Kerry. Can that equal 381,000 votes? Perhaps.

New voter registrations certainly do not favor the Democrats in the Panhandle, SW Florida and the counties surrounding Jacksonville. Southeast FLorida continues to be a Democratic stronghold and new registrations are certainly favorable in the North Central and holding their own in the central part of the state.

For those of you who like maps, here's thedata plotted by county. If you click on the map it will open in a larger format. Enjoy.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Evaluating Local Republican Websites

We've talked about the need for better websites for DECs, and websites for DECs that currently don't have one. Fortunately for us, local Republicans fare just as bad if not worse. Here are some observations:

1.) There are around three particular cookie cutter designs.
a.) The waving banner type (Alachua, Santa Rosa)
b.) The glowing title type (Dixie, Holmes, St. Lucie)
c.) The red top banner type (Gadsden, Jackson, Washington)

2.) Most incorporate the "GOPUSA" News Feed (the liberal media can't be trusted, ya know.)

3.) Other than the cookie cutters - most local GOP sites look like most low-end DEC sites: websites that we're built in 1998. The difference between the two is that there is a lot of common widgets and blocks used by GOP sites (GOPUSA being one of them), while there is little such lock-step uniformity among DEC sites.

In other website news, the state Republican Party has rolled out a new website. Its nothing to write home about, they've just finally caught up with the modern age in terms of podcasting and video.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Voter Registration Trends in Florida

One of the challenges facing the Democratic Party in Florida continues to be a degredating trend in voter registrations outside of urban areas.

One of the difficulties in looking at voter registration by party is that in Florida, particularly in northern and rural parts, older registered Democrats tend to vote more and more like Republicans (the "Dixiecrat" affect as it's often referred to.)

To try and quantify this a little and see what kinds of trends we might be looking at, I compared voter registration numbers, Democrat vs. Republican, by county, by the decade the voter was registered. The map is below. A ratio of 100 indicates an equal number of Democratic and Republican registrations. A ratio of 200 indicates twice as many Democrats as Republicans. (I have not included 3rd party/no party in this analysis, although the number of registrations in this group has continued to increase over the years until today when it is on a par with either party.)

The decline of the Democratic Party in voter registration in northern Florida is readily apparent.

The difficulties faced by the FDP in SW Florida becomes very clear when you see that they have never had a registration advantage in these counties.

About the only place where you see any reversal of these negative trends are in 3 very ubran counties: Broward, Pinellas and Palm Beach.

This is just a rough first pass on these data. I hope to stimulate discussion about what these trends tell us and what opportunities and challenges they present as we try and revitalize the Democratic party throughout the state.


(clicking on the map should open a larger view)

The Value of Service Projects

As many of you know, I spent last weekend working with my fellow Democrats remodeling Marion Dems HQ. It was a lot of work, but it was also very enjoyable. I can't always say that about a lot of the service projects I've been involved with. I was a Boy Scout for virtually all my teenage years, and service projects we're frequent. They weren't all bad, as I liked hanging around my fellow Scouts, but the projects were often tough and sapped the life right out of you. My own Eagle Scout project was no exception: the development of an emergency food center which took several workdays and hundreds of volunteer hours.

The point here is that DECs should try and do service projects when they can, particularly if they have a HQ. These activities build camaraderie, and Democrats therefore get to know each other better. Those partnerships become critical as big projects arise, and Election Day draws nearer.

Of course, all projects have to be planned out in advance, so people don't end up getting burned out instead of turned on to the Democratic Party.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Recurring Donors

Barack Obama is now taking his campaign to put much of his support base on a recurring donor program on the front page of his website. He's using this nifty little graphic:

Whether or not Obama gets the Democratic nomination, I personally believe this will be one of his greatest contributions to the Democratic campaign/organizational playbook. Using recurring donors really pays off and helps build and sustain campaigns.

Interview FDP Chair Karen Thurman

Want to ask the Chair of the Florida Democratic Party a question? Well, now's your chance! Florida Netroots has been granted the opportunity to interview Karen Thurman, so send along your questions to me by Noon tomorrow (I know, short notice) and your question may be used in our interview.

Email Florida Netroots

Some Belated Weekend Links

You can check these out while you're hungrily waiting for the next post :)

Can Change Facebook Organizing?
by Shai Sachs of MyDD

Tips for Being an Amateur Blogger by jonah in nyc of DailyKos

Hat tips to Eddie for the Facebook post and Tally for the Amateur Blogger post!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Edna Walters, GOP Donor, Demonstrates the Circle of Corruption in Hillsborough County

DECS should be familiar with the Candidate Finance reports on file at County Supervisors of Elections. GOP donors don't generally make donations to the person who does them the favor, but another GOP politician who then will direct a crony to accomplish the favor. Often the ties extend to other states and tracking the connections takes time and attention. There's a big BINGO in Hillsborough today as Edna Walters a GOP donor to GOP County Commisioner Higginbotham gets a SeaWall paid for by tax payers.

See more details at TampaBay Democrat.

FPC Radio Episode 2: Progressives Strike Back

Obviously that's not the real title (just a shout out to all the Star Wars fans out there), but I know its going to be a great show.

I unfortunately won't be able to participate as I'm helping paint and reorganize Dem HQ (its looking so much better than before.) Nonetheless, I really encourage all of you to listen in. From my sources, a pretty high profile guest will be calling in - so tune in!

You can listen here.
If you want to call in during the show (strongly encouraged), call (646) 716-7543 (its obviously not toll free.)


Friday, July 13, 2007

Laboring For A Better Image

Sorry for the lack of posts today folks. I spent most of the day working at Dem HQ putting up a new sign for the front of HQ (pics coming in a few days, I hope) as well as moving furniture to prepare for a big paint job tommorrow.

The new sign is terrific, and HQ will be looking a lot better by the end of the weekend - it really needed it. To me, our HQ is part of our image to the public. If it looks crappy (which it did), it makes people view the party as crappy. The same goes for websites, which are essentially eHQs. If your website looks like its crummy, people will think the candidate/organization/business/DEC is also crummy.

Enjoy your weekend!

Hillsborough DEC Website Now Current

The Hillsborough DEC website has been unpdated at last.
Take a look.
Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've talked about the need for DECs to have websites, and what good ones can do. However, I want to plug a particular peice of the website puzzle which I've only linked to in the past: CiviCRM.

CiviCRM is really only for DECs that have people who are techies. I say that because CiviCRM is a pretty complex package to install and use. However, once you have it, I think its a really great tool.

CiviCRM is a "Constituent relationship module" (thus the CRM part), that is, its a huge database with all kinds of customizable features that you can tailor to your DEC's needs. CiviCRM is made up of the four major components:

CiviMember: This module is geared towards tracking individual members, including their contact information, what they volunteer for (and their volunteer preferences), when they contribute and what they contribute to.

CiviContribute: This module is built for accepting online contributions (you choose which service you want to handle the transactions: PayPal, etc...), both in lump sum and recurring forms. The best thing is that you can create custom fundraising campaigns, complete with thermometer (you know you love those.)

CiviMail: CiviMail gives you the ability to send customized mass emails to targeted groups, which you can establish through CiviMember.

CiviEvents: Create your own events, send invites to people, and manage RSVPs. I think you can set it all up so when someone RSVPs for an event, that it shows in their profile through CiviMember.

Once again, you can learn all about it here. I know there are those who will say, can't VAN do all of this? Not really. You kinda need both, which I know is heresy to database people. VAN is great for GITV and GOTV, while CiviCRM is better suited for managing activist information. There's certainly some crossover.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

GusWatch: A Model Local Blog

Some disclosure: One of the main contributors of GusWatch is a fellow manager at the Florida Progressive Coalition.

One of the many things that was discussed at the Netroots Luncheon during JJ Weekend is the need for more local and specialized blogs. The same thing was said over the weekend during the first edition of Florida Progressive Radio. I've talked about the need to set up and develop local progressive blogospheres in the past.

The blog GusWatch is an example of what we would all like to see more of. GusWatch was founded during the 2006 Elections to keep an eye on Gus Bilirakis, the then Republican candidate for Congress. They did a terrific job, and despite the fact that Bilirakis would end up winning the election - they didn't stop. This is what we dream of the blogosphere doing more than it already is - stepping into the void traditional institutions and the MSM have opened.

DECs should do everything they can to encourage activists to start blogs geared towards holding elected Republicans accountable, while searching for Democrats to challenge them. Each specialized blog acts an attractor of potential new volunteers, donors, and activists.

In addition, let's not forget big local issues which demand accountability. Growth management is the first thing I can think of. Isn't there a need for a blog which tracks those sneaky land use amendments being pushed by developers? Shouldn't there be some watchdog out there tracking votes on important things like this?

So again, we should renew the call for more local blogs. They are badly needed, and local parties can play a big role in connecting activists with relevant blogs.

Absentee Ballot Information

College Progressive at FLA Politics has written a post detailing all the contact information relevant to requesting absentee ballots. You can get that information here.

DECs should really be pushing vote by mail, as was detailed in my postmortem on the SD3 Special Election. Its very hard for our candidates to win when they begin Election Day with a several thousand vote deficit.

Obviously, the key thing to do here is to take this valuable information CP has researched and put them into materials that can be passed out to members and activists in the field. This valuable information also should be put on most party literature.

Update: kansasr has a wonderful form that he used during the 2006 Elections. Check out his comment over at FLA Politics. They had a nice system going, and I think its something that could be easily duplicated elsewhere.

"Voting by mail" must be stressed at every possible moment.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Getting 18 Year Olds to Vote

A pretty funny video from the voter registration group, Declare Yourself:

18 year olds are tough convince, but videos like this are the answer. Our older readers may find this video offensive and revolting, but trust me, it works on young people.

You can find more videos here.

Leon DEC Snags A Big Fish

Its reported in today's Tallahasse Democrat that the Leon DEC has snagged Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to be their keynote speaker at the annual Collins-Steele Fundraising Dinner. This is just another good achievement under the leadership of Leon DEC Chairman Rick Minor. He said it best:

"This is a testament to the strength of the local Democratic organization," DEC Chairman Rick Minor said. "Two years ago, we wouldn't have gotten a presidential candidate."

Of course, its no accident that Obama or any other Democrat for that matter wants to play with the Tallahassee kids:

"This is an indication of how important Tallahassee is for us," he [Kirk Wagar, Obama's state finance chairman in Miami] said. "About 35 percent of the Democratic primary vote is in North Florida."

Nonetheless, a big congratulations to the Leon County DEC!

Ten Tips For Better Thank You Letters

via Donor Power Blog:

1.) Get the letter out quickly.
2.) Relate your Thank You letter to the ask.
3.) Tell the donor what you will do with their money.
4.) Use a real signature.
5.) Have the ED or President go through the letters and add personal notes.
6.) Add a reply envelope.
7.) Include year to date or lifetime giving data.
8.) Make it clear that the letter is also a receipt.
9.) Include an offer to tour your facility or program site.
10.) Include the name and contact info of someone the donor can call with questions.

The Importance of Municipal Elections

Back in 2005, I proposed to the small Coordinated Campaign team at the Marion DEC that we should really focus on municipal races (that is, city council races.) They are incredibly small and easy to win, and they pay huge dividends down the road when we're looking for candidates at the county and state level. I was basically told to go ahead, yet due to my own greenness and naivety, I really got nowhere. Besides, I had to go attend my first semester of college at UF at the end of the summer.

Yet had I been successful then, we could have started seeing some of that effort bear fruit for the 2008 elections. You see, as I alluded to earlier, city councilmen and women make great candidates for the county commission, school board, countywide constitutional offices (tax collector, property appraiser, etc...) and state representative. The bottom line is that city councils are where we incubate and develop future candidates. This, by the way, is how Republicans slowly took power in Florida: they started at the municipal level and slowly but surely worked their way up the ladder.

In areas of the state where Democrats are currently out of power, DECs should really focus on recruiting city council candidates as a way of building the bench for future elections.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Links

Donor Power Blog is a blog built for fundraising professionals in the nonprofit sector. Now, you may be asking yourself, "Why is Ray linking to nonprofit help sites?" In my personal opinion, I think sometimes the only real difference between political organizations and nonprofits is the way they report taxes. Were all in the "mission" field and 90% of the time lessons that nonprofits have learned over the years are ones that can be directly adapted to the political world. In fact, many of the new links you'll see me link to are geared towards nonprofits. Donor Power Blog is full of great information about raising money. A lot of time is focused on new fundraising technology and tactics, which I believe makes this blog extremely valuable.

Be Relevant! is a blog designed for email marketing tips. The author is Tamara Gielen, an email marketer for eBay Belgium. She has great tips about effective email marketing. There's all kinds of great practical information for any progressive group (particularly DECs) which has a mailing list and wants to use it effectively.

Online Fundraising Stuff

DFA's Night School program just went through a big series on fundraising which was superb. I encourage all to at a minimum take a look at the presentations and when you have time, to listen to the recorded teleconferences. Awesome stuff!

My father every now and then sends me excellent posts from the Donor Power Blog, which is solely dedicated to fundraising tactics.

Today they had an excellent post dealing with online fundraising. When you get a fundraising email, and you decide to click on the link, where you go is called the "landing page". There was a study done recently on landing pages as reported by Donor Power Blog:

  • 45% of landing pages have the same headline as the email that sent people to the page.

  • 17% of emails send those who click through to a home page, rather than a page where they can immediately take relevant action.

  • 35% of pages don't look and feel like the email that sent them there in the first place.

  • 45% of landing pages bog down users by requiring them to fill out 10 or more fields.

  • Nearly 70% include a navigation bar, even though it's a distraction that pulls visitors away from the page's primary goal.

  • 25% of landing pages required users to scroll through more than two screens of text.

I'll be adding these and other good fundraising links later today and doing a "New Links" post on them.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

2008 Florida House Targets

One of the things I've been updating is data from the 2006 Florida House elections, to begin to look at where opportunities may exist in 2008 to improve upon the gains made last November.

In looking at Republican incumbents, there were 3 factors that I considered to be important. 1) Districts with a term-liminted incumbent, resulting in an open election in 2008. 2) Districts with a Freshman Republican. 3) The Democratic performance of the district, defined as the ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans.

As a first pass, I sorted the Republican districts by the Democratic performance and then looked at the other 2 categories and assigned each district to a tier: 1) Top prority 2) High priority 3) Some possibilities 4) Safe Republican district. (Democratic districts were also assigned to a tier from 6) most endangered Democrats to 9) Safe Democrats.

While this was just a first pass to try and organize some of this information, if you accept my assignment of top priority districts, you have 16 Republican districts that could be challenged and 5 Democratic districts (51, 52, 69, 107 and 120) that will have to be aggressively defended. At least a 16/5 ratio is encouraging. From the special elections this year, it's clear that the Republican party has a virtually unlimited funding source, which makes challenging them, especially in the northern half of the state, very difficult. But if we can gain 6 seats (as we did in 2006) in each election, we would have control of the Florida House in time for the 2012 reapportionment - an almost must if we are to keep from being the minority party for another decate.

Trying to accumulate data on 120 house districts can be daunting - especially in parts of the state where you have no familiarity and don't notice obvious errors. So any feedback or corrections will be most appreciated.

On Florida Progressive Radio

I was on the first episode of Florida Progressive Radio talking with host Ken Quinnell and fellow Board member Eddie of Grassroots Brevard this afternoon. It was a lot of fun!

You can listen to the hour long show here.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Weekend Links: 7/7-7/8

There's only going to be one link this weekend ( because there's a special cause all friends and members of the Florida Netroots should take part in.

Ken Quinnell, founder of the Florida Progressive Coalition has been invited to speak at YearlyKos (a big netroots hoopla), but doesn't have the dough to make it. Ken is a progressive like all of us, and like most of us, isn't exactly being paid a king's ransom for his efforts.

You can send Ken the funds he needs to go by doing the following:

To help, just go to PayPal, log in, go to your "account", click the "Send Money" tab at the top, and enter "" in the "To:" box - ANY amount will be very much appreciated.

I also want to tell you how important Ken has been to this relatively new and growing thing known as the Netroots.

Back in 2005, many of us bloggers were out there in cyberspace, doing our own little thing. I myself had just discovered blogging and slowly found my way down to the state level, where I started blogging at FLA Politics and started this blog.

One day I received an email from Ken about this crazy idea he had about getting all the liberal bloggers together to do something bigger and better. I was initially skeptical (through my DEC experiences) - I knew what a group of Democrats could do (LOL). But the first meeting I had with Ken and a few others in Gainesville was amazing. Meeting bloggers and putting faces to user names was a hell of a lot of fun! And oh the plans we made!

That was the founding of the Florida Progressive Coalition. Today, FPC is playing a leading role in organizing online progressives (collectively "The Florida Netroots") in a positive and meaningful way.

Ken has been at the center of it all. He came up with the idea for FPC, got us together, and was skilled enough to manage our gargantuan egos to do something constructive. If there's one person who deserves to represent us at YearlyKos (for those of us poor activists who also won't be able to attend) - its Ken Quinnell. Please dig deep and send this netroots hero to YearlyKos:

To help, just go to PayPal, log in, go to your "account", click the "Send Money" tab at the top, and enter "" in the "To:" box - ANY amount will be very much appreciated.

Let's do it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Help Us Build A Better Blog!

Build Florida's DECs is a growing, thriving blog with a vibrant community - and we want to keep it that way. The blogosphere is one of the best forms of democracy there is these days and we want to use it to its best potential.

So we would like to hear from you! What do you think of the blog?

Please fill out our survey here.

Your opinion will determine the future of Build Florida's DECs. There are many ideas out there for improving and expanding our community as you'll find out in the survey, but its up to you to decide what course we'll take. Make your voice heard and fill out the survey. Its a quick, 10 question survey.

Thank you for your input!


Just a friendly reminder to all who bookmark and link to this site that the URL will be changing to

on Monday.

Promoting Local Party Events

If I didn't attend local DEC meetings, I would have no idea how the party interacts within our community. As I learned at the DFA training in Tampa, those of us to attend party meetings (or go to trainings for fun on a weekend) are strange. Normal people don't have the time, interest, or patience for such things. However, they do care about their communities and come election time they're going to be asking themselves "what have you done for me lately" of both parties. I've discovered that even "when you're strange" it isn't easy to find out what the local party is doing. So, I've come up with a few helpful suggestions to promote local party activities to both the regular and odd Democrats out there.

What prompted me to write this is that I found out that the DEC here in Leon County was participating in a 4th of July event, not from a local source, but from the regional director of one the Democratic Presidential campaigns. So, the local party does a better job of communicating among themselves and to the national party than it does to its own constituents. To quote from the movie Cool Hand Luke "What we've got here is ... failure to communicate."

So here's a list of ways DEC's can promote their events:

List Event on State Party Website

Why more DECs and Democratic clubs don't do this is beyond me. It's not difficult at all. Here, let me walk you through it.

Go to From the red menu at the top of the page, put your cursor over "Get Active" and select "Create or Find an Event" from the list of options.

Next, select "Plan an Event". Enter the Zip Code where the event will take place and select what type of event it is from the list of options.

If you do not already have an account, you'll be asked to create one before you can add addtional details about the event, otherwise just login, fill out the rest of the requested information and hit submit. Viola! You're Done!

List Event on Local Party Website

First of all, if you represent your local DEC and it doesn't have a website, contact the Florida Progressive Coalition. They can help you get started.

If you have a website use it! It is discouraging to see Local Party sites with little or no useful information or information that is out of date. The Leon County Democratic Party is still telling people to vote on June 26th for Suzan Franks.

If you're going to have a holiday pinic or are recruiting Democrats to serve as mentors in schools or some other community project - put it on your website.

Send Announcements to Your Public Mailing List

Many DECs have a mailing list, of sorts, to communicate with fellow committee members, but lack a more general list to send information to the public. Mailing lists are an easy and cost efficient way to get your message out.

If you represent a DEC and it doesn't have a mailing list, you can set one up on Google Groups or Yahoo Groups very easily for free or if you want something more sophisticated ask your web services provider or ask for advice from the Florida Progressive Coaltion.

Make sure that you keep it simple. On the Leon County Democratic Party's site the link to "Become a member!" and the link to "Get email updates!" asks you to fill out the same information in the form. So much information is requested to get simple email updates that its likely to discourage people from filling it out.

As you can see, the form is so long it scrolls beyond the end of the screen. The Florida Democratic Party's site has it right. It only asks people for their email address and zip code. Usually a name and email address is the only information that should be required and it should be clear to the user what information is required and what is optional.

List Event in the Local Newspaper

Most local newspapers provide a community calendar or listing of events and provide this service FREE of charge. Here in Leon County, the Tallahassee Democrat makes it easy. You simply fill out an online form and your event will appear in both the online and print edition of the paper.

Another good resource are your smaller community newspapers. In some cases, you can even submit a story and pictures about your event for publicaction.

Radio Stations and Local News

Local radio stations and your local news channels also like to provide information to their audiences about community events. Here in Tallahassee, WCTV the local CBS affiliate, has a page on their website where you can submit a community event. and Social Networking Sites is a great tool for building up the local party and notifying people about events. A couple of caveats. First, is free for visitors, but if you want to set up a site it will cost you $12 a month for the service. Second, if you set it up - use it! I signed up for the Tallahassee Democratic Party Meetup Group and showed up to two meetings where nobody from the local party attended.

You can also set up free group sites on places like, and These social networks are particularly useful if you're trying to attract more 18-35 year olds to your events.

Democratic Yahoo or Google Groups

As I mentioned earlier, Yahoo and Google provide free and easy to use mailing lists. There are tons of them that center around the topic of politics and Democratic politics in particular. Chances are, there's one based in your local area. Simply have a member of your DEC join one and post local party announcements.

We have one for Leon County on Yahoo called dem-fl-leon and the local DEC never posts anything to it. It isn't a case where they didn't know it existed. The Leon local party also has a Yahoo Group just for DEC members, which I tried to join just to see if I could get in. The Chair of the Party, politely rejected my request for membership and referred me to the aforementioned Yahoo Group.

Local Activists

Finally, the one resource for getting the word out about party events are your local activists. There's nothing like good old-fashioned word of mouth. Here in Leon we have a local veteren who organizes peace vigils and anti-war demonstrations. He's more than happy to advertise liberal events via his mailing list.

There's also local groups that are a part of the Democratic coalition such as the local chapter of the Sierra Club, the local DFA, etc., who may be able to help spread the word depending upon the nature of the event. You can also try the new Florida Progressive Calendar.

There's a wealth of resources out there to promote the party and advertise its activities in the community. These are just some of the ones that came up off the top of my head. If you have other suggestions, post them in the comments.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mitt Romney and Microtargeting

The Washington Post has an article up about Mitt Romney's data mining campaign and the larger history of microtargeting. Check it out:

Romney's Data Cruncher

DECs can't do scientific microtargeting on their own as they can't afford it. They can use VAN and work with the FDP to develop scripts and questions that help us better target voters.

Speakers Bureaus

One of the many problems I've noticed in clubs is the poor meeting structure. Club meetings have a social time at the beginning with refreshments, then everyone sits down to hear a speaker, which if you're in a Marion club revolves around Social Security or Medicare with the occasional candidate thrown in. Any actual action or organizing is left to "The Board", some distant body of hand chosen people. This reflects the ancient mentality that all the hard work and big decisions are made at the top, and then given down to the peons for implementation. It doesn't reflect that grassroots "from the bottom up" theme that Howard Dean and many progressive activists have been articulating for some time now.

Clubs, particularly those that have been around forever and consider themselves for the most part autonomous from their sponsoring DEC, can be a tough crowd to change. Change in well-established clubs, will inevitably come in increments. For new clubs and caucuses, getting them into a grassroots, bottom-up mindset is a lot easier.

Speakers Bureaus are a way to begin to democratize older clubs and put new clubs and caucuses on the right track. Typically, every club's leadership (or leader in most cases) hand picks the speaker for the meeting and designs the entire meeting. And typically, without any DEC leadership from above, each club kind of meanders off on its own path, cut off from any larger vision or purpose.

With a club coordinator, each DEC can start finding good speakers who are passionate about certain issues, particularly local and state issues. However, here's the catch, each speaker should be trained beforehand in the need to articulate to older clubs the need to organize and do things from the bottom up. For instance, an education speaker can say "We won't be able to get the kind of funding we need for our schools unless we have a well-organized dialog with our neighbors. We won't be able to do that either if were waiting for someone else to do this for us. We as individuals need to get together, organize whether through this club or not, and take action."

Every speaker should have the importance of grassroots organizing built in.

Of course, speakers bureaus are important for several other reasons:

Get Everyone On the Same Page:
If July is going to be healthcare month (perfectly timed with the release of "Sicko"), the club coordinator should work with their clubs to make sure that pre-designated healthcare speakers are lined up to speak. For baby boomers, make sure that there's going to be some kind of action item associated with the arrival of the speaker, such as the formation of a healthcare action group (more on this idea in another post.)

Get the Base More Excited: Which would you rather hear, a speaker on Medicare discussing the difference between Part A, B, C, and D? Or would you rather listen to someone excoriating the problems of our current system (linking them to the Republicans), and discussing the new ideas being proposed by the individual Democratic candidates? I would say most would go for the latter, but the former is what I've currently seen in many Democratic clubs.

Deliver a Clear and Consistent Message: I hear a lot of misinformation out there about issues, even among hard working Democrats. Some think the property tax amendment on January 29th is a good thing. Of course, it would probably be one of the most destructive things ever enacted in Florida history. The point is, having a month dedicated to educating Democrats and the public alike (through "open meetings") on an issue like property taxes is important and can get everyone on the same plane. Democrats aren't robots and don't just accept everything that their told (which is good), but they can be consistent and well-armed in their conversations with their neighbors.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Collaborating With The Virtual Think Tank

The Florida Progressive Coalition announced yesterday the creation of the Progressive Florida Virtual Think Tank. You can read the full post here, but this is the highlight:

"Among the things we produce will be an e-book covering — in very specific details — every aspect of organizing, campaigning, winning elections and turning Florida into a blue state. This will be your one-stop shop for everything on activism and politics in the state. If you want to form a group, this is where you’ll go. If you want to win an election, this is where you’ll go. And this won’t just be strategy, it will be data-driven as well. That stuff you learned at DFA training about targeting voters, eventually, we’ll have all that data for you and will run the basic analysis, too."

Build Florida's DECs is also proud to announce that we will be collaborating with the Florida Progressive Coalition in the development of this website.

We can only talk in broad terms about how to build up our local parties here on this site. We can't get too specific, as our Republican colleagues are always watching. The Virtual Think Tank will allow us to get specific and trade truly valuable ideas.

We are proud to join FPC in this worthwhile and valuable project!

Notes on the DFA Training

After a slow start (too much time spent on math that most people don't need to know), the DFA training really picked up and I learned a lot. I've worked on three campaigns now, one successful and two not so much, and all three of them would've been improved by the information presented at this training. I'd recommend future training sessions like this one to everyone - including those who have already attended them in the past. Three reasons why:

1. Repitition helps things sink in. The more times you hear this stuff, the more you know it and the more likely you are to remember it when you really need to.

2. You can always learn more. Every training is unique, with different trainers and different atendees. Some are the same, but they always change a bit. Each new person brings new information and insight with them and, you never know, that person could bring along the information you need to win the next election.

3. Networking. The political process is all about building and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Meetings like this are incredibly important in meeting new people and in getting together with people you've already met to share ideas and to share good times. Getting together and sharing a few drinks with a fellow activist can be the spark that leads to bigger and better things down the road.

On top of that, these training sessions are loaded with important lessons. Here are the top lessons I learned at this training:

*When you run for office, talk to your family, make sure they’re okay with it

*You have to find the small issues that you agree with people on (even Republicans) and swing them.

*You win through working your ass off, branding, getting your name (making people remember it).

*You might be able to have more effect on helping your community from a local office than national.

*There are lots of people willing to help candidates outside of their own district.

*When the strange speak to the normal, we have to speak normal. (We’re strange).

*People always talk about why doesn’t the party do this or why don’t candidates do that. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We’re the ones who have to do that.

*Prioritize resources and put them to best use.

*The most important thing for your campaign: your field plan, if it ain’t written down…it does not exist!

*Party ID not completely valuable, since people don’t necessarily vote their registration. Actual voter performance is a Florida statues require SoE to delete voters who haven’t voted in three consecutive elections.

*If a Republican canvasser knocks on your door, don’t turn them away – keep them as long as possible so they can’t be out talking to other people.

*We need people to run in every district so we can gather data and figure out what the size of the Dem base is in that district.

*The best way to contact a person is with another person. You need volunteers to contact people. Key resource.

*Don’t waste the time of your volunteers. You don’t waste the money from a campaign fund, why waste the money for a volunteer, who is donating their time instead of their money. Understand their motivations and listen to them.

*Pay attention and get to know what the people are motivated by and what things inspire them. Reward those things and help them achieve those things that inspire them. Treat them like human beings.

*You do not get, what you do not ask for. A lot of times, we put up a barrier in our own heads and don’t ask for things that we can actually get.

*Fund-raising is all about relationships. People who will donate once, will likely donate again or volunteer time.

*Don’t spend a lot of time on any one donor (except corporate/unions/pacs/really, really wealthy).

*Say thank you. A lot. Now matter how much someone gives, give them back the same amount of love and feedback.

*Keep track of your data. HUGELY IMPORTANT!!! Make sure it is accurate, particularly with spelling of names, which can be a huge negative for the future.

*Your highest priority should be undecided voters who always vote.

*Direct voter contact is most effective in canvassing and phone banks. Nothing else is even remotely as effective.

*Democrats tend to...Discount emotion too much, discount humor, be weenies when it comes to fighting back – Leave no attack unanswered.

*A lot of races get framed around one issue. If you start talking about all kinds of things, you don’t really have a message.

*Message should be short, to the point and easy to understand. It must be repeated a lot and appear in the campaign promotional materials.

*Voters don’t read long messages.

*Voters don’t care about you they care about themselves. Make the message about the voter, not about yourself.

*It’s all about the choices.

*Don't be too specific about issues, your message needs to be more global.

*Repetition is the key to the message.

*Be true to yourself. Voters smell bs. Work within the confines of your race, your position and yourself.

*Supervoters need the least contact.

*If you don’t do the multiple contacts, many people won’t vote.

*Don’t let the fact that you don’t like someone get in the way of getting something done. If they are people who know something you don’t or have some skills you don’t, then you need to work with them.

*Candidates/leaders shouldn’t ask volunteers to do things they wouldn’t do. It sets up a hierarchy and discourages people.

*Every county should be running a coordinated campaign.

*When prioritizing, control what doesn’t happen in your day.

*Tell people the reason behind the plan, it helps them feel included and makes them more productive.

Happy 4th!

What is your DEC doing today? We're attending the "Rescue Our Republic" picnic in the Villages, with the three Villages Democratic Clubs (Marion, Lake, and Sumter.) Enjoy and stay safe!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Challenge of Absentee Ballots

Please welcome kansasr to our growing team of contributors! -Ray

As a new poster here, just a brief introduction...I live for political analysis. My background was in market analysis. Now that I've moved to South Florida and am retired from the corporate world, I try to apply those disciplines to political analysis and to getting good Democrats elected. And now, on with our show....

(cross posted from FLA Politics)

I was in the process of cleaning out some of my old data from the 2006 general elections and decided to look at absentee voters one more time.

From previous analysis of areas that I had worked in, it was clear that a suprising (to me) number of absentee ballots were never returned. So I wanted to see just what the opportunity was here. I had data from 3 counties: Broward, Palm Beach and Pinellas.

In Broward only 72.1% of the voters who requested absentee ballots actually returned them. In Palm Beach, the number was 82.9% and in Pinellas it was 85.4%.

Looking across party lines, 3rd party voters were less likely to return their ballots (on the order of 5-7 percentage points less) and there wasn't a lof of difference between the return rates of Democrats and Republicans.

Of the 184,647 absentee ballots requested in these 3 counties, 147,999 were returned, leaving 36,648 votes sitting out there.

Knowing that some of these absentee ballots ended up going to the polls, I took a look at one county, Pinellas, to see what percentage of unreturned absentee voters ended up casting ballots at the poll. The good news is that in Pinellas, it was 37%. The bad news is that 63% of those remaining Pinellas voters who actually had ballots in their hands never cast them.

Assuming a similar voting rate in the other 2 counties, this would mean that over 23,000 voters with ballots never cast them.

I know that in a small target group of Pinellas precincts, they had an active program to follow up with voters who had not returned their absentee ballots. In those precincts, they increased the return/voted rate from 85% to 94%.

Lesson to be learned, I've got to monitor those absentee ballot requests and follow up with them. It's good use of phone banking - there's a ballot sitting there on the kitchen table. With a little coaxing, you can get a stamp on it and get it in the mail.

Name Change

This is something I've been kicking around for a while now. The name "Reform" in Reform Florida's DECs has always kind of bothered me in the back of my head. While we are indeed working to change local parties here in Florida, we're not against them entirely. Those of you who were at the Netroots Luncheon at JJ probably remember me saying that "Reform Florida's DECs doesn't mean we're against DECs, we want to help them." The name can mean different things to different people. Ken Quinnel of Florida Progressive Coalition received some communications recently which confirmed some of those initial thoughts.

So today, I'm changing the name of this blog to "Build Florida's DECs". Building is exactly what we want to do and doesn't compromise our original message of change.

The actual URL of this blog will be changing too...just not right now. I want to give all the folks who've bookmarked and linked to this blog some time to know its changing. Instead of, on Monday, July 9, the URL will be changed to Please be ready to make these changes accordingly.

I'll be sending a blast email out shortly to all those on our mailing list.

New Links

As promised, here are a couple of new links I've added the past few days:

Future Majority is a blog focused on discussing what's happening with Millennials (those born in between 1978 and 2000, roughly.) This is a demographic that is increasingly growing in importance as these individuals start forming their political opinions, registering to vote, and take part in political and civic activism. Progressives, and particularly local progressive organizations like DECs need to know how to reach out and cultivate this valuable group of people.

The New Organizing Institute is an incredibly valuable organization and essential to the future of progressive politics in the United States. NOI focuses on training progressive activists from across the country in new technologies and new media. While I've never been to one of their trainings, I would really like to attend some day.

3,000 Mark Broken

While there are many progressive blogs in Florida who are way past this benchmark, its a big deal for Reform Florida's DECs. This was a little, no-name blog when it was started in 2005, and it was left to lapse during most of 2006 and early this year.

However, when I decided to bring this blog back from the "digital dead", as I put it, I didn't know that the response would have been so quick. Thanks to all who continue to visit this blog on a daily basis. Thanks to our contributors who every now and then post an idea, and thanks to all who continue to link and refer us.

Onward to the next milestone!

The Vision Thing

If there's one thing I see DECs doing more than anything else its short-term thinking. We're getting better at it for sure, but its still a never ending obstacle I see DECs and progressive organizations alike trying to overcome.

How do you know whether or not your DEC is suffering from short-term thinking? Here are a few signs:

Gatherings Don't Seem to Have Any Purpose: Ever go to a meeting, not just a DEC meeting but any meeting and all people do is really just announce things to everyone else? Are people really just talking to hear themselves talk? Do your meetings accomplish anything? If not, your DEC or organization is suffering from a lack of long-term focus or vision.

Everyone Is Doing Their Own Thing: If your DEC's activists are all out doing what they want to do, disconnected from any larger plan or purpose, that's a problem. Every DEC suffers this in some form or another. The term "herding cats" applies well to DECs. So the question is to what degree? If its a few folks - don't beat yourself up. However, if entire committees seem to be disconnected, it maybe time for some strategic planning to get everyone on the same page.

There's Been No Strategic Planning: If you haven't gotten all of your committee chairpersons and officers to discuss where the party should be going, its something you really should try and do.

The bottom line here is that DECs have to have a long-term focus and can't become too distracted by short-term events (special elections, personal feuds, the loss of a club, or the resignation of a precinct captain, etc...), otherwise the organization could lose its rudder and some of the symptoms I described above could occur.

So how do DECs attempt to keep their long-term focus?

Strategic Planning: There should be a strategic planning meeting of the DEC's officers and committee chairpersons every 6 months. The first meeting of a new DEC administration is probably the most important strategic planning meeting, as it will set the course of the organization for the next 2+ years. The strategic planning meetings in between that first meeting and Election Day are there to measure progress and tweak things along the way. Or, if things aren't working well at all, to start from scratch.

Bold, Persistent Experimentation:
To many of our readers from the '60s and 70s, I'm not referring to giving DEC members different types of drugs :) I'm referring here to what FDR said in the early 1930s:

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."

In other words, keep your DEC and its clubs on their toes by consistently trying new ideas in a push towards the vision laid out at your initial strategic planning meeting.

Keep Reminding Them:
It's oh so easy for any member of a DEC (yours truly included) to get wrapped up or swept up by a short-term distraction and quickly forget long-term goals. At every possible instance, remind everyone of the long-term goal: victory in 2008. Anything that really doesn't get us there probably isn't worth the time.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Financing the Future: Recurring Donations

By now, many of you have heard about Barack Obama's incredible fundraising quarter in which he raked in $32.5 million. Pretty amazing! The back story that will undoubtedly be missed my most in the MSM, is that Barack Obama has a very visible recurring donor program. Barack is able to consistently raise a large amount of money, hold the average donation low, and therefore keep most of it for the primary because of some help from his recurring donation program.

Some of RFDECs most loyal readers will remember I first discussed recurring donor programs around 2 years ago. DECs are always struggling for money, and that really shouldn't be. Money is the mother's milk of politics, as the old saying goes, but I'll also argue its the canary in the coal mine. If a DEC isn't regularly raising funds, its a good indication that it isn't engaging the community it represents and therefore not doing its job. Some may argue that DECs can be functional without an impressive fundraising record largely through their grassroots organization. I disagree. If your DEC has a good grassroots network, then you really don't have an excuse not to be raising money. A good grassroots network can raise good funds for DECs.

The main reason I think DECs struggle with fundraising is because of the following:

Fundraisers Are A Lot of Work: Those JJ Dinners DECs put on require a lot of time, people, effort, and frustration. Often after one or two dinners, most organizers associated with the dinners are burned out and would rather do something else. They also typically don't raise a whole lot of money.

There Is No Plan: Once you have money, what are you going to do with it? I see DEC members tripping through their words on this one: "Well...we'll use it to pay for mailings, help candidates, you know..." Basically, you really don't have a plan. Big donors in particular want to know where their money is going and whether its making a difference. No one wants to throw their hard earned dollars down a black hole. Would you?

Obviously, having a finance plan is another topic for another post. The question here is how do DECs raise money more efficiently. The answer is through recurring donations. I'll refer you to my previous post on the subject here to provide some context.

In Marion, we successfully implemented a very small recurring donor program, branded "The Winner's Circle" with several levels of support (and therefore recognition.) By just talking to our membership within the DEC and out in the clubs, we were able to recruit enough recurring donors to pay for all our monthly bills (around $16K per year.) There are around 60 people in the program (an average monthly contribution of $22.22.) Our goal is around 100 by years end.

Recurring donations make the DEC's life a lot easier. Its easier to budget, plan, and prioritize funds if you know how much is coming in monthly and yearly.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

Decentralized GOTV

The other "innovation" to come out of the SD3 special election for me other than than using Streets and Trips for canvassing, was decentralizing our GOTV system.

This was a test of a get out the vote system which we would like to try and use for 2008, when more precincts and volunteers are in play.

Marion used a centralized system in past elections, as we only were were working a few precincts. Which was fine, being that's all the volunteers we had to spare. However, its major drawback was response time. Marion Oaks, a set of key Democratic precincts in the southern area of the county is around a 30 to 40 minute drive from Dem HQ. Silver Springs Shores, another set of key Dem precincts, is around 15-20 minutes away from HQ. It would take even longer getting lists back to HQ for data entry and evaluation after 5pm as the workforce heads back home. Traffic is terrible on some of the arteries that lead to these two key areas.

To be perfectly honest, decentralizing GOTV, is by no means an "easier" system. It takes more work and effort, but it all pays off in both reaction time and effectiveness. Also, think long term. If a DEC is targeting more than a dozen precincts, some of which may be in different corners of their respective county, is it logistically feasible to bring a dozen or so runners back to HQ periodically throughout the day. How about response? Does your HQ have the number of phone lines to call the thousands of voters that haven't shown up to vote yet? Does your HQ have the sheer space to handle all those callers, much less those callers who bring their cell phones? What about knock and draggers (canvassers)? How do we communicate with them and get them the resources (maps in particular) they need fast enough to have an impact? As you can see, it can get pretty sticky very quickly.

Looking at the long term picture, it seems more and more likely that GOTV systems will have to be more decentralized. What we did in SD3 is take three precincts and test out decentralization. We had mixed results largely because we couldn't get the half-dozen volunteers needed for each precinct in time. That goes to show you how hard getting volunteers was for us, particularly those who would be willing to knock and drag. Most had done calling in the previous week and didn't really want to do much more: aka "burnout in the first degree."

Ironically, while we never truly tested out the entire idea in one precinct, different pieces were tested out in all three. God (or coincidence for our atheist/agnostic friends) is a funny guy. The system itself worked. It didn't produce any noticeable results largely because of a lack of manpower.

Here's how it all works in a broad sense.

1.) You have poll watchers pre-assigned to your targeted precinct's polling places. They're sitting behind the poll workers with a poll list from VAN of all the Dems (and favorable independents if you've identified them) in that precinct who haven't voted yet.

2.) Each targeted precinct has a GOTV leader, who acts as the runner (picking up lists from the poll watcher at pre-assigned times throughout the day) and the "commander" of the precinct and its volunteers. This person is typically one of the precinct captains of the targeted precinct. They've been given training weeks or months ago about what to do.

3.) Someone's home in the precinct acts a field office, technically called a "Turnout Control Center" or "TCC". TCCs are designated months before the election. At the TCC, the GOTV leader uses VAN to enter in all the Dems who have voted so far. All Dems over the age of 65 who haven't voted yet get plugged into Streets and Trips and maps are given to individual canvassing teams. Dems under the age of 65 are given to volunteers with cell phones.

4.) This process is repeated a total of 3 times during Election Day. As data comes in from the precincts, folks at Dem HQ can monitor the results on VAN, and instruct GOTV leaders in the field on any changes.

Obviously we will continue to experiment with this method as more elections (aka opportunities) come down the line.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Republicans Losing Hispanics

h/t to FLA Politics:

"Whether it's temporary disenchantment with President Bush, fallout from the immigration debate or part of a political and demographic shift, Democrats in Florida and nationally are making major strides with crucial Hispanic voters."

You can read the full story here.

With Republicans continuing to give the middle finger to this growing and ever-critical swing demographic, Democrats have reaped huge gains. Recall in 2006 Democrats won the Hispanic vote in Florida for the first time in 30 years.

Particularly with people in the Republican Party like crazy Tom Tancredo, I don't see this trend shifting anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Effective Canvassing with Streets and Trips

Remember the last time you went canvassing? Yeah, it was repulsively hot and steamy, with some stranger named Steve, roaming throughout God knows where to talk to who knows what, meanwhile sweating your cajones off and finding that you can't feel your feet anymore? Not to mention avoiding the man-eating dogs and the occasional alligator...or an NRA Republican.

The above situation is a bit exaggerated, but canvassing can be difficult and frustrating if not done right. Streets and Trips can help.

Canvassing is the most valuable activity a DEC or campaign performs. Its the most personal contact there is: one on one. The more personal the contact, the more effective it is. Of course, the most effective activity also takes the most planning and resources.

This post isn't about necessarily how to plan and prepare a canvassing operation, this is about making one of the biggest, time consuming obstacles of canvassing far easier than it used to be. The hardest thing about canvassing is giving people accurate maps and lists to work from. Even presidential campaigns are still giving canvassers those huge room sized maps to take with them to figure out where to go.

With Streets and Trips all you need is a simple 8.5 X 11 peice of paper with a map and directions on it. Of course, you'll also need to include a list of your voters in alphabetical order in addition to any campaign materials you have to pass out and/or leave in people's doorways.

Basically, you download a list of people you want to canvass from VAN in Excel. Open up Streets and Trips and import the list (just like if you were going to do a mail merge - only without the maddening frustration.) Every address is plotted as a pushpin like so:

Neat, huh?

Then you select a bunch of pushpins and get a route, directions, and "Optimize Stops" and voila you get this:

No more getting lost and trying to find targeted households. Typically, the average canvasser can cover around 10-20 households and hour the traditional way. Our volunteers were doing an estimated 25-35 houses an hour using these pre-drawn maps yesterday. The volunteers really enjoyed using this "new" technology, and were impressed with how much easier the whole canvassing process was.

Streets and Trips is not exactly a big expense either. Just click the link above and find out. Its a great investment your DEC can make.

March of the Postmortems

Analysis and opinion is pouring in about the special election yesterday:

Why Calling Supervoters Is Dumb: "Calling primary voters was completely worthless. The time and energy used to call these people five or ten times could have been spent engaging voters who did not vote in the primary, notifying them of the election, and encouraging them to go out and vote..."

What Went Wrong: "Anyway, what really happened? That's more complex than people like Greer [Chairman of the Florida Republican Party] seem capable of publicly understanding. It's actually quite clear, though. The Dems did worse for a number of reasons, and these things have a lot of overlap..."

More Thoughts on SD3: "First, nothing went wrong. The results were about what was expected. It’s unrealistic to think that a political outsider and newcomer is going to defeat a popular, local candidate with deep roots in his community.However . . ."

My own analysis can be found here:

Postmortem for SD3: "Getting beat - and beat hard - sucks. Plain and simple. However, I told our GOTV leaders, and volunteers yesterday that I'm always an optimist. I guess when you're 20 you can 'afford' to be that. But here's the thing: aren't you glad we made these mistakes and found these errors now rather than in 2008? I sure as hell am..."