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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Party Building Basics: Part 3

As discussed in Party Building Basics: Part 2, once your calling program starts running, you need to have some infrastructure in place (discussed in PBB: Part 1) to plug potential volunteers and activists in. Today's post will focus on how to integrate these folks into the Democratic Party so they can have the most enjoyment and be the most productive.

Its All About Community:
As "thekick" discussed in his comment yesterday in PBB: Part 2, Applebee's America is a must read for anyone working on organizing the Democratic Party and the Progressive Movement. The book stresses the current lack of community in the United States, and the fact that individuals are drawn to groups and organizations the fill that void. Megachurches are particularly good examples. There's a small group for everything: sportsmen Bible studies, a young mother's group, an athletic group, etc... Political organizations, like DECs, have to do roughly the same thing. If your volunteers don't feel they're valuable, if they're not rewarded, and if they don't feel a part of the group - they will leave. Of course, this speaks to the larger issue of how to DECs do their own small group thing to attract new activists and volunteers. That's another post for the near-future.

Have Good Training Programs: In my opinion, Democracy For America has the best grassroots training around. There's one in Tampa June 30th, if you're interested. I encourage you to go to one of these trainings and build off of the core ideas presented in DFA trainings as the foundation for your own. Every training should have practical, bullet-point like advice for people. It should be personal and give trainees an opportunity to do things hands on. For instance, do a phone banking training, and then actually give folks lists to take home and try out. Also, every good training has an evaluation form at the end for trainees to evaluate their trainers so trainings can be improved in the future.

Get People Moving Locally: In my opinion, the best way to keep volunteers is to make them feel that their time and talents are valued by the DEC. This means that we try and put new activists and volunteers into action as quickly as we can once they've been trained properly. I would also make sure that they're working in their own neighborhoods and communities as block captains, block leaders, or precinct captains. Getting to know one's Democratic neighbors can be a rewarding experience (hey! you're not the only Democrat on the block!)

Have A Plan/Program For Organizers:
Your local volunteers and activists should be given a flexible plan for organizing their communities. Of course, DECs shouldn't just throw them in and watch - they need to make sure there's a set of people at HQ who work hand-in-hand with them. These should be folks who aren't just going to talk over the phone with local organizers, but folks who are willing to come down for the day and take the time and effort to make volunteers feel valued and appreciated. This is how we can keep up the momentum.


Eddie said...

Great points, Ray!

I especially like the emphasis on community.

The Brevard DEC has started having Democratic breakfasts and lunches throughout the county to provide a social outlet for people to discuss issues with their Democratic neighbors and foster a sense of community. The one near me meets at a Bob Evans every other Saturday for breakfast.

You're also right that we need to make every volunteer feel valuable. People need to know they're making a difference and see goals achieved. While some people in the DECs would like to talk about national issues all the time, we really need to be more effective grassroots organizers so we can channel this energy into local victories.

FlaDem said...

Great points in your 3 parts. In Charlotte County (one of the oldest)in the State we had many of our volunteers that refused to call or walk, come into our HQ and answer phones,put stamps on enolvopes. One of the largest volunteer turnouts we had is when our DEC mailed out over 10,000 palm cards to voters. They loved putting the labels and stamps on them, they felt useful and offered to do it again not sure if it was the pizza or beer that won them over!
We also have a stamp club where members will buy a roll of stamps and donate them to the DEC.
We keep track of who brings in the most rolls and they get recognition for it.
We need help in getting people to go door to door as well. It just doesn't happen even on a small scale.