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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.