Project Wonderful

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: To Campaign or Not To Campaign?

First of all, I love your blog! I graduated from college a year ago, studying PoliSci, and have had a really comfortable job at a nonprofit for a year. We are going through a merger, which seems like a natural time to leave if I want to, and I have the opportunity to quit and work on a campaign. I really want to explore a career in politics, but I can't decide if I should leave my stable calm lifestyle for the uncertainty of campaigning! How do I choose what to do?!

Not knowing you or the circumstances surrounding your life I say, "Go for it!" There is no better way to know whether you want to do something with your career than to try it and no better time to try working on campaigns than when you are fresh (or practically fresh) out of college. In general, the older you get, the less practical it becomes to drop everything and go work in the field. Especially when you are just starting out, you can get a gig on a campaign for only three or four months, so in that sense the investment is minimal.

There are some things to consider before I recklessly encourage you to take the plunge. Campaigns are physically and mentally taxing. You don't need to be a paragon of fitness or mental healthy by any means, but you do need to be in a place where you can work long hours in a fast-paced, stressful environment. Also, what will you do immediately after? Most campaign families will help you find your next job after the race is over, but that is by no means immediate or guaranteed. If you have nowhere to go (ie friends' couches, parents' house) or will be in crippling debt if you find yourself unemployed for a couple of months, then this might not be the time to make a move.

The tradeoff between stability and excitement is one I've often debated myself, and one that campaign people continue to debate throughout their careers. As you will note every person who written a "What I Wish I Had Known at 30" post thus far notes that their favorite thing about being in their 20's was the adventure and energy of being on campaigns. I will tell you that even my friends who only worked one or two cycles and ultimately decided it wasn't for them don't regret the experience. It is grueling, rewarding, intense, passionate, fulfilling work and I wouldn't trade a second of it. I hope you find the same to be true!

See you in the field?


Ask An Election Nerd: What Makes A Good RFD?

Hey Nancy. First, this blog is what gets me through call time every day. Second of all, I was wondering what the ideal RFD is like? I've worked on non profit campaigns before, but never as a FO for a candidate, so I'm not completely sure how they should act. My co-FO's and I having a hard time with her, mostly because of they way she treats us and volunteers, and her poor time management skills. We try to empower our volunteers, but she treats them more or less like unpaid robots.
It sounds like you might just want the space to vent, which is totally okay. Not everyone is a good manager and not everyone's management style works for everyone else. When you are dealing with that fact day in and day out far away from the friends and family who usually keep you grounded, the situation can be maddening. For an example of a time when I had trouble dealing with my regional field director click here. My experience in that post is somewhat specific, but I would always encourage empathy when conflict of personalities arises on campaigns,which by the way is not to suggest that your experience is invalid. I hear you and that sucks. Treating staff or volunteers like robots is not cool!

Your question was, "what is an ideal RFD like?" I'm not sure whether that was rhetorical, but I'm going to answer it anyway. I would say there is no "ideal" RFD because different styles of leadership work for different people. I was super lucky that I connected with so well with my first Regional or we might not be here today. There are lots of different ways to be good at your job (although I would argue not as many ways as there are to be bad at it.) That said, here are some things that I think make a great RFD.

1)Remember that you are a facilitator. As an RFD your number one job is to advocate for your organizers and get them the tools they need to meet their goals, whether that be training, resources, opportunities for their volunteers etc. Likewise it is your job to get what headquarters needs from your region by holding your organizers accountable. You are essentially in a service position. It's an endless cycle of facilitating between the two.

2)Don't ask anyone to do work you're not willing to do yourself. By all means, make your organizers do six hour call time, make your orgs do seven hour call time if that's what it takes to win, but you better do at least some of it with them. You know, like a person.

3)Work harder than anyone you supervise. Nothing breeds resentment more than routinely getting into work before and leaving after your boss. Lead by example.

4)Spring for a beer every once in a while. Or buy lunch. When the region gets a chance to send one member to an exciting surrogate event, don't nominate yourself. As my buddy Mark recently advised me (paraphrased), "What's the point in being the boss if you can't take advantage every once in a while? But not until you've taken care of your people."

5)Explain why. Just as with interns and volunteers organizers will be more motivated if they understand why they are being asked to do the work they do and how it fits into the bigger picture. Once you've done a couple of cycles the why of field becomes obvious, but you cannot reinforce the importance of your organizers roles enough.

Hang in there!

Campaign Love and Mine,


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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Flow Chart Voter Contact Script

This flow chart script is the invention of FOCS Emily Savin. I have not tried it myself but I had to share! Feel free to send YOUR campaign innovations to! Happy Saturday!

Emily says: Volunteers usually think the flowchart looks way too complicated at first, but once they understand it, they find it easier to work with than a regular linear script. (I recommend having both available.) Particularly when the script has a lot of parts (e.g., IDs and a volunteer ask and a lawn sign ask), the flowchart really helps phone bankers stay on track.

For this flowchart, I would tell the volunteer, "The white boxes are for the words you say. The shaded boxes show you what to do." I'd walk a volunteer through a sample call and guide him along the chart with my finger. I'd also say, "Speak naturally and make this your own-- we don't want you to sound like a robot-- but you do need to say the words in bold exactly as they are written, because that's a message we have to get across."

Microsoft Publisher, Powerpoint, and some versions of Word have the capacity to create flowcharts, and there are a number of free online services for making flowcharts as well.

Thanks for everything, Nancy! You've got my vote.

Yes! This! This Article Here!

My general feeling on ivory tower political scientists who comment on campaigns is about a 4. In my experience these individuals fall into two camps: those who are so far removed from the realities of campaign life that their work is totally misinformed or irrelevant and those who come to the right conclusions by proving things so obvious one wonders why they need to be investigated at all.

Once in a while however, this type of investigation proves useful if only because it serves as a great big "I told you so" to field program skeptics. For this reason, I was thrilled to read a Washington Post synopsis of "Mobilizing Inclusion, Transforming the Electorate through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns" by professors Lisa GarcĂ­a Bedolla and Melissa R. Michelson (who, I'm just pointing out, are women). Let's get to it.

Michelson asserts that "What really mobilizes these voters is repeated personal contacting." (Can I get an amen in here?!?!) She goes on to describe her research which included,

"268 get-out-the-vote field experiments conducted repeatedly across six electoral cycles from 2006 to 2008. These field experiments were focused on communities with a history of low participation and were conducted in partnership with non-partisan community-based organizations...

Our analysis shows that citizens who haven’t voted much in the past can be inspired by either door-to-door visits or live phone calls. Tellingly, our research shows that such contacts, especially if repeated, can produce habitual voters. Phone banks from which callers contact the same potential voters twice are especially effective in creating committed voters. Door-to-door campaigns also showed strong results, with one such effort increasing voter turnout by more than 40 percentage points. (To be sure, most get-out-the-vote campaigns produce smaller gains.)..

"Personal contact to encourage voting can be enough to cause many low-income minority people to see themselves anew, as the sorts of people who regularly go to the polls on Election Day. In turn, voting even once can become habit forming, reinforcing self-identification as “a voter” long after the initial conversation with a canvasser. What is more, voter contacts have strong spillover effects within households, boosting participation by others as much as 60 percent."

I can't wait to read this book!

Campaign Love and Mine,


Friday, July 18, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: How Do I Translate Campaign Skills To a Non-Campaign Resume?

Dear Nancy,

I wondered if you might be able to give me some field-related advice. I've been transitioning out of campaigns and into other things, and I've found it difficult to explain in concise, jargon-free language exactly what it is a field director does. It's a massive job, as you know, and I want to do it justice, but I keep thinking of more things that need to be added to it. There are so many skills involved: statistics, project management, people management, data management, crisis management, logistics, outreach, community building, diplomacy, etc.

I keep on remembering more things involved: besides the basic things like writing the field and GOTV plans, and training and supervising FOs and ensuring that they make voter contact goals (which are themselves complicated operations to explain), there are so many little but important things: crafting simple but effective phone scripts, coordinating GOTV logistics, overseeing out-of-state vol housing, setting up good systems for data management that hundreds of vols can make sense of....

I know you're still in this business, but I remember from your blog that you went to grad school; did you ever have to explain what field is during your application process? If you have any suggestions for bullet-pointing this stuff, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks again for Campaignsick. It always makes me smile.

Great question! Editing down one's resume is never easy, but it is especially daunting when switching careers. It's hard to know exactly what advice to give you without knowing what kinds of jobs you're applying for, but I'll do my best.

1)Tailor your resume to the job. Don't worry so much about how to express what you did, concentrate on showing that you have the skills and experience to do what they need you to do. Whenever you embark on a new job hunt, you should save a "master" version of your resume that includes all your job related skills and experiences in bullet points, even if this version is longer than a page. Then when you apply for jobs, you can pick and choose the bullets to include on your resume based on the specific job you're applying for. You're right. You can't possibly include everything you did as a Field Director, so the trick is narrowing things down to what's relevant. For example, if you are applying to work in Veterans Affairs and you were the point of contact for that constituency on a campaign, you should include the bullet point about organizing Veterans for Obama phone banks or an event focusing around military policy, even if these activities only took up 5% of your time.

2)Have a non-campaign friend proofread your resume. Preferably this should be someone with whom you have not discussed your campaign work at length. Ask your friend to reflect back what they think your skills and strengths are based on what they're reading, and to point out any places where you use terms or phrases with which they are unfamiliar.

3)Conduct an informational interview. I know this is my answer for just about everything, but advice is free and people love to give it. If you're moving into governement, law, non-profits, grad school or business, chances are there is someone in your network who has made the switch you're about to make. Find that person and ask them what campaign skills were particularly applicable in their new career.

4)Use your cover letter. If you can't find a succinct way to articulate how a certain experience qualifies you for a potential job, you can use your cover letter to bridge the gap. For example, if the job posting mentions the ability to meet goals under deadlines you can use your cover letter to expound upon a time that you organized a rally with a major surrogate on 48 hours notice.

5)Mirror the language in the job posting. Rather than reinvent the wheel, use the language in the job post to guide your resume bullet points. For example, a non-profit job may require you to "manage a diverse team of stakeholders," which in a excellent way to explain what you did by building and coordinating a campaign steering committee.

Good luck in your new adventures and thanks so much for reading!

Campaign Love and Mine,


PS. If you like this advice, please support CampaignSick!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nevada Controller Candidate Apparently Also Running For Worst Person In The World

I read the following press release from the Nevada Democratic Party,
Las Vegas, NV – Ah, Nevada Republicans. You never cease to amaze us in your ability to “out-stupid” each other. Last week, in an op-ed in the Elko-Daily Free Press, Republican nominee for Nevada Controller, Ron Knecht, blamed programs to help sexual assault victims for the rise in the cost of college tuition. No, we’re not making this up – he actually said that.

To be clear: this was not a gaffe or simply a case of misspeaking. The Republican nominee for State Controller proactively wrote an op-ed in a newspaper criticizing programs that help rape victims. He even said colleges should fight new federal guidelines to help victims of sexual assault. (Seriously, who says this?)

“Another week, another outrageous and flat-out boneheaded comment by a Nevada Republican” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson. “Ron Knecht’s comments highlight how completely clueless Republicans are when it comes to women’s health. Helping victims of sexual assault isn’t ‘federal overreach,’ and it certainly isn’t to blame for an increase in college tuition -- it's the right thing to do. Knecht needs to come out of the stone age and apologize to Nevada women for this ignorant, irresponsible, and out-of-touch op-ed."
I thought, "No...there has to be more to this story. That's too politically stupid and ridiculous." It turns out there's less. Can there be less to a story like that? I'm not sure I'm making sense because I am actually in shock after reading Ron Knecht's Op-Ed. Don't be deceived Knecht doesn't just mention sexual assault prevention as one campus program that could be cut to save money. His entire crux is "cut sexual assault prevention!" He repeatedly refers to new Department of Education mandates to reduce campus assualt as "nonsense" and complains that attempts to hold campus rapists accountable are an
"expensive, cumbersome, confusing and time-consuming process, and would give plaintiffs and defendants the right to bring in their own outside advisers, including lawyers. But campuses would be under time pressure to speed the proceedings along and make them transparent, even as the new regulations make achieving those goals difficult or impossible."
He is equally disdainful of assault prevention programs lamenting that,
"colleges will become nannies to their students and employees, being required to train them on preventing sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Further, they will have to compile and publish statistics on all such incidents, while also assuring greater confidentiality protections for plaintiffs."
How do people this misguided even get through life let alone run for higher office? Don't the empathy police come and grab them and make them listen to a recording of their own stupid until they become self-aware? I have read a lot of articles about morally bankrupt politicians saying outrageous things about rape, but I am actually stunned by how tone deaf this is. How is this not already all over the Internet?

I'm going to take a shower and curl up in the fetal position.

Romo v. Detzner and Fair District Amendments

Good news, or at least bad news overturned! Last Thursday a Florida judge ruled that the congressional districts drawn by the Florida Legislature are illegal, due to partisan gerrymandering. The judge was able to do make this judgement thanks to the Fair District Amendments to Florida's constitution. What are Fair District Amendments you ask?

For decades politicians in Florida selfishly drew legislative and Congressional districts to protect themselves or advance the interests of their political parties. So effective and unabashed was this gerrymandering, that over the last decade only a small fraction of legislative incumbents were defeated.

On November 2, 2010, Floridians overwhelmingly spoke out against this self-serving practice by passing Amendments 5 and 6 – the FairDistricts Amendments -- with 63% of the vote. This vote resulted in constitutional provisions which prohibit favoritism of incumbents or parties in redistricting.

What a novel idea! Every state should have such a law. Awesomely enough, the League of Women Voters was the lead plaintiff in the case as well as the driving force behind the amendments.