Project Wonderful

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ask an Election Nerd: How do I get a job as an Organizer?

I was wondering what your job title used to be or where you worked? The about says "former Democratic Campaign Operative" I was wondering if you had any tips on getting to that position for a sophomore Political Science major in the Honors program at his college.


Oooh boy! Good question! First of all, I am super glad you are interested in working on campaigns. It is a horrible, awesome job that has changed my life forever. Assuming this site is still up and running when we both graduate from our respective programs get in contact with me and I will happily help you out.

Starting out on campaigns, the easiest job to get is Field Organizer, which is what I did for my first 2 cycles. (In Minnesota in 2006 and then in the caucus in Iowa in 2007.) Most of the posts on here refer to field, which is the direct voter contact portion of campaigns. I love field because as much as they drive me crazy, I love interacting with volunteers and voters.

The truth is, if you are fairly intelligent and can demonstrate a good (or really great) work ethic, these jobs are not terribly hard to get in an election year because the need is high. To see if this is something you’ll like, I would suggest interning on a campaign. This is a great way to get experience and make connections. Let me know where you are at school or for the summer and I will try to help plug you in somewhere if you like.

In addition…Wellstone, DFA, Emilys List, 21st Century Democrats, New Organizing Institute (google any of these, I have done 21st Dems) all offer trainings that can give you a jumpstart on the skills you need and usually end in a career fair.

There are also a number of listserves like EmilysList Jobserve, Tom Manatos and Jobsthatareleft that list these types of jobs, as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Senate or DNC's websites.

I hope this helped you and others!!! Feel free to reach out if I can be of help.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Info Graphics to Motivate

Swing state match ups.

Obama on the bubble.

You know, in case you needed a reason to go to work tomorrow.

Stole these from one of my fabulous followers. She posts some pretty fab stuff. You should check her out here.

Today In Voter Suppression

ACLU sues Florida to stop voter purge.

Florida is really messed up guys.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Volunteer Training: Damn I'm Good, Part II.

If you missed Part I of my three part manifesto (Part I is about recruitment) you can catch up on it here. Part II is all about volunteer training. Specific notes are below but the main thing you need to know is to make like Scar and be prepared. There is no need to be running around your office like a chicken with your head cut off when volunteers come in if you invest a system beforehand. This means preparing your volunteers as well. A well trained volunteer is a happy volunteer and a happy volunteer is a return volunteer. As always, if you plan on using these tools in your race, please do a me a favor and let me know!

Volunteer Training
“Volunteers come for the candidate, but they stay for you.”

Be Prepared!!! (Told ya.) Cut lists and have them ready in walk or call packets well beforehand. Always have extras on hand for walk-ins. This includes any scripts, maps, directions, etc. IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE TO BE UNPREPARED FOR YOUR VOLUNTEERS.

Know who you are expecting. Have your vols sign in as they enter, with a space on the sign-in sheet to schedule another shift, of course! This way you’ll have a record of who came and you can greet people by name! If anyone hasn’t shown up, call them approximately ½ hr after their shift started. If they can’t make it that day, confirm them on the spot for another shift.

Maintain a fun and pleasant office environment. Think of your office as any other place of business. If it isn’t clean and the staff isn’t organized and friendly, volunteers are likely to take their hard earned time elsewhere. Therefore, make sure your volunteer space is clean and inviting before vols get there and that there are posters and snacks to make them know that they are loved and appreciated. The best campaign offices resemble elementary school classrooms.

Greet your volunteers and thank them as they come in. Set them up right away. In general, no one should walk into your office without being greeted. No matter what else is going on in your day, everyone should be treated with a smile and a positive attitude. Your enthusiasm will be infectious.

Value your volunteers! Tell them how excited you are to have them and how important their job is. The best way to make a volunteer feel valued is by preparing for their arrival and training them properly.

Explain the universe and what the expectations are for the calls. (You are calling Democrats today who usually do not vote every cycle. It is critical to turnout each and every one of the individuals in cycle. It is critical to turnout each and every one of the individuals in important to elect Mark Udall and Barack Obama. You will likely encounter about a 20% wrong number rate, do not be discouraged as you are doing very important list clean up, so that our staff and volunteers are not still calling these numbers in the critical 1-2 months before the election.)

Go through the script. Provide your volunteers with a list of DO’s and DON’Ts. Make sure to cover common first time pitfalls. (DO ask supporters to volunteer. DON’T write notes on the sheet instead of using the codes.)

Go over the coding and tally system. Let them know beforehand that you will ask for their help in tallying. Explain what happens with each code (5's are removed from the Universe, 1's and 2's will get reminded to vote during GOTV and invited to events) so that they know how important it is to use the system.

Give them a goal. (To new vols “Most people make about 80 calls in a shift. To return vols “Last time you made 80 calls. This time can you go for 90?”)

Give your volunteer the opportunity to role play the script with you so s/he gets practice.

Make calls with a first time volunteer. First time volunteers are generally nervous, so you or a pro volunteer should make a minimum of 10 calls next to them to make sure they feel supported as they begin their volunteer experience.

Ask for and answer questions. Saying “What questions do you have?” instead of “Do you have any questions?” is an effective way to let them know it is okay and encouraged to ask for clarification .

Pay your volunteers with kindness. Thank them again and again and again and again. Offer them water and snacks. Let them know where the bathroom is. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them.

Alright my loves, I hope these were helpful to you and yours. Part III is about volunteer maintenance. Until next time!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Silver Lining for Wisconsin

I don't like when my friends lose. I really like my friends and I really like most of the things they stand for and I don't want them to be disheartened. For anyone who is upset about the Wisconsin results yesterday, I've copied and linked to some required reading below. The most salient point is that voters don't necessarily agree with Walker, they just disagree with the recall. Chin up, Badger State!

Top Ten Silver Linings for Democrats in Wisconsin Outcome

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the recall gubernatorial election campaign over his Democratic Party rival is being read like tea leaves with regard to the national presidential campaign. This argument from the local to the national is always an error, and there are many reasons to believe that the results in Wisconsin tell us very little about the national mood. The telling exit poll is here So here are the reasons otherwise disheartened Democrats might take heart.

1. 51% of voters in the recall support Barack Obama, only 44% support Mitt Romney.

2. Democrat Tom Barrett’s loss and the damage done the labor union movement may scare and therefore mobilize Democratic voters in the fall.

3. While the Democratic Party and labor suffered a defeat, the radical Republican agenda promoted by the Koch brothers through Walker energized crowd politics and made a link between Wisconsin and Egypt’s Tahrir Square protesters, boding well for activism on the left going forward.

4. Too much should not be read into Walker’s victory. About 10% of Wisconsin voters do not believe in recalls. In addition, some 60% of Wisconsin voters said in exit polls that they did not believe a recall should be used against a governor for anything less than criminal misconduct. No one alleged that Walker is corrupt in a criminal way, despite his clear dependence on Koch brother campaign monies. That is, the recall effort, being based on politics rather than corruption, offended the state political culture.

5. 51% of voters in the recall support labor unions in general, but a majority of the voters approved of the end of collective bargaining rights for state employees in particular. The vote wasn’t about labor, but about the relationship of Wisonsins to their government workers, including teachers, etc.

6. Only 35% of the voters in the recall identified themselves as conservatives

7. Walker and co. spent $45.6 million on his campaign by May 21, whereas challenger Tom Barrett and his supporters only spent $17.9 million. And 2/3s of Walker’s money came from outside the state. There won’t be that kind of disparity in campaign financing in the national election.

8. Barrett had already lost big to Walker in 2010, getting only 36% of the vote. He just isn’t that popular on a statewide basis and the Dems were foolish to have him lead the recall effort.

9. It may be that John Lehman won his race for the Wisconsin Senate, in which case the recall election cost the Republicans control of that body, putting an impediment in Walker’s ability to push through any further radical rightwing policies.

10. Walker was forced to face a recall election and may have lost his state senate, which will give other right wing politicians pause in pursuing radical agendas at the instigation of the Koch brothers.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Too Legit To Mitt

Remember when I blogged about my deep and abiding hatred for Urban Outfitters? (If not, here it is.) Jezebel has the scoop on Urban's "ironic" Mitt Romney t-shirts. Spoiler alert, they're not ironic.

Alice Paul Meets Lady Gaga

From one of my twitter follower's walls. So brilliant and well executed! I can't believe someone has more time on their hands and inclination to do this kind of stuff than me!

Monday, June 4, 2012 + Votebuilder

"Hey organizers, hope this makes your lives a little easier! Sincerely, the Barack Obama campaign and NGP VAN."

I actually got chills when I saw this on my facebook feed this morning. OFA technology plus my long term love interest, the VAN. Pretty cool!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Volunteer Recruitment: Damn, I'm Good. Part I

Seriously you guys, I am the Muhammad Ali of volunteer recruitment. When I was an organizer, I was consistently the top recruiter in the state, no matter where I was. I once recruited 100 shifts in 3 days for John Edwards after Iowa. I have to say, there's really no magic to it except you have to really believe in what you're doing and you have to be relentlessly persistent. You also need to genuinely love your volunteers, which tumblr jokes aside, I absolutely do.

I wrote the following in 2008 for the Colorado Democratic Party, but they've been used a bunch of other places since. There's a copyright warning on the blog, but obviously I want you to have these if they're helpful to you. For the sake of my pride please do me a favor and if you use/share these give me credit for them? Tell people or put my name on them or something and definitely message me so I know where my babies are going! (If you have seen them please let me know too!) Can you tell I'm proud of these? It's really not rocket science (it's more like common sense consolidated) and in fact, it hasn't been edited since before I worked with OFA. If I ever do this over I am going to incorporate some of the elements they use although I feel like it has a pretty "Respect, Empower, Include" vibe to it already. You can also check out an excerpt on If you haven't liked or visited that page you really should.

Here it is. Nancy's Best Practices for Volunteer Recruitment and Training: An opus in three parts. This is part one. Enjoy!

Volunteer Recruitment
“Everyone is a potential volunteer.”

Where Should I Look?
Everywhere! You are a representative of the campaign at all times and this means you are always recruiting. Work it in into the conversation at the grocery store (I’m just stopping in for some Red Bull, I work at the Democratic Party Headquarters and…) 9 times out of 10 the cashier will keep bagging, but the 10th time you might have gotten yourself a phone bank captain!

Democratic or Community Events. Have a sign up sheet wherever you go. Pitch the program to people at the Central Committee or folks dropping by the County Dems table, these people are already interested all you have to do is sell them on how fun it is and how great they will feel for being involved.

Your 1’s!
Make sure you stress to your volunteers that they should be asking supporters if they would be interested in getting involved, and MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW UP soon after, if the volunteer can’t schedule the person on the phone/door right away. No supporter should leave the office without being asked to vol.

Lists in the VAN, Obama lists, Caucus Attendees, Party Volunteers, Community Activists, House Party attendees, anyone who has expressed interest in the past.

Other Volunteers and Activists! At every One on One meeting you should be asking people if they know anyone else who would be interested in getting involved. You should also ask your volunteers to help recruit their friends, spouses, etc. One of the reasons it is so important that your volunteers have a good experience in the office is that their experience will surely be spread by word of mouth.

What Should I say?
Have a plan/Be Specific. Know what you are going to say before you get on the phone. What will your first ask be? What if that doesn’t work, etc. Ask for a specific time, date and activity. If that doesn’t work, ask again. Don’t go into battle without a plan.

Know your audience. Keep specific notes on your volunteers and read them. If a volunteer just got back from visiting her kids for example ask how her trip went. If a volunteer has knee problems, don’t ask him to canvass. If you’re calling someone for the first time, let them know where you got their name from. Think about what makes this person tick. For college students, highlight internship opportunities. For the elderly it’s a chance to socialize and connect with the community. Tailor your ask to the individual.

Be persistent. Don’t take no for an answer. If a time doesn’t work, ask for another and another. If they won’t canvass this time ask them to do phone calls, if you absolutely can’t get them to do direct voter contact, ask them to do data entry, but always push for more. This is important work we are doing, you have the right to be a little bit pushy.

Never end a conversation on a yes. If a volunteer says yes to canvassing, ask the volunteer to canvass 2 shifts that week. If the volunteer still says yes, ask until the volunteer says no. Never be afraid to over ask.

Confirm, Confirm, Confirm. Though call time is your top priority, it isn’t everyone’s. Getting an extra commitment from a volunteer the day before not only reminds them they are signed up, it gives them one more reason to show instead of going elsewhere. Confirmation calls should be attempted 3x the day before a shift with a message left on the last round. If a volunteer can’t make it, reschedule on the spot. Always recruit 30% more volunteers than the number you actually need.

Stay tuned for Part II: Volunteer Training!