Project Wonderful

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rootscamp 2012!

First off, I am so bummed that I haven't be able to post a lot lately, that is what happens when you straight up leave graduate school for three weeks. The good news is, I'll see lots of you at Rootscamp this weekend! I will be leading two sessions; one special insiders' edition of my volunteer recruitment and one about women on campaigns and my very fascinating graduate work. You should totally come! (Click here to buy your ticket) But WHAT IS ROOTSCAMP you ask. Well! I know of just the interview for you to find out!

So...who are you?

I’m Jamie McGonnigal and I’m the Director of RootsCamp. [That's him, above.] I’m a bunch of other things too, but I suppose for the purposes of this interview, that’s what I do.

What is Rootscamp?

RootsCamp is the largest national progressive debrief in the country. Our National RootsCamp happens in DC generally around the end of any election. While the schedule exists based on our country’s elections, the organizing and sharing of best practices that happens at RootsCamp moves far outside our electoral cycles.

RootsCamp is a place where organizers come to talk about the challenges and successes they’ve had in the past year and figure out specifically what their next steps are. At the New Organizing Institute, we are big fans of what we refer to as “Engagement Organizing.” It’s taking organizing to a new level by encouraging people to stay involved and build movements even when there isn’t a vote to worry about. The first step in engagement organizing is debriefing. If we don’t learn from the work that we do, it’s difficult to move forward and innovate for the future.

The way it works is that when you come in, you’ll see a mostly blank agenda we call “The Wall.” During the opening events, you fill out a card for a session you’d like to present, turn it in to our Wall creators and head to the first pre-seeded session. By the time you get out, the Wall will be filled with cards from as many people as we can fit.

Why an UNConference?

An UN-conference is a place where people come together and the hierarchy is removed. We believe that everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn. So if you want to present on a new technology, or have a discussion about innovations in field organizing you’ve encountered, you can. This is about executive directors of national organizations learning from canvassers or brand new organizers discussing strategy with people who’ve been in the field for 50 years.

We set it up this way because it puts everyone on the same level from the moment they walk in the door. There are plenty of places in the world where we already have to deal with being separated in our work. RootsCamp isn’t one of those places.

What should I bring?

Probably a coat and scarf. It’s been chilly around here. Also bring a notebook, some resumés, and a winning smile. Well…the winning smile is optional I suppose, but I felt the need to say something cheesy.

Can Rootscamp help me get a job?

Funny you should ask! Yes! On Saturday from 12-3pm, in association with NOI’s new Work Forward program and sponsored by AFL-CIO, we’ll be hosting our career fair. There will be anywhere between 50-100 employers looking for the brightest organizing talent they can find. So bring a couple resumés and maybe a little something nice to wear. Happily we can claim literally hundreds of organizers have found jobs through our RootsCamp Career Fair.

What are some sessions you found surprising/exciting last year?

Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to attend many sessions last time as I was running things – and this year will undoubtedly not be very different. But the few that I did stop in on briefly were sessions on how to stay healthy on the campaign trail, an excellent session on Pinterest (of all things), a Troy Davis case study and a debrief of the marriage equality win in New York.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

We have some awesome sessions already proposed and some of our partner sessions are going to be incredible. Upworthy is going to be doing their “How to win the internetz” session which I saw at Netroots and am very excited about. Also there’s a great volunteer recruitment inside edition session being done by some hot lady. There’s actually a huge variety at this point from Veterans organizers to WalMart to LGBT to Women to African American and Immigration…sooo many things will be talked about!

Why is your Twitter handle McBenefit and what's up with you and Pokemon?

I lived in New York for about 13 years and during that time I produced about 200 Broadway concerts and events. Most of which were benefits for different charities. My friends Max von Essen and Scott Nevins coined the nickname “Jamie McBenefit” and it stuck. I figured you could be nicknamed far worse things.

And as for Pokémon, I’ve been a voice actor for the past 14 years and I’ve been doing voices for Pokémon for the past 10 roughly. I’ve spent the past 6 years or so playing Ash’s main rivals, Barry and now Trip. I’ve also worked on Yu-Gi-Oh!, Viva Pinata, One Piece and a bunch of other anime and video games. It’s one of those fun things I get to talk about when we’re done debriefing at RootsCamp!

Seriously. Click here to buy your ticket to the fun!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tips for Writing a Campaign Resume

A number of readers have written in asking how to put campaign experience down on a resume. When applying for campaign jobs (which are the only resumes I’ve reviewed and hired from) the rules are very similar to those we are taught in college, yet so often ignored that they’re worth going over again. In addition, I have included an excerpt from when I was a baby organizer, which has been edited by my mentors over the years, to give you and idea of how an organizer resume might look.

Keep it to one page-
If you are in a position where you are seeking my advice on what to put in your resume, there is no reason why you need a resume that is more than a page long (that said, it also should not be much shorter than a page). Use your cover letter to expound on what you learned and in your resume stick to what you did.

Use a professional email address- When I get an application from, I have an immediate bias against the applicant before I’ve even opened the attachment. It’s unprofessional to use anything other than your name or the name of your company (plus numbers or initials as necessary) in a business email and doing so shows you are out of touch with professional etiquette, even as such exists on a campaign. A school address or gmail is fine, but generally--and I know this may sound shallow-- aol, hotmail, and yahoo are looked down upon.

Tell the truth- We’re all taught to exaggerate on our resumes and by all means put your best foot forward, but remember that campaigns are a very small world. Your future boss will check up on your former employment so it better be legit. I once got a resume from a former paid canvasser on a campaign I had run, claiming that she had been an organizer on that campaign. Needless to say she did not get an interview.

Focus on your accomplishments- No one is going to hold you responsible for a loss (nor credit you for a win) if you were an organizer on a large race. Although of course it helps to be part of a race that has a reputation for a stellar field operation. But you can talk about your own personal accomplishments like building and training a volunteer base, running voter contact operations in your turf, or organizing a large event.

Use real numbers- Campaign people love real numbers! On a resume, they help cut through bullshit and highlight the value of the work you’ve done. “Organized event with Bill Clinton” is good “Organized 3,000 person event with Former President Clinton in under 3 days” is better.

Use Action words- Managed, Led, Created, Recruited, Designed, Built. Every bullet on your resume should start with an action word.

I’ve included an example from my own resume a couple of years ago. Because of blogspot limitations bullets run over and formatting looks incorrect, but on your resume most bullets should not go over one line and bullets should not be asterisks.

Lead Field Organizer, March 2007- January 2008, John Edwards for President, Iowa City, IA
*Built and supervised grassroots leadership teams and established campaign presence in four counties
*Coordinated voter contact program in most heavily Democratic county in Iowa
*Supervised five student interns and led student outreach program at Iowa’s largest university
*Organized and staffed 40+ community events and town hall forums with Senator Edwards and surrogates, including a 850+ person concert and rally
*Directed Get-Out-The-Caucus effort for 5 staging locations and 250+ volunteer shifts over 6 days

For more great tips check out this piece from FOCS, Evan Sutton at NOI.

Happy Hunting!

Nancy Leeds

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's Next II: Post Election FAQs

Hello and welcome back! I hope by now you've had some whiskey, sleep, shower, sex or whatever gets you feeling like a person again. Thank you for respecting my brief, but thoroughly enjoyed recuperation period. I got to do birthday karaoke, sleep for 18 hours straight and finally (after a year and a half) begin decorating my win! Congratulations again to everyone-especially OFA Florida, talk about a field win, huh? But more on that later. For now, down to business.

I'm totally happy to answer all your post-election job finding questions, and if I don't know the answer, committed to finding someone who can. All I ask is that you read what I've already written before you ask. This helps me get to your questions more quickly and also makes me feel appreciated. So in that vein, please read this post on general job seeky resources and advice as well as the following FAQ's before submitting your question. And awaaaaay we go!

I have only worked in state/on local campaigns, but I want to branch out and work out of state/on federal campaigns. How do I make the transition?

Networking. That's going to be my first answer to a lot of these, so you should imagine "networking" before my answer to all the other questions. I lumped these two together because they have been asked together as well as individually and the answers overlap as well. If you want to get out of state OR go federal, get in touch with the DS (Democratic Senate Committee) or the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee). If you're looking to work in Virginia or New Jersey in the "off year" (and I would humbly suggest that you consider coming to New York City as well) get in touch with a specific candidate and/or the DLCC, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee or a powerful endorsing organization, like EMILY's List, and let them know. I think there's a myth among people who have only worked within their state that it's very difficult to get a job as an out-of-stater. While in-staters may be preferable for a number of reasons, validation, local connections, knowledge of the area, you can easily overcome this barrier and find something out of state if that's what you desire.

I worked for a Republican in the past, but I want to work for Democrats. Will that hinder my chances?

Potentially, but you can work through it. People tend to want to hire people who remind them of themselves (a phenomenon pertinent to many of these scenarios) so that's a potential hurdle. In addition, many of us, especially those who have been partisan hacks for a long time, will have trouble seeing how someone can have Republican values one year and Democratic the next, and may question your motives or loyalty. The good news is since you know that, you can address it in a cover letter. Briefly explain why you worked for a member of a different party in the past--personal relationship, exceptional candidate, one party is the only game in town--and what skills and experiences are applicable to what you want to do now. In addition, if you are able, get an outside validator (someone you already know who knows those people) from within the Democratic party who can vouch for you to the campaign to which you're applying.

Will you post jobs/take resumes?

I will post jobs from organizations and people I already have a relationship with, but in general there are so many great websites that aggregate progressive job postings already that I don't feel the need to reinvent the wheel. You can find some of those organizations listed here. For the same reason, I am not collecting resumes, save for those from people with whom I have a prior relationship.

I want to work on the Hill. How do I do that?

I am not the best person to ask because I have never and probably will never have the urge to work on Capitol Hill. I will likely move to DC in May kicking and screaming. So, if you are a person who has gone from campaigns to Congress, I invite you to write in and share some advice. What I do know is it's hard. That's not to say you can't do it, just know there will be a lot of competition and it may not happen right away. Here is what I've seen work for people in the past. If you want to work in Washington, you should move to DC. The circular truth is that to get Hill experience, you often need Hill experience. So,even if it means taking an unpaid internship in a Congressional office and bartending until something opens up, you should do that. They say that DC is like Hollywood for ugly people and I think that's pretty apt. Just imagine hundreds of little organizers just like you wandering around resume in hand.

In addition, you should network your glittery little heart out (there's that word again). Talk to your Senators and Representatives, anyone you know who has connections to current Representatives and Senators, and the staff of any Senators or Representatives whom you helped elect. Don't just ask about their offices, but their colleagues' as well. Find out which members are newly elected and thus might be looking for staff. Think about how you might have a connection to their geographic area or issues of interest. Tom Manatos is a good source for job openings on Capitol Hill.

This was my first time working on a campaign, am I a candidate for a leadership (RFD) position next cycle?

That really depends. Sometimes when people say "working" on a campaign they mean volunteering (not to diminish the great work our volunteers do) and even "volunteering" can mean anything from putting out yard signs to working full time side by side with staff. Organizing can be similarly varied. Were you a deputy field organizer for two weeks or were you the first on the ground in your area organizing for a year? Very, very generally people are organizers for two cycles before they become Regionals on a statewide or Field Directors on Congressionals, but it varies widely in both directions and of course you could always switch departments.

I love this job, but how can I afford to do it all the time?

Some great advice on the subject from my friend, Ed, here. Also, supporter housing.

I feel like crap (physically).

Sleep it off, champ! That's totally normal. Your body was running on adrenaline toward the end of the campaign and now you're coming down, so give yourself a little time to recover. Plus if you were in bumblecrunch Texas like I was, you probably started to bleed fried chicken, so maybe get some exercise and a nice home cooked meal.

I miss campaigns! I am trying to relax but I am so lonely! How can I go back to normal life? How do you deal with this feeling?

That's why I started this blog!

Good Luck! Now that you have read these answers thoroughly, feel free to ask away. Look forward to information on career fairs and how to write a good campaign resume, plus back to our regularly scheduled programming all coming up soon!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Morning After

Shortly after I began writing CampaignSick, I did a brief stint on a coordinated campaign. Although we won all of our races and I got to work with some operatives who I love and admire, I did not particularly respect the candidate and did not feel respected by many members of the staff, nor did I find the parts of the operation particularly well run. The day after the election, amidst celebration in our headquarters, I sat on an nationwide conference call and burst into tears every time a friend's losing Senate or Congressional race was mentioned. 2010 was a difficult year for Democrats and I was glad to be part of the anomaly that elected several new ones, but I could not fully enjoy my victory disconnected from my compatriots who were hurting all over the country.

I know what it is to give your heart to a race and a candidate, to lose health, wealth and relationships in pursuit of a cause and still come up empty. Although that candidate has been since discredited, I will never forget the sense of loss and disillusionment I felt waking up the day after losing the Iowa caucuses, nor do I really want to.

Today, I experience the exact opposite of the emotions I felt in 2010. For the majority of you who won, I am so, so proud. I hope it's not presumptuous to feel that I share in your victory and take genuine pride in our efforts and your accomplishments. I started crying last night (while still keeping voters on line at the polls) when I read a tweet that Missouri was projecting for McCaskill and have not stopped for more than a full hour since. Every celebratory facebook post, tweet and text message makes me tear up with affection for this special community and for my friends, many of whom have worked tirelessly for our cause for years and are only now experiencing the victories they so richly deserve. I cannot wait to celebrate with you over the coming weeks, at Rootscamp, on the internet, and back in New York City.

A lot has changed in the two years since I started this blog. Given the blessing of my readership it would be hard for me to argue that I am disconnected from anyone this morning. Also given that blessing, I would have been welcomed to spend these last two weeks on a number of races across the country, and indeed received several offers. As you probably know by now, I came to Texas to work as the GOTV Director for Nick Lampson's unsuccessful Congressional bid.

Nick would have been a superlative Congressman, and in fact already was. He is a genuine, warm, intelligent person, experienced politician, and a sincere and passionate advocate for his community. However in fairness, I did not know that when I accepted this position. I came down because a campaign manager I liked and respected asked me to. I had already resolved to leave on the first decent race that offered to pay me and said yes before he had even finished offering me a job. But unlike 2010, I immediately fell in love with the candidate and his campaign staff. Those of you who have worked with me in the past can attest to my high standards, work ethic, and lack of regard for those I find incompetent. Every other time I have come in this late to an operation, I have had to overhaul the field plan, pull a coup d'etat or single handedly recruit an entire campaign's worth of volunteers. Not so here.

There is nothing else these guys could have done, and nothing I would have done differently. They had a campaign and a candidate that were ten times better than the opposition and operated at a level befitting five times the resources they were given. Their field director graciously and without ego welcomed me into his operation and in two weeks he and I have developed the kind of mutual respect and friendship that only comes from shared passion and talent and often takes years to form. His organizers left it all on the field and their enthusiasm and instincts reaffirmed my passion for campaigning and reasons for writing this blog. Working for the Lampson campaign reminded me that there are still truly great candidates and truly wonderful people for me to work with when I finish school. My experience here has left me infinitely more energized and optimistic than when I came down. The only negative emotion I feel is my empathy for my coworkers, knowing the pain that comes with giving it your all and still not reaping the reward. There is no campaign staff in the country with whom I would have rather spent election night, regardless of outcome.

I am going to celebrate with them for a couple of days and then head back to my temporary real/fake life in New York. Won or lost, I am incredibly proud of all of you and I look forward to many celebratory emails and posts in the days to come.

Get some whiskey and sleep!


Monday, November 5, 2012

See You In Victory!

This is actually my last chance to talk to CampaignSick Nation before the big day tomorrow. I keep thinking about what I can say that hasn't been said before. I already gave you my big pep talk and you have most of my good anecdotes.

I was pontificating on what to say on my way out to the dumpster with various Diet Coke and beer bottles, when I had one of those detached from reality campaign staffer experiences where I forget what state I'm in. Usually I just laugh those off, but today I found it poignant. In a way, I am in more that one office. I stand on the shoulders of giants, generations of organizers like me who have fought and endured setbacks so that we could have the progress for which we will vote tomorrow. On each new campaign I bring my former coworkers with me, in my heart; their best practices, their mistakes and the genuine lasting affection we have for one another are mine wherever I am. I'm not just in Texas. I'm in Florida, Colorado, Missouri, Connecticut and Brooklyn with them. And of course, I have all of you. I can't tell you how honored I am to be as various contributors have described me, your "big sister," "field director to the world" and the "organizers' fairy godmother." I want you to know that I am with you as well and I wish I could be there with each and every one of you to celebrate with or comfort you tomorrow evening.

There are many times I will tell you to be less dramatic or to keep it together, but this is not one of them. The truth is I get super emo at this point. This job is special, damnit and important. Whether you never work a campaign again or you make this your career you will look back on these times fondly and never be 40, working an office job and wonder if you could have done something more worthwhile with your youth. I believe our candidates are going to win tomorrow, but I also believe that they would lose without a world class turnout operation. Right now, at this moment, you have the most important job in the world.

I could not think of a bigger blessing as I near my (yikes!) 28th birthday this Thursday than to have the love and respect of the people and profession to whom I have devoted my life and whom I love. I thank God every day for the honor and responsibility of connecting with so many progressive organizers who care about our country and strive to make it and themselves better. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

From one organizer to another, give 'em hell tomorrow.

See you in Victory!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election Day Confirm Calls

I went to write a little note about making a good E-day Confirm Call for the organizers over here and I thought it might be something you all could benefit from as well. So here it goes. Best practices for E-day Confirm Calls:

Make (at least) three rounds of calls to your Election Day Vols. Sunday, Monday AM and Monday Evening. Leave a message on Sunday and Monday Eve.

Never say we're calling to "confirm" always says we're calling to "remind." These people signed up, the expectation should be that they are showing.

Even if you have spoken to this volunteer before, make sure you confirm the staging location address and the phone number to reach out to you-. Impress on them that you are expecting them and that they should call you if they have any problems getting there.

Always ask the volunteer if they have someone they can bring with them (husband, wife, children, friend).

Remind volunteer of anything he/she will need to bring (for example a cell phone and charger).

If they are scheduled for a later shift ask them to come for an earlier shift as well.

Sample: Eday confirm call

Hey this is a message for Loretta. This is Nancy with the Jonah Hill for Congress campaign. Just wanted to remind you we're counting on seeing you at our campaign office at 169 Cashew Blvd in Fayetteville tomorrow at 10am to make some phone calls. We are expecting a high turnout election on both sides so please make sure you are here on time to help us turn out as many voters for Jonah as possible. Don't forget to bring your cell phone and charger. If you have any questions at all, please give me a call at 866-NANCY. Can't wait to see you tomorrow! We're counting on you to help us win!