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7 Tips For Organizing Your Campaign For Change

Updated on September 17, 2015
Door Of New Beginning
Door Of New Beginning | Source

Here are practical, concisely written tips to assist the reformer in their desire to improve the political well-being of their municipalities .

Anyone desiring to change their local community or state for the better, has tools here at their disposal that are tried and proven.

Although tips outlined here specifically address launching an issue campaign for change, to reform policy, or to change legislation, many concepts here are also very useful for electoral campaigns, where one would primarily be focused on getting a person elected to office. However, electoral campaigns require more strategic objectives and techniques that I will discuss in another article.

These seven tips, or strategically important guidelines to wage a campaign for reform, are not designed to be a comprehensively complete blueprint for success, but they are important foundational guidelines, that without them, would almost certainly guarantee failure.

Change Is Immortal

Change is something that is immortal. It is because nothing stays the same, nor is it designed to.

It is a universal force perpetually imposing its will upon all creation. Consider the flower. The butterfly. The four seasons. The human growth progress. Even rocks change over time. Change is often aggressive and unpleasant in its application. It is a natural principle to initiate what nature has demanded, which is growth and progress. Let us keep this in mind as we move to initiate changes and reforms in communities everywhere.

1. Have A Clearly Defined Goal

Make sure your goals are clearly defined, and attainable. An issue campaign without clearly defined goals, will surely fizzle out. If your campaign for change is not realistically and measurably attainable, it will not last. Even a plan that may appear unrealistic to many, if there are clearly defined, measurable steps to obtain victory, it is more believable. Anything that is believable to enough people, can be attainable.

The more defined your goal is, the more attainable it will become, and the more it can be broken down into sub-goals and tasks. I call it “breaking rocks,” or making little rocks out of big rocks.

2. Lobby and Pressure Key Players

Whether it is an elected official, candidate for public office, or business, it is essential to have a well thought out, executable plan to apply pressure to your target key players. Learn what are their pressure points and press them. Also, equally as important, leave the door wide open for dialogue and negotiations. Keep your targets under the realization that you are willing to relent pressure, or even endorse them, when appropriate, if they sign on to concrete, specific items of your concern.

3. Have a Communication And Media Plan

Although media outreach and management are part of an overall communications plan, it is such an integral part of any campaign, that it is important to discuss each.

The main mediums of communication are your volunteers through field operations, mailings, online, and media outlets. It is important to make sure every messaging medium is promoting the same overall message.

He who controls the message, wins

I have a common slogan that I repeat to clients and colleagues all of the time. He who controls the message, wins. In a campaign, there is at least two or more messages in the airways competing for dominance in the emotions of constituents. Whoever can dominate that message, wins.

When it comes to messaging for your campaign, personalize your message. Make it relative to everyday people. It is the main reason major news outlets like to interview victims, and talk to people who, “experience” certain news items personally. More viewers are more likely to tune into personal experiences, as well as more readers will read personal experiences and interviews. Your message should continually speak to a person’s emotions, not their intellect. When speaking facts, it should be relevant to a person’s personal emotional experiences, and values. All intellectual content should have an emotional message that will connect to a person’s value system.

It is usually a good idea to be able to engage people through email. It is an important way to stay engaged between activities.
Have a central place, such as a webpage where people can easily engage and/or make contact with your campaign. If you have a phone number on your webpage, have a plan for phone calls to be returned promptly. If no one answers the campaign phone, calls generally should be returned within 24 hours, or one business day.
If someone emails you, respond promptly. Give yourself no longer than 24-48 hours to reply, and if you think you may need more than 48 hours to email a reply, activate an auto-reply feature to respond until you are able to reply. This practice gives the image that you’re a vibrant, responsive, well-organized operation. Success breeds success. People are more reluctant to join an organization, if it doesn’t appear that it has potential for success. The more you are able to communicate your progress, your success (or your potential for success), the more you will be able to attract people and resources that will make you a success.

To sum up an effective communication plan, including the media plan, is: Construct and manage the right message, target the right people, the right amount of times, and you will win your campaign.

Interfaith Justice Rally at Justice Center in Cleveland Ohio. May 26,2015
Interfaith Justice Rally at Justice Center in Cleveland Ohio. May 26,2015 | Source


No matter how lofty and well-meaning your goal is, you have to be able to get it in front of people.

Get earned media. Earned media includes online and offline. Offline earned media consists of your local print news outlets, radio, television, and yes, your local cable shows. It is a good idea to introduce yourself to any local news publishers, and develop a relationship with them. Notice that I did not say friendship. There is a huge difference between relationship and friendship when it comes to the media. They are not your friends, but consider them as you would a business partnership between two entities that have different core interests, but enter into a relationship to satisfy a common interest. Your local newspaper is always hungry for news worthy of printing. You have worthy news that is hungry to be shared. After your overall campaign is introduced, any news, events that you are convinced people would want to hear about, and should hear about, should be communicated to your media contacts via a press release or press advisory. If it is a larger, regional paper, be sure to target the reporter who would cover stories such as yours. Also, with larger newspapers, keep in mind that the editorial board
is often separate from the rest of the paper, which warrants a separate outreach.

Launch social media campaigns. A digital media, or otherwise known as online media campaign consists of social media, email, and having a web-based campaign, which is essentially having an active webpage that engages the public. The key to digital media is having emotional, shareable content, that can provoke action.
Launch grassroots efforts to engage people in your community, including door-to-door, phone calls, speaking at local events, organizing rallies, and appearances at local radio and talk shows that reach your targeted people.

4. Network

Partnerships are key. Reach out to other organizations to sign on to, and support your issue. Target prominent organizations as well as not so prominent ones. Success breeds success. The more organizations and prominent individuals that will support your movement, the more you will be able to attract. It is the snowball effect. Once you land a big fish, it will be noticeably easier to land other big fish as well as more smaller ones. When organizations endorse your movement, try to get concrete commitments from them, such as donations, volunteers, logistical support, statements for a press release, speaker for rallies, events, etc. A letter or email to their constituents in support of your issue can go a long way.

Interfaith Clergy from the Greater Clergy Alliance rally for justice in downtown Cleveland, Ohio
Interfaith Clergy from the Greater Clergy Alliance rally for justice in downtown Cleveland, Ohio | Source

5. Plan For Longevity

Have a plan for bringing on “fresh” troops for your team. Time can wear anyone out, as well as tactics implemented by your opposition designed to put pressure on and eliminate your key team members. Follow the ABR rule: “Always Be Recruiting,” to add people to your team and develop leadership. More key troops help alleviate burnout for the long haul campaigns.

Continue to measure progress towards goals and continually communicate every seemingly minute progress to your supporters and members of your team.
Support your team members in everything. Be engaged in their personal struggles that directly or indirectly result from participation in the campaign, ie., incarceration, media attacks, job loss, harassment, etc. Often campaign participation affects personal lives of those who have families that depend on them at home. Conversely, family needs can affect campaign participation. Be tuned in and empathetic with these issues. Example: A key team member may be able to work extra hours in the evening if they can bring their child with them after school, or work extra projects at night if they get a ride home. Whether an operation is a paid, or volunteer operation, being tuned in to individual and personal needs of your team, as it pertains to the operation, adds deeper bonding to the campaign, causes stronger investment which is highly beneficial for the long haul. It is also good policy. Long, meaningful relationships often develop from issue and electoral campaigns.

6. Have A Budget

A budget keeps you disciplined and focused on the activities that matter at winning. Determine how much money it will take to win your campaign and how each dollar will be spent.

Your budget should be a fluid document that is modified and updated often, as campaigns are typically a fluid operation. It is a good idea to have program leaders or directors to submit a proposed budget for their area, ie., field, communications, administrative/operations, etc. If your field director, or any other director, submits their proposed budget that they are responsible for, they are more likely to focus on strategic priorities in the submission and management of their budget.

Never leave an area or item blank if you don’t have a projected budget for it. It is better to leave a placeholder figure there until you get a more accurate cost estimate, then you can always update it.

Overall, your budget is your manager, and your guide. Other than the campaign plan, it is the most important document of your campaign. If it is managed effectively, it will manage you and the campaign effectively.


7. Have A Fundraising Plan

A plan to fund activities is essential. There are several avenues of fundraising available to any campaign. Some of the main avenues include organizing events, direct mail, phone calling, and online and email fundraising. Organizing events are always popular, and serves as good mobilizing and recruitment tools, as well as to bond with supporters. Direct mail is still effective, but becomes more important to know your donor, and to do your homework on your prospects, as opposed to spending time and resources on sending out random fundraising letters. Phone prospecting donors is an important staple of fundraising, especially for electoral campaigns. With this method, it is even more important to know your donors. Research them to know their giving level, or giving capability. Speaking to potential donors over the phone, increases the success ratio exponentially, compared to mailings, so it becomes important to not waste that precious contact on making the wrong ask amount, such as asking $10 from a $500 giver, or vice versa.

There is no question that internet fundraising has become highly successful, and yields the largest bang for your buck. It is relatively cheaper to fundraise online than anywhere else.

Please keep in mind that with email and online fundraising, everything flows from your website. Your website is your online home, the mothership of your online presence.
In order to wage an effective online fundraising operation, or any online communication operation, including with social media, you must have a living, thriving, active website that communicates thoroughly and succinctly to supporters and potential supporters.

Your “Contribute” button should be prominently displayed on your website. Whenever you are sending out fundraising emails and any online communication that focuses on contributing, it should link back to the fundraising page on your website. Please test your links to make sure they actually link back to the page you want it to link to. I cannot count how many times I have clicked on someone’s link that had an ask or a take action component to it, but the link was broken, not enabling me to be able to click through to the intended page.

If it is a fundraising email, then no matter how tempting it may become to do otherwise, do not stick another ask into the same email, such as a volunteer ask, or recruitment ask. Send a separate email for each distinct ask. As far as content, make sure to connect with the values of your audience during your ask. Whenever discussing facts, figures, or jabbing at your opposition, be sure to engage emotionally with your readers in a way that highlights how yours and their values connect at why the person should give.

Embracing The Process

For anyone married to the prospects of changing their communities for the better, I am reminded of a quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

To live for a principle, for the triumph of some reform by which all mankind are to be lifted up to be wedded to an idea may be, after all, the holiest and happiest of marriages.


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