Since 2015, we have worked with over 2,000 clients on their relational organizing efforts. Every year we learn something new. Previously I had written about our 11 relational organizing best practices. Below are our latest insights from the 2018 midterms.
- Relational Organizing Scales. The research has been clear that relational organizing is effective. To date, the limitation has been the ability to scale. This cycle, our clients enabled their supporters to send over 1MM friend-to-friend emails, texts, and social media posts. Our largest clients sent over 100K+ friend-to-friend messages.
- Relational Supporters Are Different Than Typical Volunteers. One of our more surprising findings this cycle is that the typical volunteer who is great at phone, door, or text outreach often likes being anonymous and would prefer reaching out to strangers than their friends. The best relational organizing supporters are typically individuals with deep ties in their community but are so busy helping with other causes that they don’t have the time to phone bank or knock on doors.
- It’s More Like Large-Dollar Fundraising. Asking a supporter to use their social capital to help your cause or candidate is a significant request. Fundraisers often spend months cultivating donors to contribute towards a campaign and they follow-up with donors to make introductions or hold events to get their friends to contribute. Similarly, you will have the most success if you develop a relationship with a supporter before asking them to reach out to their friends on your behalf. And, you will have the most success if you start your relational organizing efforts at the beginning of your campaign.
- Put Local Leaders and Community Organizers in Charge. The best supporters to engage for relational organizing are individuals who are respected, influential and well connected in a community. Such individuals include PTA members, church leaders, elected officials, party leaders, other local leaders, and operatives. You will have the most success if your relational organizing efforts are run by the political or community organizing teams that typically develop these relationships.
- Relational Organizing is Not Just About GOTV. Friends are the best messengers, whether you are convincing someone to donate, volunteer, support a cause, or vote. To make the most of your relational organizing efforts, you should start early and build the program over the entire campaign’s life cycle. If you wait until GOTV, your impact will be greatly curtailed.
(A version of this post originally ran on the NDTC blog)
Sangeeth Peruri is the CEO and founder of OutreachCircle, a digital organizing platform that harnesses the power of personal relationships to inspire action and drive change. Formerly president of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees, he serves on the boards of Orenda Education, Think Together and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. In his spare time, he is a fitness fanatic and competed on American Ninja Warrior 6 (check out his video here).