6 Tips on building a relational organizing campaign

Emma Brown

Relational organizing is becoming a "must-have" for today's political campaigns and movements. In the world  today, building those personal, authentic connections to get people interested, excited, and ready to take action is critical. With AI becoming more prominent, real and personal relationships are becoming ever more important. That is why your volunteers, staff, friends and family reaching out to their personal network is essential to win.  It's like a friend-to-friend power move!

Volunteers can encourage their friends to undertake various actions, including:

  • Chasing ballots
  • Making a donation
  • Attending an event
  • Reminding people to vote
  • Signing a petition
  • Volunteering for a cause
  • Talking with their friends

The actual interaction between a volunteer and their friend can occur either offline or online, depending on the preferred communication channel for both parties.

Strategically building a relational organizing campaign requires planning and adequate resources. Sufficient time is essential for successful execution. For local campaigns, a minimum of three months is recommended, while regional campaigns should allocate at least six months, and national or statewide actions may require six to twelve months.

Relational organizing is very influential, recommendations from friends, create social pressure and impact behavior. In politics, if a friend openly supports a specific candidate, the voter is more likely to support the same candidate. Individuals are more inclined to act on information received from someone they trust. A friend's recommendation regarding a candidate serves as a testimonial or endorsement that influences the voter's perception of the candidate.

Building a community of supporters through relational organizing tools adds momentum to the campaign. Supporters can communicate with one another, fostering unity and enabling action on issues affecting the organization even after the election.

Enthusiastic supporters who participate in relational organizing are deeply invested in the candidate and the cause, making them ideal advocates. They understand why the candidate needs voter support and can handle interactions with non-supporters effectively. Their familiarity with the voters they engage with allows them to tailor their messaging and tone in outreach efforts.

To improve political campaigns using relational organizing, consider the following tips:

1. Treat Relational Organizing with the same level of importance as door-to-door or phone campaigns.

Assign someone to take charge and adopt a systematic approach. Scale your relational program by hiring volunteers or staff members. Develop a calendar and set weekly and monthly goals for individuals and teams. 

2. Map out the voters.

Make sure you look at the groups in your target demographic, such as community organizations, churches, schools, senior groups, parent groups, county parties, youth sports groups, and advocacy organizations. Don't forget to engage with groups that will benefit from the passage of a bill or the victory of a particular candidate. Engage the entire campaign team and leverage all available channels.

3. Engage the entire campaign team and leverage all available channels.

Unlike efforts like calling, texting, or peer-to-peer outreach, relational organizing involves engaging the complete campaign team. This includes the campaign and candidate manager, as well as teams responsible for fundraising, field operations, communications, and digital strategies. Utilize tools like relational organizing apps and Constituent Relationship Managers (CRM) like SwipeRed to organize and execute your efforts effectively.

4. Develop a volunteer capacity for relational organizing. 

Transforming supporters into organizers empowers them to recruit additional supporters and engage their friends through texts, emails, and calls. This approach prevents the campaign from being solely reliant on campaign members, but it requires planning and resources. The most effective way to transition a canvasser into an organizer is through direct conversations.

5. Initiate relational organizing before implementing door-to-door, phone, or other outreach methods 

Research shows that relational organizing is a practical method for persuading voters, but it may not always be feasible to reach every voter using this approach. By initiating relational organizing efforts beforehand can integrate the other methods.

6. Educate your volunteers about the significance of relational organizing and how it makes them a critical part of the campaign.  

Share the comparative effectiveness of the different methods of outreach and help them to get over their conservative tendency not to talk about politics with Friends and neighbors.   

A real life example

In 2022 Dennis Smith for AG, built a state wide field team based on a relational organizing strategy.  The campaign had turf leaders that recruited and trained advocates across the state.  The teams would host house parties, friend banking events, candidate Zoom get togethers, and team competitions to build enthusiasm and spread the word.  The result of these efforts, the team would message friends at a rate of 6,000 per hour. They loved the camaraderie and the enthusiasm around #teamsmith.

Results - Smith raised more money, had the largest volunteer team, and was the most innovative campaign of any other candidate in the race.

#swipered #relationalorganizing #teamsmith