CAMPAIGNING DURING CORONAVIRUS
Thank you to our friends at The Management Institute, Tuesday Company, the M&R Lab, Power Labs, Progressphiles listserv, epolitics.com, other Democratic state parties and committees, and others for providing some of the content that we repurposed for this guide.
In light of the coronavirus epidemic and the Vermont Democratic Party’s recommendations to cancel in-person gatherings over 25 people, postpone all in-person campaigning, and adopt remote/virtual working environments, we want to provide our candidate campaigns, local Democratic parties and allied activist organizations and campaigns with recommendations on how to continue campaigning during the coronavirus.
A good reading primer is this Medium article from a group of activists, organizers, technologists and communicators: How might a pandemic affect US society and politics in 2020? Another good resource is, Epolitics.com political organizing and campaigning in the time of coronavirus.
ADDITIONAL TRAININGS AND RESOURCES ON HOW TO ORGANIZE DIGITALLY DURING CORONAVIRUS
Fundraising experts in the nonprofit and political world are predicting fundraising is going to take a hit during the coronavirus, and will be especially hard on those that rely on events.
During this time when we are recommending cancelling all in-person gatherings, there are still ways to fundraise during coronavirus. Try video conference fundraisers to replace in person fundraisers, and connect with your top funders and ensure their 2020 commitment.
Think through the whole process of cancelling and planning events. The Institute of Fundraising has good guidance on the full thought process.
Some alternatives to in-person events include:
- Virtual fundraisers utilizing video conferencing
- Old-fashioned snail mail
- Increased call time
- Supplemental email and other tactics, such as text fundraising and digital appeals*
- 1:1 donor meetings or small group gatherings with video conferencing
- Engage your supporter base with online surveys that ask respondents on what they want and need during this time and what kind of policies they’d like to see to combat coronavirus
*Don’t use email subject lines and other messaging in fundraising appeals that are alarmist
General Planning and Processes
- Think long-term and set up for late summer and fall
- Insist on having “act of God” contingency clauses in all your event related contracts to provide a safeguard against later cancellation
- Review all signed contracts to determine if you’re within the date range for full or partial refunds
- Familiarize yourself with the refunds process for any currently scheduled events
- Communicate, communicate, communicate, especially when cancelling an event, including talking points regarding factors considered in the decision to cancel
Democratic Digital Fundraising Resources
Contingency Language for Future Fundraiser Invites Example
The safety of our guests, the event staff, and the speaker are our top concern. We don’t know what the future holds for public gatherings due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of medical professionals to determine if we need to reschedule. In the meantime, we hope that you will Save the Date and help with our fundraising by purchasing tickets at [link].
- Hold yourself and your team to a high standard by helping others putting out information and educating the public with information about the pandemic, and by fighting misinformation that you see about coronavirus
- Use messaging that moves away from a panic response and toward a caring response and frame our goals as protecting others
- Use crisis communications tactics and develop a crisis communications checklist
Ideas for Organizing During the Coronavirus:
ONLINE CONFERENCES: Modify conferences to online gatherings where you can excite and train your supporters.
A national progressive advocacy organization changed their annual volunteer summit from a 3-day, politico filled in-person event to an online-only convening with Zoom hosting speakers, trainings, and relationship building.
VIRTUAL VOLUNTEER MEETINGS & HOUSE PARTIES: Invite people to a virtual phonebank, text bank, letter writing party, or general organizing meeting by using Google Hangouts, Zoom, or other webinar technology to run them. Give them a quick campaign update and then do some useful volunteering. The best meetings will start with an emotional campaign update from an organizer, staffer, or the candidate. After introducing, train them with the skill they’ll be using and then have them do it right there on the call or webinar, bring everyone back together for a debrief, and then have them commit to the next step. Take a page out of the remote work playbook and gather everyone at the same day and time for a video conference to organize together. Platforms like Zoom allow for “breakout rooms” so that volunteers can meet each other, or use Facebook Live for the easiest low-lift solution.
TALK TO YOUR PEOPLE: Ask organizers to build relationships and give guidance through online chat and texts. Personal outreach matters in a disconnected time so call and text your whole list and do it over and over again.
A faith-based advocacy organization in the midwest communicated daily with supporters via chat messages to keep them motivated and trained to volunteer. Their supporters did a remarkable job communicating their unique stories as they shared content on their personal social media accounts. The content was compelling precisely because it was a mix of personal accounts and fact-based education on the issues.
TELE TOWNHALLS: Use Facebook Live or a real-time AMA as the venue for your next town hall. Use your phone camera or your computer keyboard to respond to questions from the safety and comfort of your home, while you’re cooking (Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) or riding in a car (Senator Cory Booker).
ONLINE CONTENT: Lean into user-generated content! We know it does extremely well online, and folks can DIY from their living room. We’ve seen a statewide labor union create their own volunteer recruitment video by cutting together selfie videos made by members of the union talking about organizing online.
RELATIONAL ORGANIZING: Relational contact (a voter contact by someone they know rather than a stranger) has been shown to be one of the most effective methods of increasing voter turnout and volunteer engagement. Look at using digital tools like Team by Tuesday, Hustle, ThruText, OutVote, Outreach Circle, and others allow for digital direct voter contact. We know that supporters talking to their friends is 20x more impactful than cold outreach. Whether your strategy calls for friend-to-friend, friend-to-peer, or even peer-to-peer outreach, it is now easier than ever to meet people where they are: online. Have organizers use peer-to-peer text and phone banking to activate your list in their area and recruit relational organizing volunteers. Each volunteer is then responsible for reaching out to 10-20 of their friends/families about your campaign every 1-2 months. Their ask to their friends could be to support your candidacy or cause, volunteer, donate, vote, or something else. Here is an example of a strong relational organizing program that you can start with.
GROW YOUR TEAM’S SOCIAL FOLLOWING: Train organizers to focus on growing their own social media audiences on social channels with people living in key areas. Start with follow/followback blitzes, posting tons of content (5-10x per day), commenting on dozens of relevant posts, and DMing new followers with your petition or voter registration form. Have organizers identify 10-20 key influencers originally from target areas, and encourage them to speak out for your campaign or issue. Then, organizers can grow their partnerships with local chapters of key allied orgs via social media interaction and planned joint activities such as Twitter chats. Organizations can sometimes be uncomfortable with this ceding of control, but it’s worked out better than most organizations’ local social media channels every time we’ve done it. Also consider pitching social media share squads among your supporters.
CURATE A DIGITAL SPEAKER SERIES: Organize an “exclusive” (or not exclusive!) speaker series where, once or every so often (however often you want) volunteers can call in/join a webinar. Consider pairing experts with speakers from impacted communities. Give super volunteers a role introducing or asking questions. Invite reporters who might be interested in doing a profile. Or, do it publicly as a series of Facebook Live events or even prerecorded videos, released once a day for a week or two.
BUILD ONLINE COMMUNITY: Start a Slack instance for your campaign. Give organizers, volunteers, and supporters a place to socialize online as offices remain shuttered and hangout spots empty out. Encourage non-work-related interaction in these spaces, and model it yourself. It will help connect folks, provide meaningful experiences beyond the transactional ask, and build long-term affinity for your campaign.
DO A LOCAL MEDIA PUSH: Timed with a news moment on your issue, encourage volunteers to submit letters to the editor or op-eds to their local paper. Provide a toolkit. Support on social media by encouraging people to tweet at their local media outlet to cover your issue. Call local reporters and set up virtual briefings on your issue with a local organizer and a local expert or influential voice. Pitch an editorial board.
PUSH FOR ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION: In-person voter registration events are going to be affected, but we can’t lose time getting voters registered for 2020. Promote online voter registration and voter information via the SOS website.
PROMOTE ONLINE CENSUS: It has never been easier to fill out your Census, whether online, over the phone, or by mail - all without having to meet a census taker. Go to my2020census.gov and you can complete yours right now.
WEBINAR AND CONFERENCE CALL SERVICES TO USE:
- Zoom (Check out Linda Gravell's Zoom user guide!)
- Google Hangouts
**VDP will be moving all pre-planned delegate selection and other trainings to an online environment until May 1st (at least).
CONFIDENTIALITY & SECURE COMMUNICATIONS
Because of the lack of in-person confidential meetings that may occur and the increased email and online traffic we’ll see, we highly recommend now is the time to complete the security checklist and use encrypted communication.
Switch to using Signal, Wickr, or WhatsApp for sensitive messaging.
HR: WORK FROM HOME & MANAGING REMOTE EMPLOYEES
Shout out to our friends at The Management Center for these resources
On preparing your workplace
- Coronavirus Could Force Teams to Work Remotely (we particularly like the section on normalizing new work environments)
- Going Remote Overnight: Preparing for the Coronavirus
- 6 Tips For Managing Remote Employees: How To Maintain Productivity And Engagement
- These 5 Tech Companies Are Providing Free Remote Working Tools During The Coronavirus Outbreak
For coping with stress
- Coronavirus: How Emotional Contagion Exacts a Toll
- 7 Science-Based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety
- 13 Of the Best Apps to Manage Your Stress
On how people with disabilities are being impacted
- 5 Things To Know About Coronavirus And People With Disabilities
- ‘The Cripples Will Save You’: A Critical Coronavirus Message from a Disability Activist
And, a reminder that infection is only one thing that’s scary about this outbreak:
When Xenophobia Spreads Like a Virus
Bonus (because who doesn’t need a bit of levity during tough times?): How to Work From Home Most Chaotically
PUBLIC OPINION ON CORONAVIRUS
Tracking polling on the coronavirus with daily updates:
- How concerned are you about a coronavirus outbreak in your local area?
- How satisfied are you with the U.S. Government’s current response to the coronavirus outbreak?
- Additional survey with questions about the outbreak
- CDC Fact Sheet
- World Health Organization Coronavirus Video
- CDC Guidance on Handwashing
- CDC Travel Guidance
- The National Governors Association’s Coronavirus – What You Need to Know page includes links to specific official state actions and activities.