Campaigning during the Coronavirus
The South Carolina Democratic Party has decided to postpone all in-person events and campaigning and transition to a remote environment based on recommendations from the DNC and health professionals. We hope this guide will help provide campaigns, allied organizations, and county parties with guidance to move their work to a remote platform during this time. Thank you to the DNC, several media organizations, and other state parties who helped provide content for this guide.
We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to elect Democrats in South Carolina.
A good reading primer is this Medium article from a group of activists, organizers, technologists and communicators:
Table of Contents
TRAININGS ON HOW TO ORGANIZE DURING THIS TIME
GUIDES FROM OTHERS ON HOW TO ORGANIZE DURING THIS TIME
HR: WORK FROM HOME & MANAGING REMOTE EMPLOYEES
CONNECT WITH OTHER ORGANIZERS
PUBLIC OPINION ON CORONAVIRUS
Trainings on Digital Organizing
Guides from others on how to organize at this time
Resources for organizers, Campaigners during COVID-19
Digital Strategy for Political Campaigns during the Coronavirus
The Digital Plan
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 the CDC is 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.
Below are some examples of fundraising activities that are appropriate for this time:
— Virtual fundraisers utilizing video conferencing. More information on virtual meetings can be found in the “Organizing” section.
— Old-fashioned fundraising mailers. Make sure any messaging is sensitive to the situation.
— Increased call time. Now is a great time to check-in on donors while typical daily activities are put on pause for most people. Call first as a concerned friend, and second as a fundraiser. It is also critically important to set aside specific time blocks for 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. It is unclear how long the outbreak will last, but it is best to anticipate a worst case scenario even if it is unlikely.
— 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
Actblue – firstname.lastname@example.org
NGP VAN – email@example.com
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].
— Start a conversation that educates your audience with reliable information, minimizes panic, and fights misinformation.
— Only site information from reputable sources such as SCDHEC and the South Carolina Elections Commission for updates on voting. Use links to ensure people can stay up to date on the latest developments.
— Your message should be rooted in inclusion, empowerment, justice, and opportunity for all. This is a time to emphasize our values of interdependence, mutual solidarity, shared purpose and collective action.
— Be sure to bring a caring and empathetic response to the conversation, as our #1 goal is to protect others.
— Find more information and strong talking points on a positive progressive response to the coronavirus from Anat Shenker-Osorio.
— The best messaging is informed messaging. Many news sites have removed their paywall for coronavirus coverage, making stories and content free to all. Be sure to not only stay up to date with statewide, national, and international news organizations, but also verify facts and sources before you rebroadcast their message.
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.
— Test meeting. Not everyone will be familiar with your meeting software of choice. If possible, set up a test meeting that people can join in advance to download any drivers and try out cameras/microphones.
— Cameras on. Encourage everyone to join with their cameras on (put this in the invite). It’s more fun and helps to make it feel more real.
— Introductions. Start with introductions to build a sense of community. For groups that already know each other, try an icebreaker.
— Follow up. We have found texting to schedule calls is extremely efficient. Affinity texting is especially helpful here as well.
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 created 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 Hustle, ThruText, and others that 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 phonebanking 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.
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 sign up forms.
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 supervolunteers 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 channel for your campaign/Party. 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 heavily online voter registration on the scvotes.org website and we hope you’ll amplify the SCDP’s iwillvote.com where folks can find their polling locations, register to vote, see how many unregistered voters are in their community, and donate to support our voter registration mail program.
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.
Miscellaneous: In the current environment, going door-to-door can put both the canvasser and the canvassee at risk. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to convert in-person (both paid and volunteer) programs to digital outreach programs. The key is to convert cold outreach to warm outreach.
Below is an example of what you can do.
— Community mapping. Create a thorough list of all local organizations, community and Faith leaders, current and former elected officials.
— Training. Train volunteers in deep canvassing and building relationships. The goal should be ongoing engagement and not a transaction.
— Reach out. Update your call scripts for VIPs and community leaders. At the end of each call, ask for introductions to others in the community.
— Digital ambassador. Ask local leaders if they are willing to be digital ambassadors for your program.
Above MISC ideas are from Outreach Circle
Webinar & Conference Call Technologies to Use
Texting & Relational Organizing Tools
Utilize #TechYourself to read about all the various technologies
— ThruText* (& see State Legislative Red2Blue below)
— Outreach Circle
— The Tuesday Company
*SCDP has pricing partnerships with these companies to provide discounts to campaigns. To find out about these pricing structures please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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)
For coping with stress
On how people with disabilities are being impacted
And, a reminder that infection is only one thing that’s scary about this outbreak:
Bonus (because who doesn’t need a bit of levity during tough times?): How to Work From Home Most Chaotically
CONNECT WITH OTHER ORGANIZERS
Thanks to PowerLab for below list!
In recent weeks, new mutual aid networks have sprung up around the country. Other older networks have been re-activated, and still more have been around for a long time and never stopped being active. We haven’t seen any mechanism for these networks to communicate directly with one another, so we decided to build one. We know that we have a lot to learn from each other. Our goal is to bring our diverse networks into more effective coordination, for the duration of this crisis and beyond.
Join a Slack team where organizers, healers, community leaders and practitioners can respond around a national response to COVID-19. This is a space for both strategic brainstorming and planning, as well as community building via sharing resources, personal stories and opportunities to digitally connect.
This group is a place for those who facilitate online (or need to) can learn, share and make offers to the world as the Covid19 virus plays out. We welcome (online) facilitators, organizers, technology stewards (people who can straddle between communities and technologies and help people make and implement tech choices and other interested people. We welcome offers, asks, experiments and sharing.
This group is intended to serve as a venue for discussing three major issues: the magnitude of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, the medical steps indicated to deal with it, and practical responses to the new social challenges it poses in everyday life and in the political work of left activists.
We’re getting to work: at MobLab, we’re making changes to address the collective well-being and urgent needs of campaigners. We want to work together to answer questions and share resources, skills and tips on how to campaign effectively remotely.
PUBLIC OPINION ON CORONAVIRUS
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?
Impact of Coronavirus on South Carolina Elections
South Carolina Election Commission COVOID-19 Updates
Election Protection in the Coronavirus Era
DNC, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Voting Lawsuit in the wake of Covoid-19
CDC Frequently Asked Questions
The National Governors Association’s Coronavirus
What You Need to Know page includes links to specific official state actions and activities.
Thank you to our friends at the Missouri Democratic Party, The Management Institute, Outreach Circle, PowerLabs, BCom Solutions, DNC, 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. Please let us know if we failed to thank you here.