Turning Online Campaigns into Offline Action

Submitted by Sarah Pullman on Wed, 2006-09-27 09:48.

with Roz Lemieux (New Organizing Institute), Liz Butler (ForestEthics) and Michael Silberman (EchoDitto)

notes by Roz Lemieux 

Examples of Online Campaigns Yielding Offline Action

• Forest Ethics: Victoria’s Secret campaign
o Goal: Day of action → bring independent actions that happened yearly already together under one umbrella campaign
o Success: 350 actions → campaign win in the pipeline now
o Elements of success:

  • Gave them the tools to go from no experience to organizing an event
  • Accessible targets (Vicky’s Secrets all over)
  • Organizers available for contact offline
  • ASK!

• 1% of list responds, small #s, but still a big offline event → big results in the real world
• Help people feel part of something larger (more so for online → offline actions than traditional organizing) → lowers feeling of risk (not out there alone, on a limb)

• Dean Meetups
o Some Meetups were already happening (buzz)
o Fostered by:

  • Put staff/budget in place (grew to 3)
  • “Who drove > 30 min?” Don’t come back. Start a new local Dean Meetup (agenda drove expansion)
  • Highlight in campaign face (homepage)
  • Regular communication with leaders
  • Help desk
  • Conference calls
  • Mix up comm. Medium
  • “spoke to spoke” (peer to peer) communications vehicles
  • Feedback loop
  • Post-event call-in #
  • Surveys
  • Materials
  • PDFs
  • DVDs

o Elements of success

  • Trust, support and run with grassroots energy (see Fostered above)
  • Let strategy drive technology, not vice versa
  • Allocate staff/budget resources
  • Treat offline super-volunteers like high dollar donors, because they’re adding that kind of value to your campaign
  • Respect local autonomy while providing leadership
  • Keep it simple. Be clear about the action. Offer talking points.
  • Immediate personal response (help desk)
  • Two way communication, not just campaign to Meetup hosts
  • Strong feedback loop
  • Collect DATA via surveys
  • Photos

• MoveOn examples
o In-district congressional office visits
• Ask “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?” in host questionnaire to vet hosts. Crazies will self-identify.
• A volunteer Support Team handles all the live chat and email support. Has even done phone support at times. Team is led by a super-volunteer. There’s an email Help Desk system that hides member email addresses. A team of 20-100 highly trained volunteers draft responses. 1-3 super volunteers are empowered to edit and review those, and click ‘Send’.
• Roles are created for each task that needs to be done well – e.g. a Press person, a Coordinator… each with easy-to-understand materials provided for them. Reminders via email what they need to do.

o Phone parties

  • People make lots more calls in groups; social events always work best.
  • Very difficult to collect back usable data, so only good if data collection is not your goal
  • Key on phone calls is to tell people how the numbers add up. They may reach one in a hundred. Together, they reached 300,000. That 300,000 will yield 5,000 votes in a swing district where the margin between winning and losing is 4,500. That district is one of 15 that are competitive… Winning the others by… Winning the House back means ____ will happen that they care about. (e.g. committee chairs will push enviro and choice leg forward)
  • Explain the theory of change that underlies the campaign. The strategy that makes that one action essential to winning. How does it all rely on that person in particular doing that action in particular at that moment in time?

o House Parties

  • Invite active members to be hosts in smaller initial outreach
  • Then invite the rest of the list either to host or attend
  • Great tool! Flash map shows all the parties happening on a big map of the US. Can ask poll questions of parties for real-time feedback. Can broadcast short talk by celeb guest.
  • Key is visual representation that they are part of something bigger – not just an isolated party. Tell them how many people there are.

o Bake Sales

  • Make it fun!
  • People like to bake. Seriously. Anything with sugar…
  • Actions where people are doing something well within their comfort zone, like baking, are far more popular than ones that aren’t. Question becomes whether you can do them in a way that actually impacts the campaign leading to a win.
  • Pot lucks are another good comfy action.

o Letters to the Editor

  • Surprisingly popular action
  • Immediate impact on media cycle if big
  • Great as part of an earned media strategy, in combo with other events
  • A way to find the articulate committed folks from among your list
  • You can narrow from there to find your best spokespeople – e.g. on Iraq, pulling vets from the list who had LTEs published, asking them to write op-eds, do other media outreach
  • Ask them to report back on whether it got published, about a week later

o Petition deliveries

  • IMHO, never email petition sigs
  • Always make a big shebang (press) of delivery
  • Either do in-district delivery events and invite local press, or do a big petition delivery at the Capitol. Pull out all the stops. Get press, members, spokespeople, legislators on your side, etc.

o Deciding what to do

  • Ask members/supporters what they want to do, what they’re willing to do
  • Find out what people are already doing in support of your issue or candidate (like Meetups)
  • Test it, do a trial in a small geographic area or with a subset of the list
  • Ask people how likely they are to do your idea
  • Set a threshold: “We think this is cool, but we’ll only do it if XXX of you say you’ll host an event.”

• Other Examples

  • Forest Friendly 500

• Why now? Urgency
o The Corporation
• Tapping existing activist networks
o Energy action


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