November is here again, along with Voting Day. And, no matter what our views, we can agree on one thing: Americans are passionate about politics. Although the 2012 national election is already stealing the spotlight, the great thing about our country is you don’t have to participate in a large movement to have your voice heard. Across our nation there are many smaller, grassroots efforts that are making headway every day.
Grassroots In Action
While researching this grassroots topic, I ran across a news article from Connecticut’s Valley Independent Sentineldetailing Chris Jones’s effort to win a mayoral campaign against an incumbent who has been mayor of Shelton, Connecticut for the past twenty years. Shelton is a town of around 38,000 and was listed as “The Best Affordable Suburb in Connecticut” by Bloomberg Businessweek in both 2009 and 2010. How is Jones planning to win the race in this local election? As the article’s title states: “… With [a] Grassroots, Aggressive Campaign.”
This probably isn’t a contest that will get national attention, but I thought Jones’s campaign approach provided a great case study. Because, as I read the article, one thing definitely stood out. Jones realizes the power and importance of the Internet when it comes to reaching people – something all of today’s grassroots movements can take a cue from. The Sentinelexplains, “To defeat [the incumbent], Jones is banking on new media, grassroots campaigning. The Jones for Mayor message is spread through social media, in-person visits with groups and word of mouth. Read his Facebook page and you can tell he’s the guy doing the posts.”
“I have a new team with new ideas,” says the candidate. One member of Jones’s team is a volunteer who helps manage his online presence, which plays a large part in his grassroots effort. A look at Jones’s website also shows that he’s cognizant of making his digital calls to action very prominent. Buttons labeled Donate, Follow us on Twitter, Follow Us on Facebook, and Subscribe via email are right there on the home page. He also has a site that is easy to navigate, and a look at his blog shows that he’s been actively posting, keeping his name and message out there.
In regard to one issue, Jones even used YouTube to make his ideas known. A volunteer put together old news reports, along with Jones’s voiceover, and then the finished video was posted to the web.
“If I can get 300 people to watch it, that’s 300 people that maybe I couldn’t reach out knocking on their door, or seeing them at a soccer game,” comments Jones. “So the Internet has been a great tool for me.”
What it Means For Your Campaign
Are you organizing your own local campaign? Assuming funds are limited, as is the case for a true grassroots movement, leveraging technology is a great way for you , too, to keep costs low, reach voters, and recruit volunteers. Here are a couple basic areas of focus that can help keep you move forward:
As mentioned in the campaign snapshot above, a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account are all essential for spreading your message to the public. Add an RSS feed for extra blog visibility. These are all free or inexpensive, and if you hit a nerve, your message will spread like wildfire. These same vehicles also provide a great way of recruiting volunteers. For internal communication, take advantage of other free or low-cost options such as Skype, Google Docs for document sharing, BigMarker for web conferencing, et cetera.
There’s one final – and vital – piece of the puzzle. Be sure to maximize the best use of your time and volunteers. To do so, we suggest the use of online volunteer management software. One important thing missing from the Jones campaign website is a button labeled Volunteer Now. What campaign couldn’t use more volunteers, and what better way to recruit and manage them than via the web? The system you choose should list volunteer opportunites, gather and store volunteer contact information, handle volunteer registration, and send automated confirmation, reminder, and thank-you emails. The program should also be able to send out text messages, sync with online calendars, and track volunteer hours.
Shawn Kendrick holds an MBA from Ohio Dominican University and has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit and business sectors.