John Tsarpalas: Well, welcome to the first podcast of Commonwealthy in the new year, 2017. Wow, 2016, what a year! Politically very different and very interesting. But on the local level, still very much the same.
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But you didn’t come here to hear about subscribing. You came here to learn something about activism, running campaigns, and improving your ground game in the political world. So this is Commonwealthy #73, Making Political Events Pay Off.
So there’s lots of little things and tweaks that you can do to improve all of the aspects of your political campaign. And some of these come from doing and some of them you get from learning from others. And this is a little bit of what I learned from others along with things that I have tried and experimented with and often grow out of frustration at something not seeming like it was worthwhile.
And I am talking about having an event or going to an event where you are a candidate or you as a speaker or as an activist for your organization or whatever the situation may be and feeling like, “What did I get out of it?”.
One of the things I always teach as a public speaking coach and candidate coach is at the end of every speech you need a call to action. You need to be asking the people in the crowd for a vote, to write you a check, to support you, to sign up for your email list, to take home a yard sign. And you need to be doing that. You need to constantly be asking people one on one and when you are in a group at the end, bringing up those topics.
But how can you improve that when you are at an event besides that little pitch? Well, how do you make it easier for them to that? How do you make sure they are going to sign up, get that email list around? How do you have them take home a yard sign and put it up or put a bumper sticker on their car or pledge some money to you or say they are going to volunteer to you?
Well, there are lots of simple ways to do that. And that is what we are going to talk about today. So no matter whether this is your event or you are going to some other event and you can ask if you can do the following things there (and I would)…
Say you are going to going to your local Tea Party group or your local county GOP organization monthly meeting. Ask the leadership before you get there, “Can I bring some volunteers with and have them pass out my email sign up list and be at the door with yard signs to hand to people?”
Think about that. Ask for that. If they say no, okay, then you go, give your pitch, try to tell them how to get a hold of you at the end of your speech. And perhaps pitch is the wrong word. You are giving a stump speech. You are there to be sincere. Pitch sounds like you are a salesman and a little phony. And I don’t want that. We are not phony; we are real. You are there to talk to the audience, talk to the people about why it is important to support your cause or to vote for you.
So let’s talk about some of these individual things you want to have happen at an event. The number one thing I think is to find some volunteers. And if you have a real small campaign, maybe it is friends and family. You have got some kids that are personable or not too shy and of an age where they can handle this, teenagers. Maybe they are very confidence eleven or twelve year olds, whatever. Ask them to help you.
And it is key that you are going to explain to the volunteers or these members of your family or whoever it is what you want specifically. And you need them to practice a little bit role playing on being aggressive.
So here’s what you are going to do. Let’s start with email sign up sheets. It is really important to get people to sign up on your email list so that you have that list so that you can send out information to them about the campaign and further asks, reminders. Ask them to volunteer. Invite them to your pizza party. Ask them for a donation.
And you are not going to bombard them with too much. You don’t want to be spammy. Maybe it is once every two weeks or something like that early on. And then just before the election, you are going to ratchet it up. And you are also going to use that email list to remind them to vote for you for Get Out the Vote-when voting starts, where they can early vote, the hours for voting, etc.
So that is why you want them to sign up. So here is how you do it. You get yourself a form – Email, please print, your name. If you want to ask for addresses, that’s fine too. Maybe you just want the town they are in so that you can segment the list a little bit. Say you are a countywide candidate. It would help to know that they are in one town in one part of the county and not in another town because things are different locally. And you might want to address more specific local issues.
So ask for some information. Don’t ask for too much. People get crazy when they think you want too much information. And often conservatives are paranoid. Actually a lot of people are paranoid, not just conservatives, about information and where it is going to be used.
So right on the top of your email list you should say, “John Tsarpalas for County Board.” Put your website up there. “Email Sign Up List.” And then put right under that, “Signing on this list will only be used by John Tsarpalas for County Board. We never trade or sell off our list to anyone else. Your information is secure with us.” Something along that line. That wasn’t the most articulate way to say it, but something like that.
And have that sheet, that list, ready to go. And then it says, “Email” and then their “First Name,” and then another space for “Last Name.” And that is what I ask for. I wouldn’t ask for more than that.
You get those sign up lists and you get some clipboards. You put them on clipboards and you have a nice pen tied to it with a string so that the pen doesn’t walk off. You make sure it is a good pen that works well. And if the event is indoors, you should be fine. If it is outdoors and it is not cold out…
Well, you probably wouldn’t be outside in the cold weather. Pens do freeze, but you are not going to be standing outside in 32 degrees, so I am going down a rabbit hole here. That’s from too many days of petitioning in November in Illinois or even December and pens freezing.
And you want some people to be there holding those sign up sheets. And if you can pass them around while you are speaking, they can walk along the side of the crowd, hand it one end of the row, and have people pass it down the row. Hopefully it will work around and they will kind of keep track of it and it make sure that it keeps moving.
They are standing off to the sides, keeping their eyes on it. If it bogs down, they are going to move it along for you. If it doesn’t bog down, great; they are there to pass it to the next row or get to the end. It reminds me of being in church where the ushers pass a basket around for collection. You want the same thing; you are collecting emails.
You can also have your people and the end of the night, if you don’t want to pass it through, be standing at the doorway. And as people are passing by them, they can be asking, “Would you like to sign up on the email list? Have you signed up on the email list?”
And teach them that they should hold the clipboard towards the person, not towards themselves, towards the person approaching them, right side up. So you are just handing it to them and they can put it down quickly. And even slightly presenting it to the people approaching them, sort of reaching out with it.
“Did you sign up on our email list today? Would you like to sign up to help John’s campaign? Would you like to find out more about John’s campaign? Here’s the email list.” Have them have some different phrases that they are saying and changing up. They don’t want to sound like automatons. There is a word I haven’t heard for a while. That is something that came out of my parents. I guess robotic has replaced that. My age is showing. But you are there aggressively getting that sign up sheet in their face.
You can also have individual printed cards. If you are going to do that, I would go further than just email. I would ask for name, address, phone number, and email. And then on the bottom of this sign up card, I would put some categories such as “Yes, I’d like to volunteer,” “Yes, I’d like to know more,” “Yes, I would like to receive a weekly email update,” “Yes, I’d like to help sign petitions” or “I would like to circulate petitions,” “Yes, I would like to donate.” Let them check a box and have those things on the bottom.
And then I would have a category for other. Somebody might write in something. Is there something specific you want to ask about? Maybe you want to on the sign up card, “I can donate office space,” “I’d like to help throw an event,” “I’d like to have a coffee.” You can put all of those things on there. Especially if you are going to talk about some of those things like coffees and that, I’d put them on there. If you are talking about that in your stump speech, definitely put them there.
One of the problems with cards and sign up sheets if you’ve got the problem of data entry. Pain in the neck. You’ve got to have someone go back and type all of this in. Why not have your volunteers as soon as they get done passing that sign up sheet around there with laptops and way to enter this data for you?
Have the volunteers sitting in the back of the room at a little table typing right away. Get them to do it before they go home so when you leave, all the data entry is done. All you have to do is hit send and send it to your email person who can then put in the database. Download an Excel spreadsheet into the database. So if you’ve got some volunteers, that is something I would do if you can get them to come to the event. Let them sit in the back kind of typing in email. That’s huge.
Now you should be asking for someone who might want to do data entry as a type of volunteer. And there are people out there who like to do that kind of stuff from home and you’ve just got to get this stuff dropped off to them or scanned and email to them. And then they can type the data entry in for you. So you are looking for a volunteer to do that kind of a thing.
Some of the other things you can do at an event is distribute yard signs and bumper stickers. And the best way to make that happen is to have the yard signs at the door where people are going to be walking out. Even better, a volunteer (or two if it is like double doors and you’ve got two volunteers and you’ve got yard signs on both sides) as a people are walking out pointing at the sign, sort of handing them a sign, making it very obvious that you are trying to give them a sign. “Would you like a yard sign? Take it home with you, put it in your yard tonight. Thank you.” Do that over and over again.
And if you’ve got some mulling around time at the end of the event, have your volunteers ask people during that point where they are not making a beeline for the exit, but they are talking and people are standing around. Often before an event and even after, activists like to hang around and talk.
Maybe your volunteer or volunteers could go around and say, “Did you get a yard sign? By the way, would you like to let us know where you are putting that yard sign?” So it is nice to have a sign up list, a clipboard, for yard signs. You ask for name, address, and phone number. And if you can, get an email.
And you are going to tell them that you are going to use this to keep track of where yard signs are placed and, if it is okay, you’ll put them on the email list and send them a weekly update. You also want to tell them if you’ve got time to feel free to call if your yard sign disappears. Where I live, they are often stolen by the left. So you might want to let them know how they can call, get a hold of you, and get that sign replaced quickly.
Bumper stickers are similar. But let’s go one step further. Yes, you’ve got a little pile of them on the back table by door on the way out or someone literally handing them a bumper sticker as they go past the door. Even better, the person hands them a bumper sticker and says, “Here’s Jim. He’ll go with you and put it right on your car. Here’s little Johnny. He’ll go out to your car.”
And little Johnny who is 15 (I mean, you are not sending out a kid) goes out with some paper towels or a rag and a little squirt bottle of something like Windex or some kind of cleaner. And he goes out and he cleans and wipes dry a clean spot on the bumper that the car owner is standing there saying, “That’s a good spot.” You double check that first.
And they put the bumper sticker right on right there so you know a bumper sticker got applied and it is up. If you hand it to somebody, they are going to throw it on their front seat. Maybe they will get to it; maybe they won’t. But by having a volunteer there, it is going to happen right away.
Again, the key here is having someone there to get the action started, to give somebody something, to literally be in their face although that sounds harsh. But remind them as they are going out the door. Because maybe you weren’t the last speaker. People then break up and start talking and they forget about what was said during your stump speech and your call to action. And they won’t have thought about the little bumper sticker laying on the table or the yard sign sitting in the corner.
But by having a volunteer or two- and you can have people double up. People that are passing out the email sign up sheet can double as being at the door passing at the yard sign. They can double at the door putting on bumper stickers.
Something else that you can try to do (and you are going to get a little bit of donations this way) is that person in the back doing the data entry can also input someone’s credit card for a donation. Do you have credit card sign up on your website? Is there a way for the person with the laptop to have WiFi that can login to your website and literally spin around the laptop right there on the table and let a donor input their data into your website right there?
You don’t need to have any special systems other than what is set up on your website. You only need to have some way to have WiFi onsite with a laptop. Now for those of you who aren’t quite tech savvy, if you have a cell phone most systems allow you set up a hot spot. What’s a hot spot? A hot spot is a way for your cell phone to act to like a WiFi connection for your laptop.
I will say Google it because I don’t know if different phones have different systems. It is real easy with an iPhone. You just simply go into your settings and you find hot spot. Turn it on and then go into the computer and connect the WiFi link to that hot spot’s code.
And it will use a little data on your phone, but if it is worth it. I mean, it is worth it to get a $25 donation. You aren’t going to use that kind of expense. And the beauty of having someone donate to you in a campaign, especially early on, is the odds are they will donate again.
You have to ask them. Maybe it is phone call. Maybe you go have a little meeting with them. They give you $25. You google them, try to figure out who they are, and you figure out they can give you a $100, so you try to get a meeting with them. Talk to them. See if they want to volunteer for the campaign and absolutely ask them for a check.
“You know, I really appreciate your $25 donation earlier this year. Would a $100 be possible at this point? I need to pay for my bumper stickers.” Again, I would ask for something specific that you are trying to pay for. “I am trying to pay for my yard signs. I am trying to pay for my website. It costs me about $20 a month. Would you mind pledging $20 a month to me and I will just automatically bill your credit card for $20 a month? That would be super.”
So these are ways to kind of get things to happen that wouldn’t happen without being there right then and there. Now if you are doing it right then and there, it tends to happen. If you put it off, you are going to call them later, you’ve lost time and you’ve lost momentum. How many phone calls does it take to connect with somebody versus they are in the room? They came for a reason. They came because they support that group. They want to know more about that issue. They want to know more about you as a candidate. All of that works so go for it.
And as far as events go, I would start doing this at other people’s events. You are not going to have a lot of events for yourself unless other people are putting them together. If you are going to have other people put together coffees for you and they are little events (it is ten people in a room), great. Go. You are going to meet people.
If you talking to people at a coffee, you can ask for a check right then and there. “I would really appreciate it if you could write a check here or see my friend over here, my volunteer Joseph, and he will give you our laptop. You can input your credit card right into our secure system right away.” Make sure you have a secure system that is encrypted with SSL because people might worry about that and they will ask. But let them know. And they can sign up right then and there.
So back to that concept of how many events. So you are not doing a lot of events on your own. It takes a lot of work. If you want to do one big fundraiser to put it together so that you have a focus and people are going to different dollar levels, go see some of my earlier podcasts on fundraising. Just go to Commonwealthy.com and put in fundraising. We’ve got two or three good ones on fundraising from different perspectives.
But at smaller events, maybe you want to do one sort of like a friend-raiser. In other words, getting people there to know you. You know, I would work it. I would work it hard. But I would do it at other people’s events. Ask in advance if it is okay.
And what will happen is they will see how effective you are and then they will start doing it for their organization in the future, which is good. You want to support groups that are supporting you.
Something else that is important is we need to get on the calendar early with our events. Call out to groups that you know that have standing events and get this organized. Start asking for volunteers to help you early on.
One of the things that people haven’t talk a lot about, about Donald Trump, it is like they feel like he came out of no where. He didn’t. He started campaigning before Barrack Obama was elected, when he came out with the birther issue eight years ago. And he has been subtly running ever since.
Now, along the way he built his name ID for his business, for his TV appearances and television shows. Obviously he had name ID. But he put his name out there as a politico eight years ago.
So are you doing that? Are you getting your name out? Do people know you are interested in running for office or changing the world, changing something? Are you putting it out there? Start. You need to be doing that. Think about it.
If I can help in any way, I am a candidate coach and I also coach organizations. My first consultation is free. People usually go away learning quite a bit. I am not a pushy salesman. If that is all you need, that’s great! I am happy to help you. You can get a hold of me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And please if you enjoy this podcast or you know other activists or people that are running for office who could use this podcast, let them know about it. Please spread the word on Commonwealthy. We are a word of mouth thing.
We are growing. Thank you for listening. Thank you for spreading the word. I am really thrilled with how well it is going. So many people are downloading this podcast and it is exciting. It is very exciting. So thank you very much.
As always, we have to win some elections. We can talk about it all you want. We can go to groups. We can complain. We can throw our shoe at the TV set. But the only way you make political change is by winning elections. Think about running for local office. So much of government in the United States, over half of it, is at the local level. That’s really where you can make a difference and make something happen.
And running for a local office is also the way to join the farm team, to move on up to higher office. How many of our state reps were former mayors, village board people, people on their county board who ran for state rep or state senator and then ran for Congress and then ran for Senate? That is how it works!
You’ve got to start somewhere. And start somewhere you can make a difference and that is locally. Let’s win some elections.