John Tsarpalas: Today on Commonwealthy, we are going to cut to the chase and get right to it. We’re going to talk about the three essential things every campaign needs. That’s time, money, and people. This is Commonwealthy #77.
Before I jump into time, money, and people, I am going to give you a little tease. I am going to have a big announcement at the end of this podcast, so hang around.
So three things a campaign needs: time, money, and people. Let’s start with time. Something that is precious, more precious than anything. We only have a limited time in our life. We only have limited time away from family and work to put into a campaign.
And a campaign has a season. There’s only a certain time that you can be campaigning. And you can be campaigning all the time, and maybe that’s an overuse of the word time again.
But at some point, you’ve got to pull the trigger and there’s an election you’ve got to get on the ballot for. The campaign season when people pay attention, usually if it is a local election maybe the last week. Maybe a little before that. Maybe it’s a few months before.
National elections are for a bigger period. People are paying more attention. Campaigns sort of go all year long, 24/7. But you’ve got to jump in at some point.
So the first thing you need to think about is are you building towards running. And you don’t have to commit to running, but you need to start building, getting yourself out there, circulating, meeting people, meeting groups, networking, and perhaps hanging around that government body.
If it is a school board you are running for, are you going to school board meetings? Do you know what is going on? Are you finding out? Are you doing your homework? Are you doing your research?
Are you meeting people in the community who could be useful to you? And by useful I mean will be volunteers, be supporters, people that you might want their endorsement, people in the media, and people with money. Money is a huge in a campaign, even in a little one. You are going to need some money.
And then what is your time like with family? How are you going to budget it? How are you going to have enough time? And how are you going to leverage your time? We’ll get into people because people means people you are meeting, people that are voting for you, but also people that are going to volunteer for you and work for you.
The more volunteers and workers you have, the more leveraged your campaign is in the area of people. We’re coming back to that though. That all relates to time.
My suggestion is think about running for office. Start, start, start. Get out there and start figuring out what is going on. Start talking to people. Do it on the down low. Do it quietly. Don’t say, “I am running.” You can say, “I am thinking about running.”
And you are showing up to meetings and you are trying to figure things out. And you slipping it in a little here, a little there. And maybe you are spreading it out over a few years. Maybe you are jumping in right away. If you are jumping in right away, then you’ve got to ramp up even faster.
The sooner you decide to commit to a campaign, the better off you are. And start really putting in that time commitment. If you are going to campaign, you need to raise money and you need to talk to people.
And there is no better way to get elected than to go door to door, knock on doors, talk to voters in that district. Get that information. Put it in a good database, something like Voter Gravity. And track who is voting for you, who is not voting for you, perhaps what issues are important to those people so that you are building that database.
And say you are not running for two years from now. Start knocking on doors now and go ask about information. “I am thinking about running,” is what your pitch is at the door. And you say, “I am interested in finding out more about what you think about local schools, what needs improvement, etc.”
And say, “Well, I’ll be back or I’ll be sending you some information if I decide to run.” You don’t have to say you are running at the moment. But take that information and put it in your database so that you know what is important to that household and to those voters in that household so that you can get back to them with a little mailing, which will save you time to go back and knock that door again.
And then you want to make sure that you are following up with them somehow. Perhaps it is a phone call because you’ve already met them at the door.
And when you are running, of course you are saying, “I am running for school board. Oh, I agree with you on this issue. Will you vote for me? That’s great. Would you mind putting up a yard sign?” You are asking and you are asking and you are asking.
Let’s go back before a lot of this. Maybe it is a mindset. Maybe you are an introvert. Maybe you are afraid to knock on doors. We need to get over these fears. You want to have a little time you have to build in to do that.
How do you do that? Well, you start practicing. You start rehearsing. You rehearse with people at the front door at your own house. You have your spouse answer the door or a friend if you don’t have a spouse or somebody who can pretend to be a voter and rehearse with you.
And then as I said, you go out softly and you say, “I am thinking about running” or “I’m interested in this issue and I’d like to get some feedback from the community.” You don’t have to commit yourself, but you do have to commit to talking to people. The more you talk to people, the easier it gets.
And if you start talking to voters at the door, that will get you ready to talk to donors because it is similar. You kind of have the same fear at first. Once you’ve done enough voters, you are over that fear and then you are on to donors. So you can get over that fear.
So let’s jump into money. Money. You’ve got to raise some money. You are going to run for a little local board and you want to put up your own money, fine. You are better off raising a little money from other people too because they will buy in. They’ll help your campaign more. They will support you. That’s important.
So money. Who can you ask for some money? It can be twenty-five dollar increments, a hundred dollars. In most communities, a hundred dollars is not a lot. I don’t think that scares people if you were to ask them for a hundred dollars. Thousands? Yes. A thousand? Yes. Some people are not capable of that and some people are afraid of it.
So I would start asking people that you know. Start with friends. Start with family. Make a list of business associates and people you might have met as you’ve been attending. Will they put in twenty-five dollars, a hundred dollars?
If you are afraid to ask for the hundred, ask for the twenty-five. Start there and then go back to them later and ask for another twenty-five or fifty.
As I’ve talked about in earlier podcasts, it is always easier to raise money for something specific. “I need to buy some yard signs. Will you help with a contribution towards my yard signs? They are going to cost me five hundred dollars. I am looking for ten people to give me fifty dollars” or “I am looking for five people to give me a hundred dollars. Will you help pay for my yard signs?”
Or “Could you pay for my yard signs completely? Could you help buy my yard signs? They are five hundred dollars.” A person will often say, “Well, I can’t do the five hundred, but I’ll give you blah blah blah,” which is great. You know, “I’ll give you a hundred dollars” or whatever.
People are going to say no. Get used to no as not important to you. It just means you’ve got to try the next guy. You might take a moment to consider why they said no. What did you do wrong in your delivery? Did you ask for too much? Too little? Could you have phrased it differently?
Every time you say something to somebody, you should analyze it for thirty seconds to a minute afterwards (Don’t waste a lot of time.) on how could that have gone better? What should I have said? What could I have done? That’s important in every interaction out there.
You’ve got to learn to ask for money. You have to learn to be assertive. If you have trouble being assertive, there are assertiveness training classes. I actually took one back when I was twenty-one years old.
I owned a restaurant and I was having trouble asserting myself with the landlord, so I went to an assertiveness training class at my local community college, which was really helpful. And it was interesting.
People were there for lots of reasons. There was a young lady I’ll never forget. She liked Big Macs, but she liked them a certain way and she had trouble asserting herself with the MacDonald’s help. She was working on that.
And I was working on negotiating a twelve hundred dollar lease with my landlord, which back in the day, twelve hundred dollars to me could have been a million dollars. Twelve hundred dollars is still a lot of money. This was way back in the seventies. I was paying twelve hundred a month for my restaurant.
Anyway, I digress. But we need to work on asserting ourselves, speaking up, looking out for ourselves. And when you learn to raise money, you learn to become more assertive.
Now you can think about putting mailings out there. That’s fine if you want to mail something. But follow it up with a phone call. Follow it up with a personal ask. Just mailing isn’t going to bring in the money. Don’t delude yourself. Putting up a GoFundMe or an e-campaign and emailing to raise money, maybe some money will dribble in. Not enough, not enough.
You’ve got to ask. And if you can’t ask, figure out how you are going to get around that and work it out. Don’t just sit and stew about it. Figure out how you can learn to do it. You can get a hold of me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I coach people in this area. I teach people how to raise money and I work with a lot of people who are afraid to be assertive. We get over it. They get over it. I got over it. It’s just doable. It just takes practice.
Which brings us to people. So some of the people you are meeting are donors. They can also be volunteers. And you should also ask them to perhaps put out a postcard or little email blast to their friends to talk about your campaign. They can do more than just donate.
But let’s talk about the people most important to us, our family. Before you run, you’ve got to have realistic conversations with spouses and a bit with children and other family members. And if you are in a business, your partners in the business, the people you work for.
You’ve got to let them know what is going to happen. You’ve got to get their buy in. I have seen campaigns end in divorce. Please, talk to your spouse. If you are running for a big office, it is going to be a lot of time away. Your family will feel neglected.
But if you are single, you are younger, you’ve got a supportive spouse, you’ve got a spouse that will help, a spouse that will get involved. Try to get that spouse recruited. Perhaps they can do things for the campaign. They’ll make phone calls. They’ll go knock doors.
I know a lot of spouses that have knocked more doors than the actual candidate. That’s fabulous! The candidate won. A spouse is important or that special other. I mean, I don’t be in this day and age of political correctness, I don’t know what the right words are for some of these things.
But you can get the help of that important other in your life. And if they are involved, they are not going to miss you as much. They are going to be hanging around the campaign office or wherever you are working from. They are going to be out there with you. It helps it. It helps the relationship. It builds the relationship in that way.
The other part of people- are you going to hire anybody? Well, that takes raising more money. And if you are, you’ve got to do some interviewing. And you’ve got to be thorough and ask. But often it is just volunteers. Usually that is what is true for a local campaign.
So who will help you? You have a friend. If you’ve got friends and especially best friends, ask them to help. Do not be disappointed if they say no or they can’t. They are actually being honest.
It is the ones that say yes and then don’t do anything that really hurts your campaign because you think they are going to take care of some stuff for you and then they don’t.
And I’ve seen that in campaigns where someone will ask their best friend to be their campaign manager. And then the best friend just can’t put in the time and doesn’t understand what that commitment meant to this campaign.
So if you are going to ask that of someone who you are close to, define it with them. Define how much time they can give you. And maybe don’t give them that big of a job. Ask them to host a coffee for you or have a little event somewhere, something like that.
And then other volunteers, start with something small, like you are going to be making phone calls on Tuesday night at Joe’s house in his basement and you know somebody you’d like to ask to volunteer or you have some people who said they’d volunteer. Call them. Tell them to be at Joe’s basement.
What time? “6:30 pm. Please bring your cell phone. Please bring your laptop.” If you are using a system that has autodialing it for your campaign and it puts the information into the database automatically, like Voter Gravity. There’s a system that is out there that is just for dialing. It is called Call Fire. You put your scripts in there and work with that. That’s very good. Have them bring a laptop.
If you are not so sophisticated and you are working on paper, that’s fine. Make sure you are prepared before they get there. Have your lists printed. Have your scripts written and printed.
And by the way, there are transcripts and podcasts on every topic I have talked about in the Commonwealthy library. Right now just looking at Commonwealthy #14, Voter ID scripts. This is how to write a script. And this will tell you how to do that. I’ll go back to Commonwealthy #10, Door to Door. It talks about how to go door to door, how to talk to the voter at the door.
So go back and look at our index on Commonwealthy.com and you will find podcasts on everything I am talking about here. We have a couple of different ones on how to raise money. #33, How to Raise Money for Political Office is a good one on how raise money.
Another one is #35, Asking for Money in a Political Campaign, is a must. You really need to listen to that if you haven’t raised money before. And so many other things.
After you’ve got your database and you’ve got people in your database, you want to jump to podcast #42, Get Out the Vote for a Political Campaign. Get out the vote is essential and it is all about all of this data, ID gathering, and door knocking. You have to understand that. I am not going to go into all of that because I’ve got extensive podcasts on all of that, which you can take a look at.
So people- volunteers. Volunteers to me make campaigns so fun. I enjoy those people. I enjoy the comradery of it. That’s podcast #15, Using Volunteers in a Political Campaign. And don’t forget interns. You can recruit some high school kids or local college kids. Just give them some structure. You’ve got to have some structure.
And perhaps you are going to ask your best friend not to be the campaign manager, but to be the intern manager. And you are going to show up once a week to meet the kids and give them structure. You are going to have to spell things out for that person, for your volunteer.
But anyway, so you recruited some people to come to your first phone bank and it is well established. You’ve got your scripts ready. You’ve got chairs ready, tables, paper, and pencils. People are ready to go. You’ve got some drinks and some snacks.
You get them started. You explain to them how to use the script. You explain to them what they are doing and who they are calling. You get them going. You get them feeling comfortable.
After they have done that a couple of weeks, find out who is a regular. Ask them if they’ll manage that phone bank for you. “Gene, will you be here every week? Can you possibly take over managing the database and phone campaign for me? Will you help people get set up? I’ll teach you all of that. And that way I can start another phone bank on Thursdays” or “I am going to start a Saturday morning walking group and we are going to go out door to door.”
So establish something. Make sure it is working. Find somebody you can recruit to manage it and then move on to the next step. This goes back to time. All of this takes time.
If you are gong to try to phone bank and different nights and walk on different nights, if you are not going to be there and you might not often be able to do all of the nights necessary, you are not going to have time to get this done if you are going to do all of this at once. This is why it is nice to get it established and keep it going. And you’ll cover more ground. Absolutely cover more ground.
It is people that make this fun. It’s volunteers that make this fun. I always enjoy hanging out with the volunteers. So have a little time for comradery as well. It is not always just work, work, work. And some people will just goof off, but what are you going to do? You are not paying them. See if you can nudge them to do a little more and then keep going. Just keep going and keep going.
And a campaign is about how much time you can put in. We are back to time. Time is so key. The more volunteers you’ve got, the more people out door knocking for you.
And door knocking is better than phone calling, but there are certain neighborhoods that are better to phone call- high rise buildings you can’t get into and certain times of the year. I am in Chicago. In the winter here, it’s not fun door knocking. People don’t want to open the front door to talk to you because it is too cold. So you go to the phone. You do what you can.
And yes, people hang up. But that’s just the way it is. Just keep going. It is not personal. Don’t take anything personal. And make sure your volunteers don’t take things personally.
And make sure you are thanking your people. Are you going to have a little thank you party for people, taking care of them, letting them know you care and that it is important and their time was important to you?
Volunteer time is almost more important than the money. It really is because it is hard to get. And they are giving. They are giving time, which in our society is equal to money. Be very mindful of that.
So let’s recap for a second. Time- the more time you can give, the earlier you can start, the better off you will be. Money- the more money you raise, the less volunteers you need, the more ground can be covered by paying for mailings, paying for social media, paying for things.
However, if you want to win a campaign, you still need to go knock on doors and you need to talk to people. And you need to develop that skill to do that because that is what politics is. It is the skill of interacting with other people and getting them to buy and support you.
People- you are always talking to people. You are introducing yourself. You have a very short one minute why you are running and who you are. You are talking to them about what is important to them, why this election is important to them, and what issue is important to them.
And you are asking for their vote. You are asking for their support. You are asking them to put up a sign. You are asking them to talk to their friends. You are asking them to volunteer. You are asking them to donate.
I should have done a podcast called you are always asking because you are always asking. That is what is happening. A little bit of talking, always talking about them and why it is important to them and then asking.
So here’s the big announcement. This will be the last Commonwealthy podcast for a while. Things are just too busy and I have way too many commitments. I love podcasting. I love teaching and training people. I like doing this.
I am there at email@example.com if I can be of assistance to you. I am still happy to answer your questions, still happy to give you a free consultation, and I’m still happy to consult your campaign.
But I have taken a very big responsibility and I am just not going to deal with this podcast at the moment and keep up on everything else I am committed to. It has been a joy and a pleasure. It has been fun hearing from you, answering questions, and helping you.
And it is always, always been a pleasure to be involved in people’s campaigns and helping them win, which is just so exciting. You need to change the world and you need to run for office. Winning elections changes things. Talking about it does not change things.
I need to thank a couple of people. First of all, I’d like to thank Dara. Dara is my virtual assistant and she’s been the greatest. She’s been a big help. She’s taken over more and more responsibilities as I’ve gotten busier and busier. This podcast wouldn’t have been happening for a while here if it wasn’t for Dara. And actually Dara has been involved from the very beginning of it. So thank you, Dara.
I want to thank you- those of you who have subscribed, those who have downloaded our podcast app at iTunes or Google Play music or in the app store at Google for Android, and those of you who just listen regularly. Thanks for listening. Thanks for sending in your comments and your email.
Feel free to go iTunes and write a review. I will be keeping this podcast everywhere that is available for a long time. I don’t intend to take it down. I think there is good information here.
If you have a friend who is going to run for office, have them go look at the Commonwealthy podcast and listen to what they need. It is all here in bite sizes and it should be easy for people to learn some things about how to run campaigns.
But the best way to learn to run a campaign is to run a campaign, to run for office, to get involved. Win or lose, you are learning. Often it takes a second run and sometimes a third run and sometimes it is a run for a different office. I have helped people who have done all of those things and in the end, it’s paid off and it has paid off big.
I also want to thank my retired partner in crime, Tina Keats. Tina, thank you so much for your interviews on this podcast and to everyone who I have interviewed on this podcast. I am thankful to my friends out there.
By the way, if any of you need help with a referral in this industry, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to refer you to somebody that can help your campaign with what you might need specifically.
So thank you so much for listening. Now let’s go out there and win some elections.