Sinners, Saints, and Saveables or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the grind
The initial excitement of the idea of running for office has worn off and dog days of summer are setting in. Congratulations, you have officially entered the grind!
During the grind, be mindful of your own needs. It really is okay to take a day off here and there from campaigning in order to recharge. This is because running for office is probably starting to feel like a part-time (or perhaps even a full-time) job during the grind.
As you enter the summer months, things on the administrative side of things should be humming smoothly and your finances are solid. Why? Because now is the time to up your field and communications activities - in short, it is time for you to move on your ground game.
Community Outreach/Voter Identification
When to start: 6 months prior to the election (May-October)
Hopefully you have a solid administrative foundation with the majority of the bugs worked out. If you don’t, you are going to want to make course corrections as quickly as possible - problems will only amplify as the increased stress of election day comes closer and closer. Be honest with yourself and any staff/interns that might be working for you about what needs to happen to ensure a smooth landing going into election day.
Your fundraising apparatus should be in full gear by now and donations should be coming in regularly - perhaps you have even started to get donations from people you have never heard from!
Going forward, you are going to want to work on ensuring that your fundraising efforts are keeping pace with your budget while keeping a particular eye towards ensuring that you are able to afford the activities you have planned for the last few weeks of the campaign.
If you are struggling to bring money in, take a hard look at your fundraising activities. Are you spending enough time on the phone? Do you have quality lists? How is your call script? Are you getting promises for donations but no checks in the mail? You need to fix these problems and you need to fix them immediately - if not, your campaign is going to limp into Election Day.
Your field activities should be in full force at this point in the campaign. If you haven’t started knocking on doors by now, stop reading and start walking!
Face-to-face campaigning has been shown to be the most effective way of turning undecided voters into supporters, so the sooner you are able to convert the uncommitted voter to your side, the better.
Take advantage of this time to learn more about what the voters are interested in. Find out what issues are important to them and, if you start to see common themes, sit down and think about what you want your response will be the next time that issue comes up.
This time is also a good way to refine both your fundraising and GOTV lists. If, when knocking on a door, you encounter an enthusiastic supporter, be sure that person receives a call to volunteer, attend an event, fundraising appeal, or another opportunity for them to get engaged within the next few days. If someone appears to be on the fence, mark the house for heavy persuasion activities as election day comes closer; finally, if someone is staunchly opposed to you, note the home and avoid it like the plague - no need to waste any more resources on that house.
In short, when knocking on doors, you are going to want to identify the sinners, saints, and saveables. Sinners will never vote for you regardless of what you say or do, saints will support you to the end and can be a fantastic source of volunteers and/or donations, and saveables are undecided voters who, with enough electioneering, might come over to your side by election day.
Though it may seem time consuming at first, this information will be priceless because it helps you to better focus your resources.
Much like your field work, your communications should be in full swing: Your website should be up and running, literature should be printed, community calendars are being updated, and contacts within the media should be established.
Now is not the time to let off the gas - in fact, things should only be more and more busy for you because, during this phase of the campaign, you should be speaking at events and going to as many community activities as you possibly can. This is all on top of the regular communications you should be having on social media, your website, and press releases you are sending to the media.
During this time you are also going to want to be seeking endorsements from organizations and high profile individuals to help grow your support. Not only do such endorsements improve your standing with the public, but they can also provide more weight to your fundraising asks and unlock access to new voters.
Check out all the phases of a campaign below!