A sound plan that recognizes your group’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and turns them into specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, timely goals is only worthwhile if you turn that plan into action. (More)

Planning for 2014, Part III: Plans Into Action (Non-Cynical Saturday)

This week Morning Feature invites you to start planning for the 2014 elections. Thursday we began with an honest assessment of your group’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Yesterday we looked at setting specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, timely goals for success in 2014. Today we conclude with getting from where you are to where you want to be.

Note: This series assumes you are working with a grassroots group such as a local Democratic Executive Committee or club, Organizing for Action, Democracy for America, or a labor or issue-oriented group. If you are not a member of any local political organization, I encourage you to join one. The challenges and plans of the Purple County Democratic Executive Committee, as presented in this series, are hypothetical. Any resemblance to any real organization is purely coincidental.

“Who’s going to do it?”

“So this is our overall plan,” Charlotte said, pointing to the poster labeled ‘Goals for 2014.’

“It looks like a good plan,” Vicki said, nodding. “Who’s going to do it?”

Charlotte smiled. “I’m so glad you asked. My next poster is labeled ‘Committee Assignments.'”

“Assignments?” Tom asked. “We’ve always just asked for volunteers.”

“We had,” Charlotte agreed, “until last year. If you remember, I asked you to make sure the campaign office was staffed on Tuesdays and Fridays.”

“Sure,” Tom said. “That was fine. We had it covered every day.”

“And Vicki,” Charlotte continued, “I asked you to make sure our phone bank data went into the system.”

“I got a team together and we did that,” Vicki said proudly.

“We got a lot done that way,” Charlotte said. “So this year we’re not waiting for members to volunteer. Call them ‘Assignments’ or ‘Invitations’ … but we’re asking each of you to be responsible for some specific goals and tasks.”

Ask for help

Many political groups fail because they don’t have explicit goals or explicit plans. But even more fail because all they do is set goals and write plans. Ask them what they want to accomplish or how they intend to do it, and they can boldly cite chapter and verse. Ask what action they’ve taken, and the mumbling begins. Call it Aesop’s maxim:

After all is said and done, more is said than done.

To get from talking to doing, you need people to accept responsibility for specific goals and tasks. In most groups, only a relative handful will volunteer. Some hold back because they’re shy. Others hesitate because they don’t know exactly what they can contribute.

The good news is that most of those non-volunteers will help – and do well – if you ask them. Your request should include specific tasks, explain how those tasks fit in the group’s overall plan, and let them know you’ll provide the support they’ll need:

Bad Ask: “We need a lot of volunteers for voter registration. Can I put you on our list?”

Good Ask: “Would you help with the Purple College voter registration booth in June? We need to add 4000 new Democrats by next August and reaching new college students will be an important part of that. We’ll do voter registration training in May, and make sure you have all the forms and instructions.”

In deciding which members to assign which tasks, Amy Schollenberger’s Action Circles Model. People will usually help if they feel confident about the task, and gain confidence when they complete tasks well. Find tasks for new members that get them used to working in the group and help them gain confidence for the more challenging tasks of the election campaign season.

Help your helpers

To keep members active, leaders must remember the three Ts:

  • Training – Invite members to training sessions that provide them the opportunity to practice the tasks you’ve asked them to do. Ensure they understand any legal requirements, and know whom to call if they have questions. When practical, use the “Watch One, Do One, Teach One” system that lets members observe, then perform, and then teach a task to someone else.
  • Tools – Provide members the materials they’ll need for that task: scripts, voter contact lists, a leader contact list, a tip list (Smile, Listen, Don’t Argue, etc.), phone and/or computer access and, for longer tasks, snacks and drinks.
  • Thanks – This is the most important T of all. Always thank each member, personally. Invite them back to help again. For group tasks, you may want to award token prizes for categories like most contacts, enthusiasm, etc. Practice Vince Lombardi’s maxim: “Praise in public, criticize in private.”

“Let’s get started!”

“That looks really good,” Vicki said.

Charlotte smiled as she saw heads nodding around the room. “Thanks, Vicki. And thank you all for your comments and support. I’m sure you’ll all be thrilled to know I’m almost finished.”

“Promise?” Tom asked with a wink.

Nods turned to chuckles. Charlotte picked up her final poster. “Here are our tasks for the next month. You can see how each one fits our overall plan. Vicki and Tom, I have a box of materials for each of you. Members, if you’re not assigned to a group this month and you want to help, I’m sure Vicki and Tom would be delighted to have your help.”

“Absolutely!” Vicki agreed.

Tom nodded. “It looks like we have a lot to get done before June.”

“We sure do,” Charlotte said. “So let’s get started!”


Happy Saturday!