Campaign School

“There’s a film festival on in town. You could be out trying to find Brad Pitt. Instead you’re in here.”

These were the words that greeted me last night as I settled in to workshop organized for the Toronto Regional Champion Campaign (an incredible initiative I’ve written about before). It was an informative and frankly inspiring three hours. I want to thank Alejandro Bravo of Maytree and Councillors Carroll, McConnell, and Bailão, and reiterate how much my fellow TRCC participants blow me away. Now. Let’s review, shall we?

There are four elements to a campaign – time, people, money, and ideas.

Create a campaign calendar. The end date is election day, and you work backwards to today. You will want to be involved in everything and win over everyone. You can’t, because you will burn out. Focus on what gets results. If something doesn’t get votes, it doesn’t go on the calendar. Simple. Brilliant.

Picture how your network fits in to a pyramid of participation. The wide base is made of your general supporters. The next level is made up of volunteers. Up on the next level are your one-time donors. At the top are your repeat and high capacity donors. Move people up the pyramid, up to that next level, increasing their involvement and engagement. Know the people you can count on to contribute. Councillor Carroll talked about a kidney list – who are the people who would give you a kidney right now if you asked? Now who would give you $150 (which brings us to…)

You need to report and account for your money. You also need to raise it. You need to ask for money. Councillor Carroll talked about this at the WiTOpoli panel session in May of this year (which I blogged about here too). Councillor Bailão hammered the point that you need to look at what you can afford to run, and identify who you can ask for donations. Can you get them to a $25 fundraiser? Can you get them to a $250 fundraiser? While the money is important, you also know you have their vote.

Why are you running? If you can’t answer that, don’t run. What are the issues that are going to move people to vote? And more importantly, to vote for you? We don’t vote on logic, so connect with hearts not minds. What makes your voters take action? Once you’ve got this worked out, boil it down to something that’s easily digestible. I was reminded of The Micro-Script Rules.  But it’s not just a snappy slogan. You need to show your commitment. Councillor Bailão said don’t send your volunteers to the TTC stations at 7am. It had better be you that your constituents see on their way to work.

Getting the voters
Alright, now – the voters. How many people do you want to vote for you? If you answered everyone, you are wrong. You want as many votes as it takes to win. Bravo called for five volunteers (you’d think in a room of over-achieving Type-A women it would have been easier to do this, but wow were we hesitant) to represent the five categories of voters:

1. They will vote for you
2. They might vote for you.
3. They’re undecided who they’re voting for.
4. They’re leaning away from voting for you.
5. You could cure cancer and they’re never going to vote for you.

So, who do you focus on?

Don’t worry about the 1s and the 5s – you’re not going to sway them. The 4s take too much work to convince. The 2s and 3s however will be more receptive to your campaigning. They are your target.

Sell yourself
We were instructed to create our own pitches and hit each other up for support. It was tricky and awkward. One of the participants said it’s hard to sell yourself when you’re socialized to be demure and modest (something which was discussed aplenty at the WiTOpoli sessions as well). Not only do you have to sell yourself, you need to do it in a minute. Or thirty seconds. Or six seconds – because unless you can “give good clip” you won’t get media exposure.

It was a treat to watch Councillors McConnell and Carroll pretend to be strangers schmoozing at a cocktail party. It was networking gold. What was the best tidbit? Don’t start with yourself. Start with them. “Hi, I’m Emma, it’s so great to meet you [X]. I hear you’re on the board of [Y] and I don’t know if you know this but I’m working on [Z] and I’d love to pick your brain to see how we can connect better with [A] to create solutions to [B].” You’re creating a partnership and getting them on board, not just hammering away at how great you are.

Get known
Get on boards. Volunteer for a political campaign – municipal, provincial, whatever. Be where the meetings are (The Naval Club, the Legion, church basements, community centres, malls) to get to know the people, the community leaders, the advocates, and the issues. Stay to the end of the meeting. Hand out business cards. Collect business cards. Build your kidney list. Councillor McConnell shared a piece of literature developed for an election in 1997. It highlighted her more than 15 years of civic service, the issues she’d fought for, but most importantly, her dedication was highlighted by testimonials and endorsements from community leaders. Build a network of people who will write those for you.

Write it down
Make a plan.  At the end of the night we were told to write down three concrete attainable things to accomplish. If it’s not written, it’s not going to happen. It’s not a plan. And it’s never too early to start campaigning.

I’m Emma Jenkin, I’m awesome, and I approve this blog post.


3 thoughts on “Campaign School

  1. Emma, this is a fabulous post. You are to the point and your points are useful and clear! Take this, translate it, and it fits perfectly into capital campaign planning for charity.
    Part of my current role is to coach small grass-roots groups to raise money in the 6-7 figure range. This type of planning and thinking is the part that they don’t always see behind the announcements from the bigger charities who have been successful with their fundraising campaigns.
    Few blog posts make it onto my printer, but this one will and I will be adapting it to share with my fundraising committees in Saskatchewan!

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Christina @GPtekkie

    • Oh wow Christina, what an accolade! It’s extraordinary how much these points have been useful in simplifying my life. Like so many folks (especially in nonprofits!) I’m over-booked to the max. Being able to look critically at my engagements, and how I spend my time, and prioritizing (or even letting go of some responsibilities) based on what will help me achieve my goal has helped me use my time better.

      Thanks for your comment – it definitely made my day and I’m really glad you’ll be able to use the information!

  2. Pingback: Two pointy sticks | emmajenkin

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