There are a lot of hot takes circulating the internet in the aftermath of the election, but a key point we’ve lived and learned over the years is this: Organizing is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to invest in long-term strategies.
As a team that hails from swing states, we’ve seen organizations come in during an election year and vanish again in November. While it’s great to have attention and more boots on the ground, organizations that drop in and leave too often siphon money and resources away from local groups that build lasting power.
Fortunately, we’ve also seen the outcomes of long-term organizing in places like Georgia, where organizers like Stacey Abrams and Fair Fight INVESTED. Big victores like increasing voter turnout and turning Georgia blue required investment in local uphill battles over the long haul. The same can be said for Arizona, another state where Democrats have been gradually building power since they posted big losses in 2010.
The strategy behind successful, lasting organizing can be boiled down to a few critical concepts. As experts who have been through ups and downs over the years, here’s our cheat sheet for the big fights ahead:
Build and nurture your community now.
You can’t just pop in during the summer of even years and expect to win elections. Building power, trust, and relationships takes time. If you want to win and keep winning, you need to build infrastructure, not sandcastles that wash away with the wave of the election.
How do you do that in the midst of a pandemic? Digital strategy. Invest in long-term digital strategies to grow the community of activists and donors on your email and mobile lists. Email and mobile messaging are two places where you can engage directly with a list you own, avoid Facebook’s control over your marketing, and fundraise effectively.
Have tough conversations.
Like Representative Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, deep canvassing is where the change happens. One-on-one conversations where personal stories and shared experiences can persuade voters at the individual level are proven to make a difference.
Relational organizing is a similar, personalized strategy that you can start doing right now. It involves talking to someone you know, and having an honest conversation with them where you encourage them to take action. You may have seen this tactic utilized during the 2020 election cycle, with organizers asking voters to encourage their friends to vote. Why? Because it works.
Amplify local leaders.
Sometimes the best way to join in on the conversation is to simply amplify or partner with others who have been doing the work and are experts in a specific space. Providing them with support and elevating their message might be more effective than competing for resources or drowning out their voice. Groups who have been on the ground for years know their community and have the authentic relationships to transform their local politics. Elevate their work.
Of course, some of these strategies will take systemic change. As organizers, we need to convince funders that investment in years-long community building isn’t just worthwhile, it’s what will create future victories. These tough, long-term fights are the only way forward.