Congratulations! Your local group has just issued an endorsement for an awesome candidate. But now what? While this is an incredibly important step, Indivisibles know that just simply saying your group endorses a candidate won’t get them over the finish line. What’s meaningful about an endorsement is the commitment of real work behind it. And together, we will deliver.
This chapter gives you a great sampling of some of the many different ways you can get involved in the election after an endorsement. For a deeper dive on how to plan and execute a rocking voter engagement plan, keep an eye out for our VET Guide, coming later this year. It’s a comprehensive, one-stop-shop for planning and executing a smart campaign, guiding you through choice points and key considerations at every step.
As always, reach out to your Indivisible Organizer to help you develop these ideas into a comprehensive, winning plan that works for your group and your district.
Building Your Path to Victory
Every district or state is unique and groups will be ready to endorse with different amounts of time before the primary. If you endorse with three months or more before the election, you can be really intentional about planning and go through all these steps. If you endorse with less than a month until the election, you can do some really quick planning, but your group should jump straight into voter contact and getting out the vote (see last section).
Make a plan with your group and other local groups.
While you’re waiting for the endorsement vote, start working on your plan. If this is for a district with multiple groups or for a statewide race, your work will be even more powerful if you make a plan together.
- Have a kick-off or strategy session. Bring together your group members and folks from other groups to have fun and do some planning. This is another point in your process where our How to Run a Meeting and How to Make Decisions as a Group resources may come in handy.
- Plan out your tactics. Whether at a strategy session, on a conference call or over email, work on the tactics that you’re going to employ and your timeline to make sure your endorsed candidate wins in the primary and the general election.
- Ask folks to commit. It’s important to make sure that you’ll have the energy behind your endorsement, so start early on getting folks to commit to volunteer for your candidate. You should also take this time to figure out who can lead on certain activities -- like identifying a canvassing lead, press liaison and more (if you don’t already have those roles assigned in your group or coalition). Make sure when you’re asking folks to commit that way you’re collecting the best way to contact them so you can follow up effectively. You can even consider identifying a recruitment captain who can follow up and do confirmations before big events.
Time to build momentum.
After several years of organizing, Indivisible groups have a lot of power. That means it’s exciting for candidates to get your endorsement, so make the most of the rollout of your endorsement and make a big splash. You can do all of these tactics to kick off the endorsement or pick which ones work best for your group.
- Send out a press release. Candidates love earned media, and announcing your endorsement and the investments of time & energy your group is making are newsworthy! Your group or collection of groups should plan to send out a release about why and how you’re supporting the candidate. Don’t be afraid to get personal with it! Check out this great example from groups in NY-24.
- Throw a kick-off party. Pulling together a big party to announce your endorsement is a great way to bring in new members and potentially gain some media attention.
Start talking to voters.
Neighbors talking to neighbors is still the best organizing tool we have. Indivisibles are pros at this point at knocking doors and making phone calls, but it’s still worth making sure your group knows how important it is! If you’re getting started several months before the election, your voter contact will likely be focused on identifying supporters and having persuasive conversations with folks who are undecided. This is a great opportunity to share your group and personal reasons for being behind this candidate -- and could be an opportunity to connect with like minded individuals who may want to join your group.
Connect with the campaign or get set up with Indivisible tools. There are two options for how you can start talking to voters -- one is to work directly with the campaign and the other is to run your own independent voter contact program through Indivisible.
- Campaign: Check in with the campaign to figure out how to get started with canvassing and phone banking. They’ll be able to let you know about upcoming events. Indivisible is on the Independent Expenditure side, so if you work directly with the campaign you’ll just have to be careful not to tell Indivisible staff non-public information.
Note: If your group is incorporated as a 501(c)(4) or otherwise wants to do work on the Independent Expenditure side, just doing regular volunteer work with a campaign likely won’t raise campaign finance issues. However, if your group wants to spend money in connection with that campaign volunteer activity, please check with a campaign finance attorney in advance.
- Indivisible: If working directly with the campaign doesn’t work for you group, Indivisible can help you get started running your own canvassing and phone banking program. Check out the resources in the Technology tab of our Group Support Hub and connect with your Indivisible Organizer with help getting set up (or you can go to indivisible.org/ask-organizer if you’re not already in touch). Indivisible is on the Independent Expenditure side, which means we cannot coordinate strategy with campaigns or learn non-public information about the campaign. If you go this route, you’ll be held to those same restrictions. You may not use Indivisible tools for any coordinated activity with a campaign/candidate or provide those tools to campaigns directly.
Write a letter to the editor. You can also talk to folks in your community by sending letters to the editor to your local paper to share why you are so excited about your candidate. Check out our website here for some examples.
Voter Contact Best Practices
Having conversations with voters is a crucial piece of making sure you’re getting your candidate elected. And the earlier your group can get started with these efforts the better because it generally takes several touches with a voter to make an impact. We always want to be upfront about what works and what doesn’t work as well. When it comes to voter contact, the most effective way to sway a voter is through canvassing -- so we encourage you to start there. For folks who are unable to canvass, phone banking is a great option. Who you talk to is also very important, so make sure you’re sticking to who is on your list. That’s why doing something like visibility on a street corner isn’t as impactful since you’re not controlling who you are targeting and aren’t having an actual conversation.
Get out the vote.
Everything leads up to turning out your candidates’ voters. If you end up endorsing just a few weeks before Election Day, your group should jump straight into this step to make sure your work is having the greatest impact. If you’ve been campaigning for this candidate for months already, your group members will already be canvassing and phone banking pros and ready to give it a final push. These conversations will differ from the identification and persuasion conversations you were having earlier on with undecided voters. At this point, the focus will be talking to your candidate’s supporters and making sure they have a plan to get out to vote. Generally, at this point you’ll be targeting folks who are likely to support your candidate, but need that extra push to get to the polls. Work with your group members early to plan out when folks can volunteer so that they proactively plan out child care, leaving early from work, recruiting friends, etc.
Knock doors. Face to face conversations are so important and it’s crucial to get as many volunteers out on the doors as possible.
Make phone calls. Phone calls are a great supplement to knocking doors (or a good option for folks who are unable to canvass). Work with the campaign or reach out to Indivisible to get phone banking going to get out the vote.
Now that you have some ideas of ways to push your candidate forward, you’re ready to get to work with your group and Indivisible Organizer to develop your plan of action.
Watch this space! We’ll be rolling out more resources and support later this year for groups who plan to engage in elections.
Leveling Up Your Electoral Engagement
We know groups all across the country are thinking about the next election: which races they want to engage in, how they’ll get involved, what level of support they’ll be committing to get their candidates over the finish line. For groups who chose to make endorsements, we have a new program to help you level up your electoral engagement post-endorsement. Local Voices, Local Power.
We still live under Citizens United, where Corporate PACs use their deep pockets to press on the democratic scales and buy influence, all the while driving a wedge between us and our elected officials. Since our start, Indivisible has been about empowering the grassroots to resist the right-wing takeover of American government, and that includes fighting back against power-thirsty billionaires and their candidate puppets.
Making an impact in elections, especially at the grassroots level, is hard and invaluable work, and is often deeply under-resourced if you’re not connected to billionaires. Our new program, Local Voices Local Power, is designed to provide groups with access to funding, swag, priority support with our voter engagement tools, and a national spotlight to support them in the races they care about, up and down the ballot. Through Local Voices, Local Power, Indivisible is putting money and resources into the movement’s hands to directly support the work you’re doing to take action, reach voters, and elect candidates who represent your community’s interests, not the interests of CEOs or their billion-dollar corporations.
Keep an eye out for updates on this program here, in our Monday Newsletter, and in the GL email.
PLEASE NOTE: How you engage in elections depends a lot on your group’s organizational status. This guide is intended for local groups that can engage in political activity, including: groups that are currently unincorporated and haven’t sought any formal entity status, groups that have formed 501(c)(4) organizations, groups participating in Indivisible’s Distributed Fundraising Program (which generally follows 501(c)(4) spending rules), and groups that have formed political organizations (i.e., 527 organizations or PACs). This guide is not intended for 501(c)(3) organizations as 501(c)(3)s organizations are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity, including endorsing candidates as a group, but individual group members can get involved in their volunteer capacity
Political spending can trigger campaign finance rules and reporting requirements, so if you have questions about specific political spending that your group would like to do, please consult with a campaign finance attorney who can help you plan for compliance.