Re-Engage Group Members with Primary Debate Watch Parties!

It's Debate season! On June 26th and 27th the Democratic presidential candidates took to the stage to share with us their vision for the country for the first time. With a wide field, we have the exciting opportunity to advocate for a constructive primary (see the Indivisible pledge!) and push for a candidate who truly represents our values. These debates are important moments for Indivisibles to compare all the candidates as they have a dialogue with one another.

This is also a great excuse to have a party! Do you have group members who like your posts on Facebook, but haven’t shown up for months? Or folks that were really engaged in your first few months, but got too busy? These are excellent opportunities to not just bring in some new faces, but reenergize and re-engage members. Just like with any big event (Superbowl, Oscars, Game of Thrones finale), debates are much more fun to watch with activist friends. There were over 160 Indivisible Debate Watch Parties during the first debates -- and folks across the country are already planning to gather in living rooms, restaurants, and bars to cheer on our candidates in the following debates. Search our event map to see if there is a debate watch party already happening in your area!

To host a debate watch party all you need is a tv, seating and your group. There are a lot of ways to get really creative with your Debate Watch party, but the basics are simple. First, do a quick poll with your group for the debates with two nights to decider which ismore convenient for folks—or if you want to go all in with a double header. Then, pick a location like a local restaurant, someone’s home, community center, etc. Just make sure there’s a TV or projector that can stream the debate and some comfortable places to watch. 

Once you have the details set, get your event on the Indivisible map. Putting your Debate Watch Party on the Indivisible event map is a powerful recruitment tool because it allows for a whole new batch of potential attendees to learn about the details of your event. Indivisible National will also be sharing the map in our email communications in the weeks leading up to the debates. Not to mention that you may find nearby events going on in your local area, where you can collaborate with other Indivisibles!

Next, you’ll want to make a recruitment plan. Start off by setting a goal. How many folks do you want to have at your party and more specifically, how many dropped off members do you want to re-engage? Then work backwards from this goal to plan out your recruitment. Good news here is that we’ve done a lot of the planning work for you and have outlined the steps you should take in the four weeks leading up to the debate. 

This toolkit includes  a 4 week plan for recruitment, a sample party agenda, scripts for outreach and more. While there are resources for the party itself in here, this toolkit is focused on recruitment because debates are an excellent opportunity to bring folks in. While this is focused on the presidential debates, it could also be applied to any other type of debate or watch party. By being really intentional about your recruitment, you’ll be able to really re-engage folks and grow your group. 

Once you’ve taken a look at this, you should also check in with your Indivisible Organizer to brainstorm how you’ll apply this plan in your group (you can reach out here if you’re not in touch with your organizer).

Week One

Use your first week to plan out your outreach and send out initial invitations. You can start by assembling your leadership team. This could be your steering committee, your event and recruitment captains, or the 1-2 folks who attend meetings and actions consistently and are always up for a party. You all have three important steps this week to build your debate watch party.

Step One

Make a list of everyone that you want to invite to your party. Debate watch parties are an excellent opportunity to rebuild your relationships with group members who have stopped attending meetings or actions consistently. One way to do this is to go through your email list or facebook group and identify people who have fallen out of the group. Or you can rustle up old sign-in sheets from past events and build the list from there. Include as much contact information as you can (email addresses and phone numbers) so you can start building your database.

No email list or sign-in sheets? No problem! Ask each of your leaders to make a list of the people in their lives who they talk about politics with, or share facebook articles, or attend super fun parties with interesting and engaged people.

Once you have your list, assign leads. The lead is responsible for following up and recruiting that person to attend the party. The best way to split up the list is by relationship. Who has the strongest relationship with the person? Who talks to them the most frequently? Who would they recognize? If nobody has a relationship with the person, look for points of interest like neighborhood or actions you attended together.

Step Two

Now you have your Master List and individual Lead Lists, and you are ready to invite people to your party. You can use this template here. Just fill in the crucial details for your party.

Start by blasting out the invite to your Master List. Email it to to your full list, post it to your facebook group, hire a skywriter to fly over everyone’s house loop-de-looping all of the pertinent information. Your goal here is for your invitees to see the invitation, get the information, and start thinking about your party.

Step Three

Follow-up! This is you and your lead’s first targeted recruitment touch. Using your individual Lead Lists, send a follow-up email or facebook message to each of your invitees with a personal message about why you them to attend. Ideally, this message will touch on your relationship with the invitee and why they are the exact person that you want to attend this party. Because it just won’t be a party without them.  If you’re not sure what to say, check out our template here.

Week 2

Time to hit the phones! This week you and your leads are leveling up your recruitment from emails and facebook messages to personal phone calls. Your goal is to have a personal conversation with everyone on your Lead List.

Conversations will vary depending on how the invitee responded to your email push and your next ask. For example, if the invitee already said that they will attend you party (and they can’t wait!), you can ask them to take on a role at the event like bringing name tags or potato chips, or signing in guests. If the invitee said no or hasn’t responded, you can invite them out for a cup of coffee to catch up, talk about your group, and find ways to get involved.

A sample phone script can be found here. The most important thing about these conversations is that you ask questions, learn about the invitee, and make a specific ask. 

You and your leads have all week to make these calls, and it might take more than one try to reach some folks. Phone calls are a crucial organizing tool but they can get tedious. Here are some ideas to make them fun:

  • If you have a big list, you can try hosting a phone bank! Order some pizza, put on some music, and make calls together with the rest of your leads.

  • Pick a call buddy! Text this person before you start calling with your goals for the night, update the mon any victories (yay! A coffee date!), and close out with any reflections on your calls.

  • Spread out the work! Commit to making 2 calls each night, or 5, or 10. Diving the work into bite-sized pieces means you will make progress everyday. And at the end of the week, you will be amazed at how quickly the victories piled up.

Week 3

Get ready to drink coffee because this week it is time to focus on one-on-ones! Strong relationships are the backbone of organizing and one-on-ones are a critical tool to build those relationships. This week, you and your leads should focus on one-on-one meetings with your invitees.

This one-on-one is you and your leads’ chance to dig into the self-interest of your invitees. Why did they show up at their first Indivisible meeting? What was their favorite action and how did it make them feel? Why did they stop coming and what would make them recommit to the group? Build rapport, ask additional questions, and make the ask for them to attend the debate watch party or take on a leadership role.

Here is a sample one-on-one outline to structure your conversation and lead from your heart. The most important thing here is to build a strong connection over shared values.

And after your one-on-one, make sure to tweet us a picture tagging @IndivisibleTeam! We love a good one-on-one!

Now that your event’s getting closer, ask yourself: would it make sense to invite reporters to come and cover it? 

To invite media or not to invite meda? 

What are people in your area looking for in a president? What are the issues you’re most concerned about? Reporters are always looking for local folks to give their perspectives on big national events like debates -- and you have a room full of them! Inviting media is a great way to shape the discussion about 2020 where you are and get free publicity. With that said, not every event needs to be a media opportunity, and it’s OK to put all your energy into building a crowd and making this a fun event. 

Here are some options:

  • Invite lots of local media, especially TV! If you’re having a larger party and have a couple people who’d be comfortable with being interviewed by name-- go for it! Send a media advisory to your media list. TV reporters will be extra interested in what the room will look like visually, so include the details about what they might see and how people will be interacting. You’ll want to follow up a couple times, so be sure to share this task with teammates. For a great example, check out Yuma County Indivisible’s coverage.

  • No media. This is a 100% valid choice too. Focus on turning out new people and having a great party. As always, take pics and videos. 

  • Invite one friendly reporter. If you want to have less disruption, or if you’re still building connections with media, this may be a good in-between choice. Pick one print or radio reporter who you’ve been in touch with before and had a good experience with. Reach out and ask if they’d be interested in an opportunity to do a story about a closed-door event. An “exclusive” like this can be a great way to build that relationship. You can discuss guidelines and expectations -- not everyone may want to give an interview, but some might. That said, even with a friendly reporter, err on the side of assuming they will write about what they see and hear. 

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Week Four

The debates are right around the corner! Your party is coming up in just a few days and you and your leads need to confirm all of your attendees. Ask each of your leads to send a reminder email, call, and/or text to each of their confirmed guests in the 3-4 days leading up the the debate watch party.

Life is busy and messy so reminders are incredibly important to make sure folks get through the door. Use these little touches as a way to continue to build your relationship with your guests, ask questions, and give them roles for the event. Sample email, call, and text here.    

Party Time!

Woo! Its Debate Night! You and your leads have made it through four weeks of recruitment and it shows. The party is hopping and there are folks in the room who you haven’t seen since...2017. Now you need to make sure that your event in fun, engaging, and meaningful so everyone wants to come back!

Don’t worry, you’ve got this (because you are fun, engaging, and meaningful). And because you’ve got us. Check out our sample debate watch party agenda for tips on making your party phenomenal -- and using it as an opportunity to make sure those folks you got in the room keep coming back.