Grassroots Basics: The event calendar
This is part of an occasional series, Grassroots basics for emergent parties.
One of the many great things about the Internet is the many collaborative technologies it offers. Today I want to talk about the event calendar. Every local emergent party committee needs two online event calendars. One should be the public calender, posted on the committee’s website. The other should be visible only to committee members. The public one contains those events the committee has agreed upon. The committee-only one contains every possible visibility and campaign opportunity. You can use Google, or Yahoo, or some tool I have not heard about. The great thing is that everyone should be able to look at it.
It is February, so this is a good time to look ahead and gather as many opportunities for campaigning as you can. In jurisdictions where you have multiple candidates, as much as possible, you don’t want to schedule fundraisers at the same time.
So what sort of events should go on the calendar? Does your community host a Memorial Day parade? Do they permit political parties to march in it? You need to start talking about that now. Are there summer festivals or block parties that allow political candidates? Farmers markets? Town or County fairs? Do they permit political parties to participate? If so, how much do they charge? And is it worth it? If last election’s emergent party candidate got .05% of the vote overall, but 1.75% of the vote in a particular precinct, and that precinct has a block party, then you need to be at that block party, and this year’s candidate needs to work that block party. That is why researching precinct returns is so crucial to building a party and it a great service you can offer to emergent party candidates who are rarely experienced campaigners.
What is your community planning for the Fourth of July? A parade? Or just fireworks? If it is a parade you need to start planning now. If it just fireworks you can do something informal, like handing out bottled water with your candidate’s sticker on it. I know from experience that even the most apolitical person will appreciate a bottle of water when the temperature is above 90. People waiting to watch fireworks are not interested in political literature; but they are interested in water.
It is critical to remain sufficiently flexible to respond to special events such as a strike. Walking with striking workers is a great way to building relationships provided you respect the event and refrain from trying to hijack it. Be on the look out for such opportunities that may present themselves.
The calendar may also be used to schedule such events as door knocking and phone banking. Treat your door knocking volunteers with special care. It is the most difficult thing to recruit for and the most effective campaigning there is. I will be writing more about the art of door knocking later on, but for now it is enough to say that you need to think about scheduling these things now. For example, if there is a major summer festival, you do not want to schedule your door knocking that particular weekend. That is but one reason the event calendar is so important.
Other events you need to be aware of: civic association meetings (unlikely you will be able to set up a table or anything like that, but you need to be aware of them), back to school night (when parents go to meet with their children’s teacher), Chamber of Commerce debates (even though you will not be invited, you need to know when it is). High School football games are another thing that should be on the event calendar. Every sort of community event you can think of. Get your public school system’s and parks and recreation department’s calendars, that will give you a start. You want to know about as many events as possible, then you can choose activities based on the best advantage for your candidates. I will be saying more about how to work all these events, for now it is enough for local committees to build their calendars, not with the idea that they can or should work every event, but so they can base their decisions are the greatest possible choice of opportunities.
Note – I have decided to start a continuing fundraiser to support these posts. There is a great deal of great analysis and reporting in lefty blogosphere, but one thing that is lacking is nuts and bolts directions about grassroots politics. It is all very well to call for people to get involved, to take charge, but that is a little difficult for people who have no experience. If you have never done door knocking, even less recruited volunteers for the same, it is very daunting. It is much easier if someone explains how it is done. Even if you decide to do things differently, it is much easier to make that decision based the experience of others rather than starting from scratch. I would like to devote enough time to this to write an ebook, and make this knowledge as widely available as possible. But for that I need your support. If you appreciate these posts, if you would like to see more grassroots politics posts, if you think that others would benefit from my experience please donate to my grassroots politics manual fund.