Relational Organizing: Who Do You Know?
You can use your personal networks to reach voters in key states, creating the ripple effects that ultimately crest in a Blue Wave! Communicating with friends and family is one of the most effective ways to both get out the vote and activate supporters who want to help but aren’t sure how. This technique is called relational organizing, and you can become an organizer today!
While phone banking, letter writing, and texting campaigns are successfully reaching many, there are still voters who may not be fully aware of the voting process, feel apathetic about the candidates, or need help filling out and properly sealing a mail-in ballot for the first time. It’s possible these voters have already been contacted, but maybe they haven’t picked up the phone or answered a text because they didn’t want to respond to someone they didn’t know.
That’s where you come in! A personalized message coming from someone familiar can be very effective in persuading someone to vote and making sure they have someone to reach out to if they have questions. In addition to getting out the vote, you can also spread the word about opportunities for people in your networks to get involved in a variety of ways, many of which don’t require a huge commitment.
This action kit guides you through the process of answering the question Who do I know? and provides sample scripts and resources to help you make sure your contacts have a plan to vote.
You can also sign up for one or more of the upcoming trainings on our website.
1. Learn the Key States
You are likely familiar with the Swing States, but what about Super States?
Super States are important for one or more of the following:
- the Presidential race
- Senate races
- House seats needed for redistricting
States are still being added as toss-up states by the Cook Political Report, but most are shown in this map:
Visualize the list of states and start thinking about your network:
- Who do you know out West? Arizona | Colorado | Texas | Montana
- Know anyone in the south? Florida | Georgia | North Carolina | South Carolina
- Any family or friends in the Midwest? Iowa | Wisconsin | Michigan | Ohio | Pennsylvania
- Any colleagues or former roommates in these states? New Hampshire | Maine
Swing Left has more information about the Super States on their website.
2. Examine Your Network and Create a List
Your network is probably spread out across multiple states. For relational organizing purposes, your network does not just include friends and family; it can include colleagues, members of religious and activist organizations, and others whom you wouldn’t necessarily invite to your wedding but who would accept a phone call from you!
Option A: Brainstorming
Make a list either on paper, the back of a napkin, or an Excel spreadsheet of people you may know that stretch beyond your close circle of family and friends, for example:
- Extended family
- Friends from high school and college
- Former colleagues
- Members of parent groups
- People you sat with on the sidelines of your kids’ sports games
- People who were in your church, or temple or mosque
- Social media friends
Note if any of these contacts live in the Super States and are Democratic-leaning. These are people you can focus on first (but not exclusively).
Option B: Find Contacts with the Vote Joe app.
Another way to sort your contacts is to use the VoteJoe app, which loads contacts already in your phone and allows you to search for contacts by state and party. The app also provides some information on voting habits and offers templated messages to send directly in the app. Note that the campaign doesn’t receive your contacts’ phone numbers or any other contact information. Find more details in our guide Reach Out to Your Network with the Vote Joe App.
3. Make an Action Plan
Decide how you want to reach out to your network.
Multiple options are available, and you can contact people in your network based on your comfort level and what you know about your contacts. Do you want to use social media? Make phone calls? Text or write an email? The most personal — and likely most effective — is a phone or Zoom call when it’s not possible to meet in person. Regardless of the medium you choose, it is important to take care not to send mass messages that look like they could be from anyone. Adding a personal touch is key in relational organizing.
Think about your objective
Do you want your contacts to:
- vote early?
- vote by mail?
- understand which candidates and issues are important in their state?
- get the word out to their own networks?
- engage with you in get-out-the-vote efforts?
Do a little research
- Has early voting started?
- Are ballots being sent already?
- How do they get an absentee/vote-by-mail ballot?
- How do they find their polling place?
- If voting by mail, do they need a witness?
Create a simple plan for contacts you’re encouraging to vote:
- Which candidates will you recommend they vote for?
- What options do your contacts have for voting?
- Where and when can they vote?
- If they’re voting by mail, and have never done so, you may need to explain the process. This 30-second video can help (disregard the due date at the end).
Decide how you want your contact to help you get out the vote:
- Friendbanking for a candidate
- Contacting 3 friends in their own network
- Putting up yard signs
- Sharing posts on social media with a personal twist or story
- Participating in the Wave of the Week
4. Personalize Your Script and Get in Touch
Remember: personal messages are the most effective
No matter how you are sending or sharing your message, tell your story and explain what this election means to you.
- Why are you working to elect Biden and defeat Trump?
- Why do you care so much about flipping the Senate?
- Why is gerrymandering a problem?
- How have recent events shaped your views and made you more passionate about this election?
The goal is engagement.
You want to get into a discussion, so initiate your call or message in a way that elicits a response. Ask your friends how they are feeling, what their concerns are, and whether they can commit to voting or helping get out the vote.
Sample scripts are in the next section. You can also use the scripts in the VoteJoe app.
Scripts: Getting Out the Vote
1. Opening Message
Hi ____, I am reaching out to you because the November election is the most important of our lives. The country and our planet cannot withstand another four years of Donald Trump’s policies and failed leadership! If you feel the same way, I hope you have a plan to vote. My plan is to ____. What are you doing in (your state)?
Hi ______, I am reaching out to ask how you are feeling about the upcoming election. You know I have 3 children/ grandchildren and I’m really worried about the world they are going to inherit. The epidemic is raging worldwide as wildfires rage in the West, climate change is already upon us, and the Supreme Court will be making decisions that impact our families for generations to come. I can go on and on. This is such an important election, and I want to make sure everyone in my network is voting. What is your plan for voting in (state)?
Hi__, I have been so upset about this election, about the virus, and about the state of our democracy that I am having trouble sleeping. Now I have decided I have to do something about it, and I would love to explain. How are you feeling about the state of our world?
Hi______, this whole year has been so terrible. The virus. Wildfires. And then RBG dying. I am determined to make sure we change things. This election is our chance. If you feel the same way, I hope you will join me in voting. My plan is to ____. Can I count on you to vote?
Hi_____, I have been really moved by all the protests over the killing of George Floyd and the sense that our country is finally coming to a reckoning over racial injustice. And then at the debate, Trump could not condemn white supremacy. I think this election is critical and I have decided to work hard to make sure we change things. How are you feeling about these issues? Would you like to hear more about why I find it so critical to vote in this election?
2. Following Up
After you receive a response, try to engage your contacts in a dialogue. If they are not convinced that the issues you brought up are problematic but want to continue the discussion, you can have some talking points in mind:
- Trump has not responded appropriately to the pandemic and is not taking it seriously.
- We will only get back to a strong economy once the pandemic is addressed.
- Issues like climate change, racial justice, democracy…
- It’s time to change direction: we have lost the respect of other countries, pulled out of important agreements like the Paris Climate Accord, etc…
If you’re into a productive conversation, move toward your follow-up questions and requests related to voting.
3. Your Asks
The first ask: Make a plan for voting.
Does your contact plan to vote and have a plan for doing so? Work with them to develop an effective plan for:
- Who they are voting for at all levels from local to national
- How, when, and where they are voting.
I am so glad that you are with me. Years of research have shown that the best way to make sure we all vote is for us to have a plan. As important as voting is, life sometimes gets in the way — so a plan really helps, especially when it’s written down. Do you know how and when and where you will be voting for Biden & Harris?
If they say, “Well, sort of”:
Let me help you do the plan. Are you going to vote by mail or in person?
The second ask:
Ask your contact to encourage their family and friends to vote with them:
You have a great plan to vote! Now how would you feel about asking your family and your friends to join with you using the same plan?
4. Reluctant Voters
Reluctant Voter (RV): “I don’t like any of the candidates.”
I hear you. It can be tough to find a politician to completely agree with or relate to. But we’re not picking friends here. We’re choosing the direction of the free world.
RV: “I don’t know the candidates.”
That’s understandable. Unless you follow politics closely, it’s hard to know the difference between them. Here are a few quick ways to learn enough to feel good about voting.
RV: “It’s just not something that interests me.”
I get that. Politics can be off-putting, especially when people get aggressive about their opinions. But voting is also something that affects everyone on a personal level.
RV: “It’s rigged! What’s the point?”
I agree that it’s frustrating when people try to cheat and even worse when they succeed. But that’s all the more reason to make sure you participate!
RV: “My vote doesn’t matter.”
I understand why it might feel that way. It can be hard to see our impact when millions of people are voting. But the truth is that every vote matters. I know that sounds corny, but there are so many ways that it does…
RV: “I’m too busy.”
Totally. Trying to schedule in voting on top of everything else can be difficult. Luckily there are some options that make it quick and easy.
RV: “I’m nervous about voting.”
I understand. The voting process can be intimidating. What is it about voting that makes you nervous? Here are a few ways to gain some confidence.
RV: “I’m concerned about Covid-19.”
That’s absolutely a valid concern. Your comfort and your safety are important. Here are some ways to make sure you can participate without putting yourself at risk.
5. Support for Voters
Getting Your Network Activated
1. How People in Your Network Can Help
Who to reach out to
As you now consider ways that you can organize people in your network to help spread the word, think beyond the Super States and consider reaching out to contacts in any state who might benefit from a little nudge to help with the get-out-the-vote effort. Especially in these times when we’re not relying on door-to-door visits, the possibilities for campaigning with friends in different time zones are endless!
How they can help
As mentioned previously, there is a range of large and small ways people in your network can help get out the vote. The simplest is possibly asking them to contact 3 friends in their own network. Provide them with a link to this guide (Relational Organizing: Who Do You Know?) and some tips based on your own experience.
Other simple things they can do:
- Putting up yard signs, slapping a bumper sticker on their vehicle, wearing a candidate’s pin
- Sharing posts on social media with a personal twist or story
Opportunities for group get-out-the-vote efforts:
- Friendbanking for a candidate
- Participating with you in a Wave of the Week action
Whether you reach out to your network by phone, Zoom, text, e-mail, or on social media, you can make a difference in spreading the word about critical candidates and races that will have an impact on our country for generations to come. A sample email is posted at the end of this guide as a Word doc for you to use in helping your network of contacts get involved in get-out-the-vote efforst. Thank you for all you do!