Our 2018 strategic plan

We launched Run for Something on January 20th, 2017 with a simple premise:

Run for Something will help recruit and support young diverse progressives to run for down-ballot races in order to build a bench for the future — the folks we support now could be possible members of the House, Senate, and maybe even President one day. We aim to lower the barriers to entry for these candidates by helping them with seed money, organization building, and access to trainings needed to be successful.

In our initial strategic plan, we laid out exactly why this organization was necessary — the progressive movement’s systematic failure to create a diverse pipeline — and laid out our objectives. Initially, we aimed to recruit 10 strong, authentic, community-centered millennial candidates, focusing on two states. Two months in, we quickly adjusted our scope to include all 50 states plus DC, and hoped to be deeply engaged with 20–30 candidates.

Even with all the ambition in that initial plan and the subsequent updates, we were thinking too small.

Our first year was bigger and more successful than we ever could have imagined when we launched this organization on that very cold, very bleak day last year.

Much to our surprise and absolute delight, Run for Something is more than just a side project or pop-up organization for a single election cycle — it’s a movement of millennials ready to run, lead, and change the world. We’ve seen “run for something!!” become a mantra for those fed up with Trump, frustrated with the status quo, and eager to take action in their communities by becoming the decision-makers themselves. We’ve been overjoyed as our Twitter followers became our candidates who then became elected officials. We’ve certainly felt both smug and gratified as our “run everywhere” operating theory that was once considered odd has become conventional wisdom — and throughout it all, we’ve learned about how to grow, experiment, fail, and try again.

Every minute of the last year has been humbling, inspiring, hard, fun, overwhelming, challenging, and has reaffirmed our commitment to this work.

2018 is going to be even bigger and better. Welcome to our strategic plan for year two.

A quick table of contents for you…

  1. A review of what we accomplished over the last year — successes are fun!
  2. An overview of what we’ve learned
  3. Our goals and priorities for 2018
  4. A breakdown of how we’ll be executing and improving on each component of our program, including:
    - Recruitment
    - Community-building
    - Partnerships
    - Mentorship and coaching
    - Endorsements
  5. How we fit into the big-picture goals of the movement and how we’ll build infrastructure that can make an impact for decades to come
  6. Our values as an organization
  7. What our team looks like (and what we want it to look like)
  8. The nitty-gritty of our spending in 2017 and what we’d like to spend in 2018
  9. What our pie-in-the-sky dream is if someone gave us $100 million today
  10. FAQ!!

If you like what you read, join our team. Give us money! Help make the magic happen. This work has never been more important — and it simply can’t wait.


2017: What we accomplished

By nearly every metric imaginable, our first year was wildly successful. Pardon us while we brag a little…

Holy. Shit.

We recruited more than 15,000 millennials who want to run for local office for the first time. There is no previous number to compare this to — no one has ever tried this before! — but given our expectations of maybe 100 potential candidates in the first year, 15,000+ is bananas.

That’s a lot of winners!

We endorsed 72 candidates across 14 states in 2017 (with another three dozen on the slate for 2018.) We explain our endorsement process here — in Virginia, our endorsement came with $200,000 of funding and support. In other states, we were deeply engaged with candidates, connected them to high-touch partnerships, amplified their stories in the press, and provided volunteer efforts including phone and text banking. Across our entire endorsed slate, nearly half our candidates are women and nearly half are people of color.

35 Run for Something candidates won! 51% of our winners identify as women; 40% identify as people of color. They are new school board members, city councillors, county commissioners, and members of state legislatures. They’re the future of the Democratic Party. They’re amazing!

We attribute their success to two key factors: We work with great candidates — people who are authentic, rooted in their community, hard-working, and progressive — and we help them run great campaigns. Our candidates prioritize direct face-to-face voter contact, which is the best scientifically-proven way to increase voter turnout.

The new hot kick off to the holiday season: National Run for Office Day

We created National Run for Office Day, which brought a huge portion of the progressive movement around a single ask for 24 hours, garnered nearly 2500 new potential candidates for office, and generated 94 million impressions on social media. We worked with 40+ partner groups ranging from Onward Together to Our Revolution and every kind of group in between to unite the movement around candidate recruitment. Read more about National Run for Office Day, and get excited for NROD 2018, your new favorite way to kick off the holidays.

We built a network of 500+ mentors, coaches, and creatives who are helping local campaigns every single day. We brought on a person whose sole job is to facilitate candidate/mentor relationships. Our program connects national talent with local races, democratizing and sharing information.

A few examples of our amazing mentors…

Senongo Akpem jumped at the opportunity to help candidates with all their design needs and even offered to recruit additional designers to make sure all candidates’ materials looked professional.
Will Dubbs, a campaign veteran, worked with Heather Ward, a 22 year old school board candidate (and winner!) throughout her primary and general, mapping out day-to-day operations and field strategy.
Emmy Bengtson, a social media expert from multiple presidential and state-level campaigns, helped many Run for Something candidates this past year with digital fundraising and devising social media strategies. She even helped one our candidates raise $1,300 with just one Facebook post!

Our team of volunteers had more than 1,200 hours of conversation with potential candidates to help them plan a path forward. Our volunteers are looking for four key attributes when talking to a potential candidate: Is this person (1) progressive, whatever that means for wherever they live; (2) authentically rooted in their community; (3) willing to work hard; and (4) interesting and compelling. Our theory is that if a volunteer enjoys that half hour conversation with a candidate, a voter will, too.

And those convos are fun! Check out what volunteers are saying in our Slack team…

Shameless plug: Be a volunteer.

We proved in Virginia that strong, well-supported local candidates can help drive top-of-ticket turnout. This seems obvious: More great candidates at every level → more voter contact → more Democrats showing up to vote, all of which is good for all Democrats.

In Virginia, simply having a candidate on the ballot for House of Delegates led to a 1% increase in turnout for the attorney general’s race. In other districts, we were working with candidates who were in long-shot races — but whose opponents had to spend money and time campaigning instead of helping other Republicans. That made a difference.

Our average gift is still under $30. Boom.

We raised more than $750,000 — including a $200,000 investment in Virginia — from more than 6000 donors, with two-thirds of our funding coming from grassroots contributions. We’re intentionally building a sustainable fundraising base with a healthy mix of major donors and individuals giving whatever they can afford.

We got a whole lot of press — media monitoring estimates our earned press was worth $31 million in paid advertising. This matters because outreach is how we reach more potential candidates. Every story we’re in is another entrypoint for someone who may be thinking about running for office and doesn’t know where to start.

We’ve changed the national conversation about what a candidate can and should be, and we’ve helped shift the movement’s focus to local races. Along with many other partners, we’ve opened folks’ eyes to what a “good candidate” looks like (surprise, not all good candidates are rich old white men!) and have pushed for a more intentional focus on local races and running in every election. Folks are frequently telling us they’ve changed their career paths because we’ve pushed them to consider public service. One year ago, what we were saying was mocked — today, it’s conventional wisdom.

We accomplished a ton in our first year — with only four full-time staff for most of that time — and we learned a lot along the way that informs how we think about our second (!!) year.

2017: What we learned

We spent a lot of time over the last year figuring out how to actually execute on the vision we started with — sometimes things worked; other things were a bit tricker than we expected…

We’ve got to be everywhere. To limit our work to a small number of states would have been detrimental to our broader cause. We fundamentally believe that there is no longer such thing as a “knowable outcome” in politics — to continually focus on the same districts or states over and over again ignores the reality that in some states, we’re not going to win until we lose a whole bunch first. The organizing that happens during campaigns — even losing campaigns — contributes to the broader movement. And in a wave election, as we expect 2018 to be, anything can happen, so we’ve got to play the field.

It’ll be hard and expensive, but: We need to scale our internal infrastructure to meet the demand for our help, while keeping it fun and meaningful for our incredible volunteers. As we continue to do outreach and focus on recruitment, the number of potential candidates will (hopefully!) continue to skyrocket. We need to effectively channel volunteer enthusiasm to make sure every potential candidate gets the appropriate attention, and we need to make sure our volunteers have a good experience — both because anything less is irresponsible organizing and also we can maintain the scale.

Getting involved early makes a big difference. In Virginia in 2017, we worked with candidates during the primary — in two districts, we worked with candidates running against each other in primaries.While we expected some tension, we stayed fully transparent about our intentions and motivations and the candidates were understanding and appreciated the early help. Getting involved with candidates early in their campaign cycle means they run better races, do more voter contact, engage more volunteers, and ultimately turn out more voters.

Money is (unfortunately) extremely important, yes. But there are two caveats:

  1. Some of our biggest value-adds for candidates are the squishier stuff: Coaching, mentorship, and community. We did debriefs with many of our endorsed candidates and what we heard over and over again — much to our surprise! — was how valuable their connections with each other were. The consistent affirmation that “yes, this is supposed to be hard!,” and the tools for support to make it even a little bit easier were invaluable. Our mentors helped candidates with everything from advertising to messaging to basic campaign operations, and our state leads acting as coaches helped candidates get over the psychological challenges. Folks also loved getting to know other people running around the country.
  2. Money cannot and should not be the only factor in determining a candidate’s viability. We believed this as a principle before we started, but our experience over the last year has reaffirmed this. The amount of money a candidate can raise is an indicator of how much money their friends, family, and immediate network have. It’s not an indicator of whether or not they’ll be a good candidate or a good elected official.

Even with something as self-evidently good as this cause is, fundraising is always going to be hard. We had to be scrappy in our first year and we’ll certainly have to be scrappy in our second year. But we can’t let that hold us back: We also have to keep just doing the damn thing — it is too important not to. We launched this by racking up some credit card debt in start-up expenses and hoping we’d raise enough to pay it down. (Thank goodness we did!) But the reality is, this effort is working because we’ve built an amazing team, and building an amazing team takes money.

Informed by those learnings and guided by our core values, we’ve got big plans for 2018.

2018: What it looks like

In most ways, our second year won’t be dramatically different from our first. We will continue to recruit and support young diverse first-time candidates for local office, with the goal of building the progressive bench.

Our priorities for 2018 are simple:

We gotta grow.
  1. Scale. 2. Scale. 3. Scale. 4. Scale while providing our candidates the best possible support, ensuring our volunteers have the best possible experience, and giving our donors a great return on their commitment.

We’re not just being facetious. This is a special moment in history. It has never been more important to be running good candidates for every office at every level in every state.

Every indicating stat we can find — flipping seats from red to blue in 34 special elections in the last year; the incredible turn-out in Virginia, Alabama, and Georgia; the surge in the number of candidates running at every level; the spike in early fundraising for congressional elections; the sky-high number of Republican incumbents retiring — tells us 2018 is going to be a wave election for Democrats. With that wave comes a once-in-a-generation chance to elect new folks at every level that can dramatically change the makeup of our government, make a direct impact on local and state policy, and ultimately change the direction of our collective future.
Big goals. Consider this to be our vision board.

Accordingly, the metrics we’re aiming for by the end of 2018 are:

  • 50,000 potential candidates
  • 1,000 endorsed candidates

By the end of the year, each pool should be at least half women and at least half people of color, and represent all 50 states. We continue to strive for diversity in background, including people with disabilities, LGBTQIA Americans, African Americans, Latinx folks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, as well as diversity of experience (meaning more “nontraditional” resumes.)

These are ambitious goals, but after evaluating our 2017 success and failures, we have a path forward to hit them.


2018: Recruitment

We aim to recruit 50,000 potential candidates for state and local office by the end of 2018 in order to broaden the pool of leaders of the progressive movement, with the goal of making that pool as diverse as possible.

Our recruitment strategies and tactics include:

Storytelling about our candidates because “you cannot be what you cannot see”

  • Earned media: regional and demographic-specific outlets
  • More explicit work with regional media and demographic-specific media outlets in order to get in front of our target audiences
    Highlighting compelling stories, with an explicit focus on candidates who identify as women and candidates of color
  • Owned media: Expand into video & audio
  • Getting staff/freelancers on the ground to create content about our candidates — possible options include a web series, a podcast, photo essays, etc

Partnerships: We’d like to work with media and corporate partners to find new ways to integrate our candidates’ stories into their content streams as well as integrate the “run for something” ask into their messaging.

College Tour 2018: Speak with graduating seniors (and the broader communities) about running for office

  • We’ll pilot a tour of 5–7 metro areas that have several universities and colleges. In trips consisting of one or two days, we will visit as many schools as can be reasonably scheduled.
  • The current proposed list of areas includes Phoenix, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando, San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley, and Las Vegas. Each of these areas have large populations of students of color that come from in-state and attend “commuter” schools. These cities also have substantial community college systems and are in politically important areas.
  • We aim to start the tour as soon as possible and continue until the spring semester ends in mid to late May.
  • The tour would partner with organizations who have existing college campus infrastructure to expedite logistics as well as reach underrepresented groups. (Is that you? Email us: lesley@runforsomething.net)
  • Once a speaking event has been scheduled, RFS will provide a packet to the organizing student group that will help with promotion, media management, and general organization.

Paid media, specifically on Facebook, search, and native advertising

  • We’d like to run more concerted tests about what kind of messaging is most effective for candidate recruitment. Our initial tests in 2017 showed that candidate leads can be as expensive as $50/name; other groups have shown a lower cost per candidate but the quality of that lead is often lower — what are other cost-effective ways we can use paid media to recruit people?
  • In 2018, we’d like to partner with other organizations with similar goals to share costs on this

Expand our partnership program

  • We’ll continue to work with our existing partners to support their candidates however we can, bringing them into our network.
  • We’ll bring on a Political Director who will deepen our relationship with partners like the DLCC, EMILY’s List, Emerge America, as well as with state Democratic Parties to ensure that we are helping to fill in many of the gaps around candidate recruitment.
  • Create an Ambassador Program to allow individuals to recruit their friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances quickly and easily
  • Develop a guide that takes volunteers through the process of finding individuals in their own communities to run for office. The guide will include ways to be visible in their community, how to talk with folks about running for office, setting-up a house party to recruit (or for their own candidate), etc.
  • Set-up a nomination form for community members to recommend folks that they think should run for office.

National Run for Office Day 2018!!

  • National Run for Office Day 2018, run by Run for Something Action Fund (our affiliated 501c4) will be bigger and better than ever. We’ll start planning even earlier, bring on more partners, and bring on someone to project-manage the entire day.
  • We’ll make a concerted effort for NROD to be even more accessible — including subtitles, sign language, and multiple languages.

Going on tour

  • In 2017, Run for Something Action Fund (our 501c4) partnered with HeadCount and other organizations to go on tour with Grizzly Bear and War on Drugs. Nearly 5,000 people signed up to get involved in local government — including running for office — through that tour. In 2018, we’ll look into other ways to partner with musicians and organizations that reach our target audiences.

2018: Support

Once someone has signed up at runforsomething.net to say they want to run for office, we take them through a metaphorical funnel from “potential candidate” → “filed candidate” → Election Day. Our support program in 2017 included four buckets: (1) community, (2) coaching and mentorship, (3) resources, and (4) endorsements.

Our objectives in 2018 are to scale each of those buckets, and refine each point in the process with an eye towards increasing retention and providing meaningful support.

Community

We aim to cultivate a strong community that keeps candidates and potential candidates engaged throughout the process. We want to build into our program a regular cycle of positive affirmation and validation, to make sure no one ever feels alone.

  • Run for Something staff and interns will be more proactive about sharing social and feel-good stories on the RFS candidate Slack team, into weekly candidate emails, and quarterly candidate conference calls
  • We’ll create and share video and audio content from past candidates — both winners and losers
  • Formalize mentorship between 2017 candidates, new/young elected officials, and 2018 candidates
  • Empower more volunteer community managers to facilitate conversations on Slack
  • Create and moderate Facebook groups for different cohorts of individuals, including those who’ve already had elections
  • Continue hosting weekly office hours on Slack so candidates have visibility into questions others are asking

Partnerships

In 2017, we built partnerships with 60+ organizations. In 2018, we’ll deepen our relationships across the progressive movement to ensure our candidates have access to every possible resource. We’ll formalize partnership work and maintain open lines of communication between all groups we work with. We’ll be both proactive and reactive.

  • Build on our partnerships with organizations like Emerge America, EMILY’s List, Wellstone, Indivisible, National Democratic Training Committee, the DLCC, and others through regularly scheduled communication
  • Expand on regional partnerships with state and local groups
  • Provide regular updates to partners about our endorsed candidates so they can identify which might be good fits for their particular program
  • Work with partner groups to further their recruitment goals by formalizing list-sharing agreements
  • Connect candidates and potential candidates to partner trainings using Slack, emails, texts (both blast and peer-to-peer), and potentially Facebook messenger bots

Mentorship & coaching

We plan on providing as many people as possible with mentorship, coaching, and resources so their campaigns will be strong, focused on voter-contact, and driven by authentic relationships with voters. To do that, we need to continue to build out volunteer, mentor, and staff networks and in particular, our processes that on-board candidates.

  • Expand the volunteer team that does candidate screening to make it through our queue faster
  • Create a new funnel for candidates by which every person who gets screened is then immediately able to get access to coaching
  • Refine our mentorship process so it is both active and passive, understanding that the people who most need the help may not be the ones to ask for it
  • Generate automatic follow-up emails to candidates once they’ve gone through a 1:1 pushing them to the mentorship database
  • Continue recruiting new mentors — both expert political operatives and creatives who can support candidates, with the goal of building long-term relationships between candidates, mentors, and RFS
  • Add 3–4 regional desks as staff to oversee coaching and mentorship in their areas as well as manage state leads. Regionals will be responsible for direct candidate support to our endorsed slate as well as traveling to campaigns for on-the-ground support.
  • Refine “state leads” program built on local political operatives volunteering their time to support and coach candidates. Our state leads will be responsible for following up with candidates as they apply for endorsement OR after they complete a one-on-one and reporting out on those interactions.
  • Build out resource library with short videos and documents from political experts on a few key areas of campaigning that we get common questions on — including questions like compliance, opening your bank account, campaign planning, and budget templates
  • Continue gathering and surfacing resources from other organizations that can be helpful to our candidates, especially with regards to policy
  • Finalize and update guides on how to file in every state (which we completed in August 2017!!)

Endorsements

Our endorsed candidates in 2017 were amazing. In 2018, we want to grow our endorsed candidate list while still ensuring our endorsement has value. For endorsed candidates, we will continue to identify and execute on the most effective ways to help their campaigns.

  • After piloting in 2017, we’ll formalize endorsement process and criteria
  • Identify states where we can legally fund candidates. We have a list of states we are currently exploring with our legal counsel to identify the best path forward. Our criteria for this list included…
     —Is it a DLCC-identified target or flip-the-chamber opportunity?
     — How many candidates are applying for endorsements from that state
     — Do we have diverse and exciting candidates?
     — How complicated is campaign finance law in that state?
     — Is is a state where Democrats can win one day if we invest in infrastructure now?
     — A ceratin ~je ne sais quoi~ about states
  • Continue sending endorsed candidate lists to partner organizations
  • Provide access to boutique resources like creative and tech support; generate volunteer efforts for endorsed candidates including virtual phone banks, text messages, and canvass shifts
  • Negotiate rates at scale for candidates — like reduced rates for the voter file, SMS tools, etc
  • Spotlight endorsed candidates to press and on social media

2018: The big picture

Our scope of work is specific — first-time millennial candidates (40 and under) running for local office — but the possible impact of our work is massive. Accordingly, we want to ensure we keep the proverbial “big picture” in mind as we operate in 2018. Our candidates can have an effect on the immediate up-ballot elections, they can and will be long-term leaders in the movement, and Run for Something can (and should!) become the kind of organization that can last.

Supporting the party across the ballot

The collective 2017 shift to local elections was heartening. Now we need to reinforce a movement-wide focus on local elections — both for their own sake as well as for the impact they can have on up-ballot elections.

We want to prove (again!) that reverse coattails are real and accordingly, good local candidates are worth investing in.

  • Explore research projects with academics or the Analyst Institute to assess the impact a local candidate can have on a top-of-ticket race
  • Maintain good data on where our candidates overlap with critical federal and statewide races and consistently tell the story of their work as it relates to those campaigns

Long-term leadership development

Building the bench means focusing on developing long-term leaders of the progressive movement. We aim to foster a strong community of candidates past and future so they stick with this work once the luster fades

Organized by Run for Something Action Fund, the 501c4 affiliate of RFS, we’ll launch two leadership development programs for candidates who’ve gone through election days.

  • Tentatively called “Ran for Something”: An intensive multi-day program hosted by RFSAF for 15–20 candidates who previously went through an election and lost. We want to truly invest in the individuals who’ve demonstrated that they are willing to step up and help their communities. At the end of the program participants will have formed strong bonds with each other and will have fleshed out exactly how they can continue making a difference in their communities.
  • Run for Something Fellows: A stipend-based program that allows RFS to learn from the unique experiences of individuals who are civically engaged in their communities. RFS Fellows will be responsible for completing a project for the organization so that we all come to a better understanding of how to truly engage communities in the civic process.

Making ourselves sustainable

This work can’t end when the 2018 cycle comes to a close. We want to grow and push both our brand and infrastructure so Run for Something can keep doing this work forever and ever, amen. We’ll make decisions with sustainability in mind, finding ways to fund ourselves so we’re not as reliant on the whims of the political ecosystem, and continue telling our story with chutzpah and a sense of humor.

  • Hire a development director to build out and execute a cohesive fundraising strategy
  • Continue to invest in online advertising for the purpose of list-building, brand awareness, and candidate recruitment
  • Host low-dollar events every quarter in as many cities as possible — but make them fun! Build community around Run for Something outside of candidates and volunteers. (Maybe we’ll even do the literal RUN for Run for Something 5k that people email us about once a week.)
  • Explore paid partnerships with organizations where it makes sense
  • Build out creative 501c4 programs that foundations and non-partisan entities can help fund
  • Use earned and owned communication channels to cement ourselves as the pre-eminent organization for millennial electoral leadership.

2018: What we believe

We spent time as a team this year coming up with our values — and we try to live them in how we run our program, how we run our organization, and how we treat each other. There is often tension in these values (that’s where the fun is!) and sometimes they are more aspirational than we might admit, but we’re proud to say this is who we are, what we believe, and how we behave.

Bold & Fearless

  • We have big dreams and are unafraid to pursue them.
  • We have a high risk tolerance; we’re not afraid of fighting the system when fighting is necessary. We’re not afraid of primaries either.
  • We’re willing to fail; we’d rather fail than avoid challenge.

Open & Honest

  • We believe in radical openness; we never shy away from challenging dialogue.
  • We tell the truth, even when telling the truth is difficult.
  • We’re transparent.

Supportive & Respectful

  • We’re here for the candidates and we put their needs first.
  • We meet people where they are, with warmth and without judgment.
  • We work hard while respecting people’s lives outside work.

Progressive & Diverse

  • We support Democrats that share our values and want to run for office.
  • We value cultural competences and strive to exemplify it in all we do.
  • We believe in diversity and seek to build a team that demonstrates diversity across race, class, geography, professional background, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Long-Term & Strategic

  • We’re committed to our goals and will make short-term sacrifices in service of our long-term goals.
  • We take principled stands, but don’t believe it’s our job to be the “purity police.”
  • We invest in talent, both at RFS and in the field.
  • We build infrastructure designed to last beyond individual election cycles.

Nuts & Bolts: The team

We’ve got big dreams for 2018. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot with a team of five full-time staffers — to accomplish what we’d like in the next year, we need to grow our team substantially.

Our dream team is below — current staff is italicized…

  • Executive Director
  • Chief Program & Recruitment Officer
  • Community/Organizing Manager
  • Political Director
  • Regional Director 1 (Lead Desk)
  • Regional Director 2
  • Regional Director 3
  • Regional Director 4
  • Data/technology manager
  • Chief Communications Officer
  • Social media manager
  • Content production managers (x2), overseeing freelancers traveling around the country doing video and audio storytelling
  • Press secretary
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Events & Special Projects Manager
  • Operations associate
  • Development Director
  • Fundraising associate
  • Chief Product Officer

In a dream world, we’d like to add 15 people to our team.

Outside of our staff, we have two boards who provide our team with guidance and support.

Our governing board is made up of:

  • Amanda Litman
  • Ross Morales Rocketto
  • Pedro Torres-Mackie
  • Tim Lim
  • Jennifer O’Malley Dillon

Our broader advisory board includes:

  • Cristobal Alex
  • Garrett Arwa
  • Mike Blake
  • Amanda Brown
  • Jon Carson
  • Brad Elkins
  • Teddy Goff
  • Sabrina Hersi Issa
  • Omar Khan
  • Andy MacCracken
  • Aneesa McMillan
  • Caitlin Mitchell
  • Charles Olivier
  • Emmy Ruiz

Nuts & Bolts: What we’ve got

Throughout 2017, we opened a 501c4, a 527, and a Virginia state PAC. Our expenses across the three entities included:

  • A full-time staff of five (four until October 2017)
  • Legal counsel, to keep us on the right side of some complicated campaign finance law
  • Compliance, because executing on that campaign finance law is hard and we want experts to help us
  • Online advertising, both the media buys and the firm doing the creative
  • Website maintenance and development, plus data infrastructure
  • Transaction fees
  • Contractors as needed for specific projects
  • Travel — we had places to go and people to see
  • Merchandise, that we then sold. (Buy a t-shirt!)
  • Insurance and other costs associated with running a business
  • Other miscellaneous operating expenses (a printer, stationary for thank you notes, etc.)

Nuts & Bolts: What else we need

We’re still evaluating which states we’ll be legally able to donate directly to local candidates.

Outside of that question, in 2018, we’d like to….

  • Build out a full tech stack that allows us to better manage the data coming in and out of our organization
  • Break into video and audio storytelling, and fully invest in freelancers, travel expenses, and talent in order to execute on that.
  • Develop a blast SMS program and build on our peer-to-peer text message program
  • Invest in vetting software for the 1,000 + candidates we will be endorsing in 2018.
  • Provide extremely low-cost voter file access to our candidates, especially those who will have a hard time getting it otherwise
  • Provide low-cost P2P texting to our candidates, as well as guidance on how to properly integrate into a field and GOTV program

Nuts & Bolts: The 2018 budget

To fully fund the Run for Something program laid out above, we need $3.5 million.

That breaks down:

  • 70% programming — including staff, advertising, travel, and events
  • 30% overhead — including legal, compliance, insurance, technology, and other operational requirements

To keep the lights on in 2018 and hire a barebones staff, we need to raise $2 million.

To keep the team nearly exactly the same, work 100 hour weeks, and not do nearly as well a job as we’d like, we need to raise $1.2 million.

The Run for Something Action Fund programming (which includes National Run for Office Day, Ran for Something, the fellowship, and going on tour) costs are included in this.


The $100 million dream

Every so often, someone asks us: What if someone gave you $100 million? What would you do?

Our answer…

We would completely change the game — and how we think about politics — by running at least one progressive candidate for all 500,000+ down ballot offices across the country. Think about that: More than 500,000 progressive candidates pushing for the change all of us want to see. And, if we could maintain close to our current win rate of about 50% that would mean 250,000 new young, diverse, progressive folks who will completely change the face of this country.

To do that we’d open PACs in every single state and would hire state-specific organizers to lead on-the-ground candidate support programs, manage mentorship networks, shepherd volunteers, and engage local partners. We’d give money to as many candidates as possible — whatever the local maximum is permitted by law. Whenever possible, we’d take on program components like advertising, text message banks, voter file management, and anything else a candidate can’t do with their limited time but could make an impact on their race.

We’d run massive public awareness campaigns about running for office, taking over homepages, doing native ads, podcast ads, video pre-roll online, and Spotify/Pandora radio. We’d run a parallel program in Spanish and other languages as relevant (Chinese, Korean, Creole, etc.). We’d barnstorm the country training recruitment ambassadors and deputizing them to go into local communities and organize — not just voters but future candidates.

We’d run targeted programs specifically to do outreach and support for young women of color and candidates in rural communities. We’d build out our work for candidates with disabilities. We’d run quarterly convenings for candidates and partner organizations.

It’d be awesome. Do you have $100 million to give us? Email us: hello@runforsomething.net


FAQ!!

Over the last year, we’ve answered a lot of questions about who we are, what we do, and why it all matters. A few of the most common questions we get.

Q: There have been literally hundreds of new groups popping up in the last year as part of the “resistance.” What makes you all different?

We are ecstatic to be part of the blossoming movement of new groups! And we have loved working with so many of them — our partners at Indivisible, Flippable, Ragtag, Tech for Campaigns, Sister District, and others has been invaluable; as has our work with some of the more established groups like the DLCC, OFA, Emerge America, and EMILY’s List. It’s a cliche but it’s true: Team work makes the dream work. There is SO much work to be done; no one group can do it alone.

As for what makes us different: We are still the only group in the ecosystem that focuses explicitly on young people running for local office for the first time. We’re also the only one that does beginning-to-end tactical support. No one else gets involved as early as we do, and no one else is in as many states as we aim to be. (Also, no one seems to curse as much as we do. Fuck it.)

Q: Your age limit used to be 35. Now it’s 40 or under. What gives?

We still believe in limiting our scope to young people, for reasons we laid out in our original strategic plan. But once we put it into practice, 35 felt unnecessarily arbitrary. Our candidates range in ages from 19–39, and anyone who comes to us outside of our age limit will be directed to the best resources for them.

Q: You’re going to have a bunch of people running against each other in primaries!! What will you do about that?

We dealt with that in 2017 — in Virginia, we worked with two candidates running against each other in at least two districts. We were upfront about that with the candidates, we firewalled our staff, and we raised money for both. Our mission isn’t to tell voters which person to pick; it’s to empower candidates to run strong voter-contact driven campaigns and trust voters to decide.

Q: The only important thing in 2018 is taking back the House and impeaching Trump. Your work doesn’t matter.

Well, respectfully, we disagree. Three points here:

  1. Our work directly impacts taking back the House. Our candidates get more Democratic voters to the polls, which leads to more votes for Democrats up and down the ticket. That’s how we win.
  2. Winning in November is extremely important — but this not a zero-sum game. We can both support House races and support local candidates. Give $10 to your favorite swing district AND to your favorite local candidate. Here’s a fun secret: Your $10 will mean more to the local candidate than it will to the congressional candidate. The local candidate’s budget is small and scope is more narrow; your money will go further.
  3. If the only thing you care about is the House, you need to also care about electing Democrats to state legislatures in order to undo the dangerous gerrymandering Republicans have institutionalized across the country. Any victory in the House in 2018 is doomed to be short-lived unless we win state legislatures and redraw the boundaries to be more fair after the 2020 census.

Q: I want to volunteer. I want to mentor candidates! I want to help you people out. What do I do?

Check out our handy-dandy guide, titled How to volunteer with RFS! We walk you through it all. Volunteers are heroes.

Q: I want to run for office. Now what?

Sign up at runforsomething.net/run-for-office — if you’re already running, sign up and we’ll get you the right info you need.

Q: There’s a book, right? What’s that about?

Indeed. In October 2017, Atria/Simon & Schuster published “Run for Something: A Real Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself” by Amanda. If you’re thinking about running, running for office, or just want to know more about campaigns, you should read it. (A warning: It’s got lot of curse words.) We think you’ll like it.

Q: Do you think this energy will last through 2018, 2020, and beyond?

Yes! Caring about politics is a habit. You come for the issue, candidate, or flashpoint in the news — you stay for the people you meet, relationships you build, and the passion you find for doing some good in the world. Once you’ve caught the bug, it’s hard to shake. We think that’s true for the new activists engaged across the country — and for the candidates, it’s even more true. These are folks willing to change their lives to change their communities and change the world.

Q: The 2016 election was depressing — how did you all go from devastation and outrage to a new organization so quickly? Weren’t you sad, angry, and broken?

Oh yeah. We were definitely all those things, with an additional layer of post-campaign exhaustion. One of us was even literally physically broken and spent a lot of 2017 on crutches. (Sometimes life’s metaphors are too on-the-nose.)

But this work is the best possible coping mechanism and a meaningful way to channel our grief and rage. It’s energizing and inspiring to spend our days talking to and thinking about people who genuinely want to make a difference in their communities. It helps that our candidates are incredible. They’re doing the hard, brave, incredible thing. Their commitment makes us want to do right by them.

Q: Now what?

Make sure you get our emails. (They’re great emails.) Set up a monthly recurring donation so we know we can count on you. Follow us Facebook and Twitter. Send us an email anytime — hello@runforsomething.net. We try and answer as many folks as we can, although if it takes us a few days, please forgive us.

The best thing you can do? Tell a friend about us. The more people who know we exist, the more people who consider stepping up to run. And in 2018, we need everyone to run. Democrats are going to win big; let’s ride the damn wave.