What we actually do for candidates
In our efforts to build a Democratic bench for the future, Run for Something’s immediate goal is to get as many people to run as possible.
Most organizations limit their focus by viability — but that kind of prioritization doesn’t allow us to embody our core values.
We trust voters. Our candidate program is structured to get as many committed people as possible in the door and provide them access to resources, money, and experts who can help them. We are not de-facto limiting our focus or our efforts by race viability, “flippability”, or whether or not we think the candidate is the “perfect person.”
The voters should decide who the right candidate is to represent them — not an institution.
We promote progressive values. Getting more progressive people running means more chances for communities to hear about and identify with our vision for the future. The more we can spread these messages through connected members of communities, the better off we will be.
Our risk tolerance is high: Like incubators or venture capital firms in the tech world, we don’t expect all (or even a majority) of our “investments” to win the first time out. By getting on the ballot, holding opponents accountable, and getting Democrats engaged through voter contact, our candidates will be effective in building out the party at the local level.
They very well could win — and we’ll do everything we can to support them — but just by getting in the door, they’ll change our democracy for the better.
Step 1: Sign up at RunforSomething.net
Through press, social media, paid advertising, grassroots outreach and a constant drumbeat of conversation, we aim to destigmatize the idea that running for office is only for a limited type of person (read: old rich white men.)
Potential candidates then join a conference call, then opt in to have a 1:1 with a member of the RFS Concierge team. Every person who opts-in to that 1:1 will get a call at some point — we are prioritizing screening based on the date of the election the candidate expressed interest in.
Our Concierge team is made up mostly of folks with experience on campaigns or in the progressive movement. They are screening for four key factors:
- Is the candidate progressive, by whatever definition fits their community (i.e. A progressive in Louisiana is different than a progressive in California)? We direct folks to RunforSomething.net for our definition of progressive.
- Is the candidate rooted in their community — do they have a network, connections, and an authentic understanding of what problems the community faces?
- Does the candidate understand what a campaign means and are they willing to do the work?
- Is the candidate compelling and interesting to talk to? If the volunteer was going to work for them, on a scale of 1–10, how excited would they be?
Step 2: If a candidate meets those criteria…
They get invited to our Slack community, where they get access to:
RFS community support
In the Run for Something Slack team, candidates can build relationships with other people considering running for office, as well as RFS volunteers. Our community is structured by state as well as by specialty and by demographics — candidates and volunteers are self-organizing, setting up in-person meetings, and commiserating as they encounter similar challenges.
RFS candidates will have the opportunity to claim time on a campaign expert’s calendar and ask questions as part of a free consulting program. The goal of this is to democratize access to institutional knowledge in a scalable way. Instead of pairing up one candidate with one expert who may not have specialized knowledge in all facets of a campaign, we’re trying to help candidates get experts to specific questions from many experts. This allows mentors to support many candidates at once.
Access to resources and trainings
RFS staff and volunteers constantly share links to trainings and programs put on by partner organizations that might be useful for potential candidates. We are also in the process of building out a calendar of regular conference calls to get in the weeds on campaign tactics and do Q&A on policy briefings.
Press and social media amplification
RFS will help all candidates that are part of our community connect with relevant reporters and will signal boost through social media. Any outlet that wants to talk to our candidates can email email@example.com — we’ll do what we can!
Step 3: RFS funding
Any member of the RFS community can apply for Run for Something funds. (The only exception to this may be the upcoming Virginia House of Delegates races in 2017, due to timing.)
In order to get funding from Run for Something, candidates must:
- Meet a fundraising threshold or make a compelling case with a campaign plan
OPTION A: FUNDRAISING THRESHOLD
The candidate must raise 15% of the average cost of that race and/or similar races for the last 1–3 cycles
For example: If the average cost in a state assembly race and similar districts has been $100,000, you must raise $15,000. The fundraising haul may not be from just one donor or self-funded — the candidate needs to show grassroots engagement
OPTION B: CAMPAIGN PLAN
The plan must include the following information in as much detail as possible:
- Message overview
- Budget & staffing plan
- Plan for fundraising
- Voter contact plan
- Calendar of relevant dates
- Any open questions/known unknowns
2. Be officially on the ballot (i.e. filed paperwork and/or acquired petition signatures if needed) and have an opponent officially on the ballot
3. Pass a basic background check
- Criminal record search
- Search on Lexis Nexis
- FEC records
- Social media review
The candidate will have a chance to explain anything possibly contentious. This is not to rule anyone out — but rather to help identify any possible flags as part of self-research.
4. Be a Democrat and meet the Run for Something progressive criteria
5. Be 35 or younger
6. Be a first or second-time candidate
7. Be running for a down-ballot office — this is defined as anything below statewide and federal office
The deadline to apply for funding is 60 days after the filing deadline for the position — candidates have two months after getting on the ballot to get their operation up and running.
Candidate who meet this criteria and apply for funding will be interviewed by Run for Something staff.
Once that interview is complete, we’ll contribute funding in amounts up to 30% of the average cost of that race. The donations may be given all at once or be staggered throughout the election.
The mechanics of this donation will vary from state to state, pending contribution limits and legal filings required. For some candidates, we’ll be able to donate the entire sum of the contribution directly from our PAC. For others, we’ll ask our grassroots community and donors of all levels to help directly make up the difference.
Any candidate who takes RFS funding must agree to a contract that includes:
- Candidate agrees to have a field program as a central component of their campaign where the candidate participates by knocking on doors and calling voters directly.
- Candidate agrees to fundraise using best practices and using all available mechanisms including but not limited to: call time, events, email, online and in-person meetings.
- Candidate agrees to include Run for Something as a strategic partner in the campaign and include them in all major decisions including staffing, budgetary, public communications and overall strategy.
The application will be available to candidates through the Slack team.
What if a candidate is in a primary against someone else in the Run for Something community?
If multiple first- or second-time millennial candidates are running in a primary and meet the criteria, we’ll help them all in at least some capacity — whether it’s funding or other types of support. The voters should decide — not us.
What happens in the sixty days leading up to an election?
We do grassroots fundraising — we can set up massive ActBlue pages by state/office, encourage people to give; spotlight each race, etc. We also direct volunteer efforts towards races that need the help.
Can candidates be public about trying to raise in order to be eligible for RFS funds?
Candidates can absolutely use RFS funds as a hook to get donors in the door. It establishes a quick goal and will be an easy hook for grassroots fundraising and engagement. We encourage it.
What about the staffing help y’all promised in your strategic plan?
We are still thinking through how to run that program in a scalable way. For now, we’ll work with our candidates one-on-one to help them find talent to hire.
Candidates who receive RFS funds will be publicly listed on the RFS website and will be part of a concerted content and advertising program as determined by RFS staff.
Campaign teams will be able to reach out to RFS as needed for support. As part of the candidate contract, we’ll continue to engage and support their work. We’ll also run digital organizing efforts in conjunction with the campaign.
All candidates — whether funded or not — will continue to have access to RFS resources, mentors, networking opportunities, and the community of support.
Will this work?
Well, we won’t know until we try it! No one else does it this way or with these particular goals. But let’s be realistic: We can’t try the same old methods and expect a new result.
We aimed to set up something that scales while takes into account the wide spectrum of races we’re working on. And if you have an idea for other ways we can help our candidates, just email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And we didn’t entirely pull this out of thin air. For our funding criteria, we took a little bit of inspiration from public financing structures that aim to level the playing field, while still providing an avenue to apply for funding that doesn’t require as wide a network. We are treating our candidates like start-ups — not every start up will succeed but that doesn’t mean the effort is wasted. Talent development has value in and of itself.
We are hopeful and optimistic that the incredible outpouring of support for our mission won’t dissipate over time. After all, as we start having people who meet our funding criteria, we’re going to count on all of you to support them! And until then, we need to keep growing, hire staff, and build out our infrastructure to support the volume of people who want to run (7200 people and counting!)