Photos by Austen Levihn-Coon at the Washington, DC Women’s March.
This weekend millions of people across the United States and around the world turned out to demonstrate their opposition to the Trump agenda. As many as five million people showed up at rallies and marches across the United States, and millions of these participants are becoming politically active for the first time. If you attended one of these gatherings, you know that the positive energy was palpable and that there was a widespread understanding that the massive march on Day 1 of the Trump administration is just the beginning.
As a leader of an existing nonprofit organization already engaged in the fight, now is the time to turn this energy into sustainable action and resistance. To that end, we recommend the following six strategies to deepen your relationships with supporters and increase resistance to the Trump Agenda.
1. Empower Your Supporters
First and foremost, in this moment of incredible challenges and given the scale of the challenges we are up against, we need all the leaders we can get. In your communications with your supporters, let them know you don’t want them just waiting for petitions to sign — we need everyone to step up.
While it may seem expedient to start sending your supporters petitions immediately to take action, you want to make the most of the moment to build volunteer leader capacity by training up those who are interested in doing more.
If you already have a volunteer program, now is the time to provide your supporters with the chance to get more deeply involved. Ask them to start a local chapter, to host a house party, or to sign up for a volunteer leader training. The options are numerous, but don’t lose this chance to build volunteer leader capacity and help your supporters become leaders.
Giving your supporters something to do and lead is one of the biggest drivers of whether they will come back for more action.
2. Train the Trainers
Once you have a new bench of volunteers signed up, the secret to scaling your efforts is how quickly can you expand your base of competent leaders. With hundreds of thousands of people energized and wanting to be involved in politics for the first time, now is the time to increase volunteer expertise through training.
This is the opportunity for your past leaders to step up. Ask them to be trainers for this new generation of activists. Once the new activists know how to run or support a campaign, they can start to run their own trainings in their communities.
By equipping your volunteer leaders with the tools they need to build capacity in their own communities, you can start to grow exponentially.
3. Build Community and Personal Relationships
Everybody wants to connect with other people. When you are thinking about how to mobilize your supporters, whether they are new to your organization or old hat, make sure to think about what you are going to do to make them feel welcome and connected.
Whether it is a personal call to welcome new volunteer signups, an onboarding conference call, or an in-person event, there are many ways to build personal relationships. Remember that community doesn’t need to all revolve around you or your staff either! Ask volunteers to host a welcome event. You likely have dozens of people who love hosting their neighbors already signed up to get your updates.
The Trump Resistance is about more than just action, it’s about community. The better connected your activists and volunteers are, the more likely they will stick around. And cookies never hurt either.
4. Give New Supporters Something To Do
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve witnessed in organizing is a hesitation to ask new supporters to dive in and get their hands dirty. Whether you’re concerned about overloading new supporters, or that it’s not on your ladder of engagement, or you think they might not get it yet … get over it!
Many people learn by doing, and having a commitment to the team that they can complete between meetings will keep people coming back. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in and make sure they are doing alright between gatherings, but make sure you have something that new volunteers can tackle when they come in the door. Not only will you be able to do more by asking for help, but you also start to build leaders through experience.
5. Give Your Supporters Free Rein to Get Creative
A feeling of ownership over a campaign can start with a clear sense of marching orders on how to implement a campaign in your own community. However, real ownership and excitement begins when volunteers can start to make their campaign their own. Whether it is incorporating some personal flair into their promotional materials or adapting your organization’s brand to match their town or affinity group values, there are many opportunities for volunteers to make a campaign their own.
In this moment of need, instead of holding them back by restricting everything your local volunteers can do, take advantage of the interest and energy to urge your supporters to get creative. The more your supporters feel connected to the cause and their campaign, the more committed they will be. And who said we couldn’t have a little fun while we saved the country from Trump?
6. Don’t Forget to Share the Big Picture
The urgency is real and the need for immediate action alluring, but don’t forget that this is going to be a marathon. When you are onboarding your new supporters, make sure you share your vision for the world that is possible and how they are integral to helping us get there.
Given the scale of the challenges we are up against, we need people who are in it for the long haul, not just for the next month. By sharing the big picture with your supporters you give them ownership over the vision and they will be more bought into your campaigns. It will also get them thinking about what else they can do to support the cause.
Austen Levihn-Coon (@austenlc) is Chief Innovation Officer at Fission. Drop him a line at austen [at] fissionstrategy.com if you’d like to chat about ideas.