Are you the kind of person who cares about building the progressive bench? Do you want to find and support the future leaders of our movement? Then chip in.
It’s a little unusual to have an entire section of a website dedicated to explaining why you should give us money. But what we’re doing is a little unusual — so bear with us. Transparency is one of our core values, so we want to walk you through who we are, what we’re doing, and why your support matters.
What we’ve already accomplished
We launched Run for Something on Inauguration Day of 2017 because prior to this year, the progressive movement has had a systemic problem that has failed to create a diverse talent pipeline. We didn’t have young people ready to move up in politics and we didn’t have a bench that looked like the people we aim to represent.
That has already changed. In the first six months, we’ve recruited more than 10,000 millennials who want to run for local office. Hundreds are already on the ballot and we endorsed 72 candidates across 14 states in 2017 (with another three dozen on the slate for 2018.) (Check ‘em out here. We think they’re amazing.)
We’re not recruiting or helping candidates based on geographic boundaries — we’re recruiting candidates based on who they are as people. We’re looking to invest in talent wherever we find it — and we’re looking to help as many people as possible.
Our theory of change is simple: The more progressive diverse candidates running for office at every level of government, the better it is for our entire movement. More candidates running strong local campaigns with a focus on voter contact means more voters hearing from progressives, more campaigns for volunteers to get involved in, and ultimately more people showing up at the polls because they’re personally invested in someone’s success.
Why we’re doing it this way
Historically, there have been two key points of failure in the system:
A. Candidate recruitment
B. The process of running
In the past, typically, the Party (Party being a shorthand for the committees, state parties, and state house and senate caucuses) targets an open race or a vulnerable Republican incumbent. Then the staff and elected officials in the area will search for someone they or their networks know in the district (or they’ll literally uproot someone, move them to the district, and get them on the ballot.)
This has inherently limited the talent pool to a particular network — it perpetuates a cycle of typically older white men and their staffs running for office. It also limits the geographic reach of the party: If you’re a Democrat who wants to run in an otherwise safe district, you’re on your own.
Furthermore: The Party chooses candidates who are seen as “viable” — meaning, they can raise money and the Party thinks they can win.
This leaves too many people running without a competitor. In Cook County, Illinois, in 2015, 63% of the nearly 700 local races were uncontested. Nearly half of all legislative races in 2016 featured a single candidate running unopposed. It happens on the congressional level, too: In Texas, Republican Pete Sessions was easily re-elected to the House despite Clinton winning his district — Democrats simply didn’t run anyone against him.
We need to question our assumptions. Consider that Trump would never have been recruited by the RNC or a committee, and that he had no typical experience that would make him a recruitment candidate. While we shouldn’t aspire to find the next Trump, right now, we’re in a moment where the electorate is hungry for leaders that don’t come from the usual pipeline.
And once those leaders step up, we have to make the system easier for them to navigate.
In the past, new candidates have faced two major problems:
- Raising money was hard. Some candidates found that people wanted young people to serve in office but didn’t think they could win so weren’t willing to donate money to a lost cause. Other candidates explained that without a wealthy network of friends and family, they were starting from scratch. Money matters: Some state-level races can be as cheap as $25,000 — others could cost as much as $1 million.
- The mechanics of campaigning were tough. Many candidates said they wasted time and efficiency because their friends served as campaign managers instead of professional operatives. They often didn’t know how to actually get on the ballot without intensive research, and the operations of a campaign (volunteer recruitment, access to the voter file, how to calculate a win number, etc) were tricky to navigate without someone who had institutional knowledge.
Everything we do connects back to solving those problems.
We recruit candidates in public — we work with people who otherwise might not ever get asked to run because we think those are the folks our system needs the most. We run ads to do candidate recruitment, we ask friends for recommendations, and we talk to people one-on-one as much as we can in order to find the best people and make sure they know: We’re here to help them.
We’re not trying to recreate the wheel — there was no need for yet another candidate training organization. What we ARE trying to do is make the wheel spin a little differently. (To keep up the metaphor: Instead of being a wheel that only goes forward and backward, we want our wheel to rotate 360 degrees, like that on a newfangled suitcase.) We support our candidates by making sure they have access to every resource possible, and have built partnerships with organizations across the country to enable that. Our candidates have access to four different types of resources:
Our partnerships mean that our candidates get info about trainings, scholarships, programs, and materials as soon as possible. We act as the clearinghouse and help advise our candidates on which program might be best for them. We also do the same for other organizations — if a PAC is looking for local candidates to endorse or wants more people to attend a particular event, we help make recommendations and source the people.
In nearly every state, we have a long-time political operative working as our state lead, helping shepherd our candidates in that state through the process and making sure they’re plugged into the state party and any other local programs that might benefit their candidacy.
More than 200 campaign experts have signed up to give time for free to our candidates in order to answer specific questions. These folks range from senior staff on campaigns to local field organizers who can help advise on volunteer engagement. Our candidates turn to these mentors for tactical advice on an as-needed basis.
Running for office can be lonely. Our candidates are in constant communication with each other, talking about best practices, challenges, and simply shooting the shit as they figure out what the hell they’re doing. Community matters.
Why you should donate
This matters. A lot of people talk a big game about rebuilding the bench — we’re doing it. Our candidates are running campaigns that give more volunteers a way to get involved, that talk to more voters, and that ultimately strengthen our movement. One of the candidates we’re working with today could be Speaker of the House in 15 years, or a presidential candidate, or a governor, or senator. Or they could be the critical voice in a state legislature that protects a woman’s right to choose, or the school board member fighting for arts funding in a rural district.
Your money will go toward building an organization that can last — we’re in this for long-term growth and talent development. Right now, we’re investing now in sustainable infrastructure, staffing, and making sure that what we’re doing can continue to scale.
We know there’s going to be a lot competing for your attention in 2018. House races, Senate races, and soon enough, presidential candidates who want your money and help.
But we hope you’ll give what you can to us and our candidates. Everything we do will impact turn-out and engagement for those races, too, if that’s something you care about, but we hope you’ll give because you care about the future of this party, and the present for these communities.
Your money will go further with us than nearly anywhere else. 75% of school board races cost $1000 or less. In many places across the country, city council races can be won for under $10,000. State legislative races often cost under $100,000. We’re working in districts no one else is paying attention to — our help can tip the scales for our candidates.
Why you should host a money party
Excited by what we’re doing and want to really help? Sign up right now to host a money party for Run for Something. It’s exactly what it sounds like: A party where you raise money for us and our candidates. Download our guide to money parties then reach out ASAP and we’ll get you set up.