Are you the kind of person who cares about building sustainable power? Do you want to help find and support our progressive leaders? 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 transparency is one of our core values (and one that has helped us succeed over the last four years), so we want to walk you through who we are, what we’ve done, 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 we recognized that the progressive movement has had a systemic problem that has failed to create a diverse talent pipeline filled with young new leaders. At the time, young people were not being motivated to move up in politics, those that were interested were rarely supported by larger institutional structures, and we didn’t have a bench that looked like the people they aimed to represent. No one was focusing at scale on the local offices that actually build sustainable power.
That has changed. In our first five years, we’ve recruited nearly 100,000 Millennials and Gen-Z leaders who want to run for local positions like city council, county commissioner, and school board. These seats may not seem glamorous, but these are the positions that can impact the lives of millions of people right now.
We’ve elected over 600 young progressives to office. We’ve helped elect the first female-majority city council in New York City and the first female-led state legislature in Nevada. We’ve flipped state legislative seats in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia. Our winners are ages 18 to 40 years old, with 56% identifying as women, 22% identifying as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and 58% identifying as people of color.
We’ve seen gains that go beyond numbers: We helped elect multiple trans leaders who became the first trans people to serve in their respective state legislatures. We’ve seen city councils go from all white to predominantly people of color. We’ve elected the first renters and the first students to serve on city councils.
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 participating in democracy because they’re personally invested in someone’s success.
We will continue to invest in talent wherever we find it — and we’re looking to help as many people as possible. Each candidacy is the starting point: as we support another young leader, we build progressive, grassroots power at the local level.
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. According to Ballotpedia, in 2020 40% of local races on the November ticket 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. The good news is our candidates have begun to fill that hole: elected officials like Judge Lina Hidalgo and Rep. Anna Eskamani, both of whom had little political experience, are now game changers in Texas and Florida, respectively.
Leaders like Virginia Delegate Danica Roem and Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta have become household names and a former school teacher like Josh Pauly is now on the school board and in charge of creating a safe environment for thousands of students across Minneapolis. These are the kinds of people we want to continue to empower to run and make a difference. Good, smart, passionate candidates who care about their community. And once those leaders decide to run, 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, we connect with alumni who can help find others in their community, 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.
Why you should donate
This matters. A lot of people talk a big game about creating sustainable power — we’re doing it. It is much more efficient to flip state legislatures—which can then pass fair maps, expand access to the polls, and actually deliver results that will inspire and engage voters—than it is to flip a U.S. House or Senate seat. Locally, county recorders, clerks, and executives who oversee elections can make life much easier for Democratic voters—even in red states where the laws are stacked against us. Your money will go toward building an organization and a Demoratic Party that will last — we’re in this for long-term growth and talent development. In 2021, we’re investing in sustainable infrastructure, tactical campaign support; comprehensive and targeted recruitment for hyperlocal races, and making sure that what we’re doing can continue to scale.
We don’t get to rest because Trump is out of office. He may be gone, but the right-wing extremists who supported him have been organizing to run for local seats like school board and city council. Their efforts to consolidate power at the municipal level is a threat to our democracy.
In 2022, we must focus on investments in local races such as election administrative seats, school board races, and city council. We also need to cultivate and recruit talented leaders to run for state legislative seats. As GOP-majority led legislatures like Texas, New Hampshire, and Iowa continue to restrict the fundamental rights of their residents, we need to find, train, and support strong candidates that can run against them and win.
The work we do today will impact the leadership and lives — quite literally — of thousands of communities for decades to come.
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 elections no one else is paying attention to — our help can tip the scales for our candidates.
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 500 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. In 2020, we launched a mentorship program pairing RFS alumni with candidates currently running for office, because the best guidance comes from someone who’s been there.
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 host an RFS event
Excited by what we’re doing and want to help? Sign up to host an event for Run for Something. Bonus: These events can be virtual or in-person! If you are interested in hosting an event, please contact Marsha Gonzalez, Events & Special Projects Senior Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.