What we actually do for candidates
We launched Run for Something on January 20th, 2017 with a simple premise:
Run for Something will recruit and support young, diverse progressives to run for down-ballot races in order to build sustainable power for Democrats in all 50 states.
TBH, the folks we support now could be possible members of the House, Senate, a governor, and maybe even President one day. We aim to lower the barriers to entry for these candidates by helping them with behind-the-scenes mechanics, tactical and strategic support, advice, mentorship, access to training, and everything in between.
In our efforts to create a party that reflects the changing face of our electorate, we decided to focus on every candidate who wanted to run for a down-ballot seat, not just candidates who meet the standard “viability” test, aka how much money they’ve raised. We know that type of prioritization wouldn’t allow us to embody our core values.
We also decided that by investing in every candidate and giving each one the tools they need to run a great campaign, we would also empower voters to go out and have their voices heard. Simply put, we trust voters. Local election stakes are tangible, the candidates are relatable, and the issues are personal. We believe 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 constituents to see their vision for the future through the lens of someone authentically connected to their community. The more we can spread these messages through real people — not political pundits — 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 of our candidates to win the first time out. By getting on the ballot, holding opponents accountable, and getting Democrats engaged through safe voter contact, our candidates will be effective in building out the party at the local level, thereby increasing the likelihood of another young Democrat running in the near future.
Between 2017 and 2021, we elected 637 candidates to offices ranging from state legislator to county clerk, and everything in between. Our candidates come from all walks of life – teachers, doctors, activists, environmentalists, stay-at-home dads, librarians, college students – and they represent communities that have been historically excluded or discouraged from running for office.
These candidates continue to win because they run grassroots-powered campaigns focused on local issues that matter to their constituents…and we are there to help them every step of the way.
Are you ready to run for office? Read below to learn about our process.
Step 1: Sign up at RunForWhat.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: rich, overly educated, straight cis-gender white men.)
After signing up, potential candidates are invited to join a conference call, where they will get the basic run-down on working with RFS.
Step 2: Join one of our weekly candidate introductory calls
Candidates are then welcomed to sign up to join a weekly RFS candidate introductory call led by one of our Regional Directors. with 50-100 other candidates interested in learning more about running for something and working with RFS.
At the end of the call, candidates can opt in to schedule a personal call with a RFS outreach volunteer team. On that 1:1 call, our volunteer is looking to learn more about a candidate’s ideas and plans and will send you follow up resources to help.
- What problems do you want to solve in your community? Does the candidate understand the issues facing his constituents and the nuances of their particular community or district.
- How have you been involved in your community? Does the candidate have a network, connections, and substantive relationships with organizations and institutions in their community.
- What concerns do you have about running for office? Does the candidate understand what a campaign means, what it entails, and are they willing to do the work.
- What does progressive mean to you and your community? Is the candidate progressive, by whatever definition fits their community (i.e. A progressive in Louisiana is different from a progressive in California; key point: we don’t have a litmus test).
RFS community support.
After the conference call, candidates are invited to our Slack community. 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 match with volunteer mentors with different areas of campaign expertise. We link campaign management experts, digital advertising specialists, videographers, branding savants, and many more with first-time candidates. The goal 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.
Step 3: The Run for Something Endorsement
Once candidates are actively running for office (meaning they have started the process of getting on the ballot and filing to run in their district) they are invited to apply for the Run for Something endorsement.
In our first five years, we’ve endorsed over 1800 first-time candidates. In 2022, we plan on developing our pipeline of young progressives, looking at election administrative races, school boards, and further cultivating Gen-Z leaders interested in running for office.
Once a candidate is endorsed, the gain access to a number of RFS resources including:
- Strategic guidance from seasoned political operatives through RFS’ regional program
- Connections to RFS alumni and mentors with specialized political expertise
- Resources, special programs, and endorsement information from RFS partners
- Exclusive trainings, speaker series, and other interactive tools exclusive to RFS endorsees
- Discounts on services from marketing, political, and voter contact vendors
- Individual GOTV planning support such as field planning, canvasser support, and media guidance
- Unique opportunities to promote your campaign to national press outlets such as Politico, The New York Times, Elle Magazine, and Now This to name a few
- Amplification of your campaign through RFS’ digital network of over 200k supporters
- Unique opportunities to fundraise for your campaign through tandem fundraisers held throughout the fiscal year
- Support on how to create a safe campaign during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
- RFS’ database of campaign planning tools and resources
Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org