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Case Study: Sister District South Loop and More

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Report by: Steve Griesbach
Raising for: Robyn Vining
Date: May 20, 2020
Time: 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. CDT
Attendees: 34

Our Zoom webinar featured a conversation between historian James Banner, Jr. and retired Chicago Tribune reporter Bonnie Miller Rubin about the book, Presidential Misconduct: From Washington to Today. Jim edited this book and, in this era of Trump, the topic of presidential misconduct is particularly timely. Misconduct is quite different from bad behavior or unpopular policies. It implies a direct violation of the oath of office and the laws of the land. The webinar provided critical insights into past presidential indiscretions and misconduct, providing a context to answer the question: “Is Trump Really that Bad?”

While we looked at this as a fundraiser, it was just as important that we provide some “content” to our team members to activate more of them and to recruit new supporters for Sister District.

What were your steps to put the party together?

  1. We invited Jim Banner to participate in the webinar. (Jim is an active member of the Sister District DC/VA team). He was most happy to contribute his time and expertise.
  2. We discussed with Jim the format of the event and secured a team member from a nearby SD team to serve as moderator.
  3. Created the webinar on Zoom.
  4. Discussed with the participants a format that would include a general introduction to the topic and book and then a series of questions from the moderator and participants.
  5. Recruited a Zoom bouncer for the event and other “production staff” so that the moderator would not have to look at the Zoom chat to get questions.
  6. Agreed to promote the book and solicit contributions to Robyn’s campaign using the Zoom chat feature and links.

How did you recruit for the party?

  1. Publicized the event on our team Facebook page, the Greater Chicago Team Facebook page, and sent a MailChimp invite to all SD members in our area.
  2. Leaders of the South Loop and More team sent personal emails and text messages to friends and family about the event.

How did you prepare for the party?

The leaders of the event and the presenters login to Zoom 30 minutes before the event to “troubleshoot” issues. There were a few because of our relative inexperience with Zoom webinars.

How did the party flow? What happened?

The event went well. Jim started off with an explanation of the origins of the book as background for the House Judiciary Committee as it explored the potential impeachment of Richard Nixon in 1974. He explained the difference between misconduct and other reasons Presidents fall out of favor. The moderator (Bonnie) asked a series of questions about various presidential administrations and the audience was encouraged to submit questions for Jim via Zoom chat. There were a lot of great questions, more than we had time to answer. The 60 minute event went fast!

What worked?

  1. Jim is articulate and very knowledgeable. Most people wanted to hear more from him. The topic and content was incredible relevant and interesting!
  2. People enjoyed learning more about Presidents and asked a lot of questions.
  3. We had a lot of signups given that it was only publicized for a week.
  4. It was the right length of time. Almost no one dropped off the webinar.

What challenges did you encounter and how did you navigate?

  1. I’m inexperienced at using the social media tools and that created some challenges and problems for myself and others. Fortunately, many people on the Greater Chicago Team helped. I did, however, find that the time spent on “production” issues took away from publicity efforts.
  2. We did not activate the “waiting room” feature so we could not “screen” people before they entered.
  3. The moderator used an old device and her speaker and camera were outdated and made it more challenging for her to hear the conversation. We relayed questions and suggestions to her via email during the event.
  4. Not all of the links to ActBlue that we shared worked. I sent a follow up email to thank donors and a second email to those who attended but did not contribute inviting them to donate to Robyn’s campaign.
  5. I wish we had promoted the importance of the Wisconsin campaign as part of the Sister District strategy and why defending Robyn’s seat is so important.

If you do this again, what would you do differently?

  1. Fix all the items discussed above.
  2. Plan a longer event horizon so that we had more time to publicize the event.
  3. Ask for more in donations. We called it a “free event” but asked that participants donate $5 – $10 if able to. Too many did not donate.
  4. I wish we promoted more the importance of the Wisconsin campaign as part of the Sister District strategy, and why defending Robyn’s seat is so important.
  5. Recruit more technical support earlier. The mistakes I made were simple ones and the work to create the event was far more challenging for me than it should have been.
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