Resource Library

Organizing Your Sister District Leadership Team

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Introduction: Organizing Your Sister District Leadership Team

Our twin goals as organizers of teams are always to a) provide maximum grassroots support to assigned candidates while b) creating connected, diverse communities and friendships through shared work. The poetry of organizing is that you can’t scale the support part without doing the community part well. What your journey toward those twin goals looks like — how you organize and what comes of it — depends in part on the people you’ve got, their interests, and their available time and energy. As organizers, we do well to keep in mind that it’s a journey: we start small and build one step at a time. If we’re strategic and efficient and focused on creating community, we can grow and do big fun things.

Sister District leadership teams come in all shapes and sizes. There are leadership teams of one and teams with several committees and subcommittees and everything in between. As such, we like to focus on the different Functional Tasks related to achieving those twin goals in our system, and then map some or all of those functional tasks, depending on capacity, to the particular person or group of people running a team to establish Roles that form a Leadership Structure.

If you’re just starting a team, this should help inform how you think about how to start. If you’re leading a team, perhaps this will help you reflect on the roles and responsibilities of leaders and your leadership structure; it’s always a fluid process and we encourage you to make tweaks. In either case, try to keep it simple, do what is manageable, and rely on your Organizing Department staffer to guide your approach and decision-making based on what has worked for other leaders and other teams.

Functional Tasks

The Functional Tasks we see covered, in some form, by most teams with sustained leadership in the Sister District model are as follows. They are organized here into Functional Areas (indicated in bold). The hyperlinks will take you to articles in our Resource Library that relate to the coverage of that task. We encourage you to explore the Case Studies and materials in the related section. (Side note, our Resource Library is designed and the content is appointed to match these Functional Areas and Functional Tasks)

Team Building

Communications

Fundraising

Voter Contact

Mapping Functional Tasks to Roles and Leadership Structures

Let’s look at a few examples of how different-sized leadership teams might cover Functional Tasks and how that might form a Leadership Structure. You’ll notice there’s a natural gravity to leaders taking on Functional Tasks in the same Functional Area, and that some Tasks become shared as leader capacity increases. This increase of capacity for any one Functional Area or Functional Task might lead to the creation of a committee or sub-committee as your leadership capacity grows.

A good place to start is getting your current active leaders together and doing an assessment. You then have visibility on who does what and can identify the task that need to be covered, which will inform your leader recruitment efforts. Here’s a Task Coverage Worksheet Example:

AREA TASK/ROLE Leader Name
Team Building WELCOME WAGON
TEXT REMINDERS
VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT BY TEXT
VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT BY PHONE
MOBILIZE MANAGER(S)
PARTNERSHIPS
Communications EMAIL EDITOR
SOCIAL MEDIA
TEAM PAGE
Fundraising $ PROGRAMMING/EXECUTION
$ TREASURER
$ DONOR RELATIONSHIP MGMT 
Voter Contact PHONEBANK LEAD
POSTCARD LEAD
TEXTBANK LEAD

Task Coverage & Leader Role Examples

One Leader

Goal: Maximize volume and effectiveness of priority forms of candidate support + create connection & diverse community.

Strategy: Given limited capacity, a team with one leader might adopt and promote HQ and other teams’ fundraising & voter contact programming to help their assigned candidates

Tactics:

  • Use Sister District’s email and text tools to reach those in your team area signed up to volunteer with Sister District to share information & promote and recruit for fundraising events, candidate appearances, and phonebanks organized by other teams also assigned to your candidates
  • Seek out friends & friends of friends to help lead the team!

Leader Role 1

  • Email Editor (est. 60mins 2x month)
  • Treasurer (est. 10min 1x month)
  • Welcoming & Activating New Volunteers (aka Welcome Wagon) (est. 15min 4x month)
  • Team Page Editor (est. 30mins 4x year)
  • Volunteer Recruitment by Text (60mins 2x month)

Three Leaders

Goal: Maximize volume and effectiveness of priority forms of candidate support + create connection & diverse community.

Strategy: Given increased capacity, organize around a mix of adopting and promoting HQ and other teams’ fundraising & voter contact programming + running own programming

Tactics:

  • All of the tactics of the 1-person Leadership Team plus: 
  • Incorporate phone calls for recruitment
  • Social media
  • Seek out partners and collaborators in other aligned volunteer groups; aim to increase diversity & recruit affiliates
  • Host fundraisers & thanks donors <$1000
  • Text reminders to RSVPs day-of

Leader Role 1

  • Email Editor (est. 60mins 2x month)
  • Team Page Editor (est. 30mins 4x year)
  • Social Media Lead (est. 10min 4x month)
  • Partnerships – recruiting & collaborating with affiliates, creating coalitions and collaborations

Leader Role 2

  • Treasurer (est. 10min 1x month)
  • Fundraising Event Programming/Execution (est. 3hrs 2-3 times per election cycle)
  • Donor Relationship Management (thank donors, est. 60min per month)

Leader Role 3

  • Manage Mobilize RSVP platform (est. 30min 2-3 times per election cycle)
  • Welcoming & Activating New Volunteers (aka Welcome Wagon) (est. 15min 4x month)
  • Volunteer Recruitment by Phone (est. 45min 2-3 times per election cycle)
  • Volunteer Recruitment by Text (est. 60mins 2x month)
  • Text Reminders (est. 30min 1x month)

Three Leader Example: Sister District Arizona

Kush, Michelle, and Tim came together to found Sister District Arizona in 2020. They decided to program for candidate appearance fundraisers and phonebanks, focus on sending a great email newsletter, and welcome new volunteers personally. They worked with the Organizing Department to have Organizing Fellows call through their volunteer lists to help them recruit for fundraisers and to run text volunteer recruitment projects. They focused on bringing their own friends and family members into the effort. Here’s how their adoption of Tasks created Roles and Leadership Structure:

Michelle & Kush collaborated on the following tasks:

  • Email Editors
  • Welcoming & Activating New Volunteers
  • Treasurers
  • Fundraising Event Programming/Execution
  • Partnerships

Tim

  • Phonebank Leader
  • Text Reminders

Six Leaders

Goal: Maximize volume and effectiveness of priority forms of candidate support + create connection & diverse community.

Strategy: Though always on the lookout to adopt and promote HQ and other teams’ fundraising & voter contact programming, this team has capacity to run their own full fundraising & voter contact programs and cover all functional tasks

Tactics:

  • All of the tactics of the 3-person Leadership Team plus:
  • Run a recurring weekly phonebank
  • Run a postcard program
  • Run a textbank program
  • Engage in a full fundraising program from events to friendraiser projects to donor relationship management

Leader Role 1

  • Email Editor (est. 60mins 2x month)
  • Team Page Editor (est. 30mins 4x year)
  • Social Media Lead (est. 10min 4x month)
  • Partnerships – recruiting & collaborating with aligned volunteer groups (30min per month)

Leader Role 2

  • Treasurer (est. 10min 1x month)
  • Fundraising Event Programming/Execution (est. 3hrs 2-3 times per election cycle)
  • Donor Relationship Management (thank donors, est. 60min per month)

Leader Role 3

  • Welcoming & Activating New Volunteers (aka Welcome Wagon) (est. 15min 4x month)
  • Volunteer Recruitment by Phone (est. 45min 2-3x per election cycle)
  • Volunteer Recruitment by Text (est. 60mins 2x month)
  • Text Reminders (est. 30min 1x month)

Leader Role 4

  • Fundraising Event Programming/Execution (est. 3hrs 2-3 times per election cycle)
  • Manage Mobilize RSVP platform (est. 30min 2-3 times per election cycle)
  • Textbank Leader (est. 2hrs 3x per election cycle)

Leader Role 5

  • Postcard Leader (est. 4hrs per month)
  • Volunteer Recruitment by Phone (est. 45min 2-3 times per election cycle)
  • Volunteer Recruitment by Text (est. 60mins 2x month)

Leader Role 6

  • Phonebank Leader (est. 10hrs per month)
  • Manage Mobilize RSVP platform (est. 30min 2-3 times per election cycle)

Six Leader Example: Sister District Wisconsin

When Mara founded Sister District Madison in 2019, she was a team of one. She worked closely with the Organizing Department to right-size and prioritize the tasks she focused on and the events she put together. She put sufficient time and effort into recruiting leaders. In 2020, she’d taken over the whole state, added several leaders working a full Leadership Structure, and Sister District Madison became an Anchor Team (more than 5,000 dials and $20,000 raised). Way to go Mara! As of November, 2020, there are five core leaders who meet once a month and coordinate as a Leadership Steering Committee, with other active volunteers taking on key roles as co-Leaders. Here’s how the Sister District Wisconsin Leaders divide up tasks:

Mara

  • Email Editor co-Leader
  • Phonebank Leader
  • Fundraiser Programming/Execution Leader
  • Treasurer
  • Social Media Manager (Facebook)
  • Partnerships Leader
  • Team Page Editor

Alex

  • Email Editor co-Leader
  • Fundraiser Programming/Execution co-Leader
  • Postcard co-Leader for distribution to writers based on location

Paula

  • Fundraiser Programming/Execution co-Leader
  • Social Media Manager (Instagram)

Taylor

  • Phonebank co-Leader

Samantha

  • Phonebank co-Leader

Lili

  • Social Media Manager (Twitter)

Claire

  • Email Editor co-Leader
  • Welcome & Activate new volunteers

Mary Rose

  • Postcard Leader

Murta

  • Postcard co-Leader for distribution to writers based on location

Shelley

  • Postcard co-Leader for distribution to writers based on location

Julie

  • Postcard co-Leader for distribution to writers based on location

Here’s how Sister District Wisconsin maps out their Leadership Structure:

Organizing / Team Building
Welcome Wagon: Mara
Volunteer Recruitment by text, phone (working with Sister District Organizing Dept. staff): Mara

Communications
Email Editors: Mara, Alex, Claire
Social Media Managers: Mara (FB), Paula (Instagram), Lili (Twitter)
Team Page Editor: Mara

Fundraising
Treasurer: Mara
Planning/Execution: Mara, Leader with Alex and Paula co-Leads

Voter Contact
Phonebanking
Leader: Mara
Co-Leaders: Samantha, Taylor

Postcarding
Leader: Mary Rose
Co-Leaders for distribution: Alex, Murta, Shelley, Julie

Many Leaders, One Team

Goal: Maximize volume and effectiveness of priority forms of candidate support + create connection & diverse community.

Strategy: Though always on the lookout to adopt and promote HQ and other teams’ fundraising & voter contact programming, this team has capacity to run their own full fundraising & voter contact programs and cover all functional tasks

Tactics:

  • All of ’em!

Ideally, team leadership capacity will grow such there is full coverage of all needed tasks (we think between 6-10 people giving 1-2 hours weekly can accomplish full coverage), and then some!

Many Leaders, One Team Example: Sister District Sacramento

Phyllis Cauley began organizing Sister District Sacramento in late 2018. She began creating a team of leaders, one person at a time. The team grew tremendously in 2019 and in 2020, with a full leadership committee structure and full programming for voter contact and fundraising, Sister District Sacramento became an Anchor team (5,000+ dials and $20,000+ dollars raised, way to go!). Check out this org chart illustrating Sister District Sacramento’s Leadership Roles and Structure heading into 2021!

Many Leaders, One Team with Chapters/Sub-Teams

The teams will scale with sub-teams, each run by its own unique leaders who coordinate to help candidates and grow even more.

Many Leader One Team with Chapters/Sub-Teams Example: Sister District San Francisco

In their fourth year of organizing Sister District San Francisco, the leaders have scaled their work to the point that they have multiple committees, rotating leadership, and neighborhood “hubs” that operate a big like franchisees of the SD SF HQ mothership.

The following is a description by leader Doug Wilkins of their organization in 2020:

We divided up a “central leader” role into a series of two-month rotations, and this was largely administrative – this person would preside over our bi-weekly meetings, do a bit of follow-up, etc. This worked pretty well since we had staunch committees working in their own orbits.

Committees:

  • Fundraising (Blue email brigade, house parties, monthly events, auction, etc.)
  • Phonebanking/Canvassing (our most active committee with a leadership of three Volunteer Leaders)
  • Communications, Newsletter, Video Production, Social Media (we kept this simple, and would perhaps like to bolster our social media output in 2021)
  • Liaisons (with other progressive groups – Swing Left, Democracy Action, the SF Democratic Party, etc. And with other SDP chapters, but not often enough)
  • Postcards (a remarkable committee of 1 and 1/2 people. And this had plenty of momentum, given how popular postcards are)

These committees helped to direct the actions of the all-important neighborhood “hubs.” Given San Francisco’s relatively compact size, our pre-COVID hubs were a short distance for just about any of our volunteers to reach, even on foot. We had six of them as of 2020. One of the big successes of this hub system was that committees could approach a hub with a specific project or event. For example, house parties (aka Friendraisers) were distributed across these hubs, and bigger events, such as the auction, could garner support from all of the hubs. It kept any one person from being excessively burdened.

The hubs’ monthly meetings were coordinated enough that what got put on the agenda for Hub A’s meeting on the first Wednesday of the month went onto the agenda for the other hubs. Also, if someone could not attend “their” hub meeting, they knew that they could attend another hub’s meeting. My wife and I would work up Google slides (with a fun quiz at the end) that would go to the Volunteer Leaders around the 27th of the previous month, and while hubs could edit the slides to suit their purposes, there was a solid chance that we standardized content across the SF region.

Conclusion

If you’re just starting out or preparing a veteran leadership team for the next election cycle, we recommend going through the process of mapping Functional Tasks to Roles and Leadership Structure. Contact your Organizing Department Staffer, who would be happy to consult, help lead you and your collaborators through an exercise, or strategize how you can go about finding new leaders to cover tasks and integrate them into your leadership team!