Who are these FAQs written for?
Whether you’re new to Sister District or a veteran District Captain, this document provides a basic primer on the Affiliate Program, and how you can participate.
What is Sister District?
The Sister District Project is a national grassroots organization that works to gain and maintain Democratic majorities in state legislatures. We do this by organizing our 45,000+ members into local volunteer teams, which are “sistered” with 2-3 strategic state legislative candidates per cycle. Our Teams, together with our growing community of Affiliates, provide field and fundraising support to our candidates, often across state boundaries. Since our founding in 2016, Sister District has raised more than $1.85 million in grassroots dollars and reached out to over 1.84 million voters through phones, texts, postcards, and doors. You can read more in our 2019 Impact Report and this at-a-glance one-pager
Our 2019-2020 strategy focuses on races where it is our last chance in a decade to elect a Democrat who will help redraw district lines in 2021. For 2020, we’ve got our eyes on Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
What is a Sister District Affiliate?
A Sister District Affiliate is an independent group, such as an Indivisible or Swing Left group, that chooses to affiliate with Sister District and take on action items to support Sister District candidates, as a complement to its other progressive activities. An Affiliate designates 1-2 of its leaders to be HQ Liaisons (HQLs) to be added to the HQL Update distribution list. This is a twice-monthly email newsletter that keeps Team and Affiliate leaders up-to-date on the latest developments and opportunities.
In many ways, the Affiliate Program simply puts a little structure around what we’ve already been seeing on the ground—authentic, strong local partnerships between our Teams and local groups. Most Affiliates are brought into the fold by their local Sister District Team, and maintain a strong relationship with them. The goals of the Affiliate Program are to provide structure and support for this organic growth, and to increase the support we provide to our candidates.
What types of action items does Sister District offer to Affiliates?
Sister District’s full array of field and fundraising activities are available to Affiliates, and most activities can be conducted remotely. All of our action items are developed in coordination with the campaigns so you know that it’s exactly what the campaigns want and need. Check out the 2020 Roadmap for a month-by-month look at what to expect for the cycle.
We’ll provide you with everything you need to organize successful actions. As an Affiliate, you’ll have access to these types of action items:
- Fundraise. We’ve done the compliance and legal research, and all you have to do is follow the steps in our Fundraising Process Guide to get a customized ActBlue links for event-based or digital fundraising. We’ll also give you access to an online portal where you can track the donations you generate in real time. We’ll also help you with nifty features such as text-to-donate.
- Phonebank. We provide phonebank pages for each of our active candidates, which include Open VPB links that you can access for phonebank parties, or that you can distribute to those who want to make calls on their own time. These pages also include helpful information such as candidate dossiers, and the contact information of the Sister District Field Managers (FM) who are available to help you troubleshoot or answer any questions. If you’re planning a party, just fill out this form so that your FM knows to be on call during that time.
- Canvass. Whether you’re located near or far from your candidates, you’ll have the opportunity to knock doors, especially as we get closer to the GOTV (get out the vote) period in the weeks before Election Day. If you’re interested, please let your FM know, and they’ll fill you in on details.
- Postcard. When it comes to compliance and logistics, postcards are trickier than they may seem! Our compliance team sets forth the best practices for writing postcards based on each state’s campaign finance regulations, and we work with the candidates to ensure the messaging and timing supports their campaign. All you have to do is sign up for the number of postcards you’d like to write using a form that we’ll provide when opportunities become available. Your Field Manager will then get back to you with the number of postcards you’ve been assigned, and a postcard packet with full instructions; here’s a sample packet.
- Textbank. Textbanking is very popular among volunteers. However, unlike phonebanking, which is a tried and true method that all candidates have available from the get-go, textbanking is a newer tactic that requires a campaign’s investment of money and time that candidates and staff are still coming up to speed on. Additionally, campaigns often have access to a limited number of mobile numbers, which means that texts run out quickly. But stay tuned—we’re working on creative ways to expand these opportunities.
We encourage Affiliates and Teams to collaborate closely to find efficiencies at the local level. HQ is here to support these relationships, and to be as helpful as possible. Let us know what you need from us.
What is the difference between a Team and an Affiliate?
- Teams are dedicated Sister District groups that carry out primarily Sister District action items.
- Teams are led by one or more District Captains (DCs), one or more of which are designated as HQ Liaisons (HQLs). HQLs receive the HQL Update, an email newsletter that is published about 2x per month.
- Teams have access to Sister District’s membership list in its designated geographic area, which has been agreed upon by the Team’s DCs and HQ. The DCs are responsible for being stewards of this list, and using it in compliance with our policies to grow and maintain their team.
- Affiliates are independent groups that carry out an array of activities, and have chosen to affiliate with Sister District so that they have access to our state legislative action items.
- Affiliates have a variety of leadership structures, but 1-2 leaders are designated as HQLs so that they can receive the HQL Update.
- Affiliates do not have access to Sister District’s membership list. Everyone participating in Sister District activities, whether via Teams or Affiliates, must adhere to our Code of Conduct.
Both Teams and Affiliates have access to our field and fundraising program resources. This includes program materials (e.g., phonebanking links and postcard packets), access to real-time fundraising data via our online portal (as long as you request and use our ActBlue links), our resource library, periodic online trainings, and monthly Volunteer Leader and Political Director calls. This also includes access to our stellar organizing staff, who are on call to support Sister District events, as well as to provide additional guidance as desired.
One caveat: Some groups that have been with us since very early on in our organization’s history may not fall neatly into the Team or Affiliate categories. If you have questions about this, please contact our Organizing Department staff through firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Team is ready to help bring potential affiliates on board. What do I do?
- Prospect. Potential affiliate leaders learn about Sister District and the Affiliate Program usually from District Captains of their local Sister District Team.
- Connect. Have a conversation! Explain the opportunity, see if it’s a fit. Remember that there are no requirements or expectations or sharing of volunteer lists or anything like that with Affiliate groups – – they choose their own adventures. If they want to help state legislative candidates during the cycle, they’re already looped in and our entire staff and infrastructure is available to them should they want to raise money or contact voters on behalf of our candidates. Signing on as an Affiliate keeps the option open.
- Ask the potential affiliate leader, usually after learning more from local District Captains, to register their interest to initiate the process of becoming an Affiliate.
- Organizing Department staff will follow up with the potential affiliate leader to share more about the Affiliate Program, and to answer any questions.
- The Affiliate will start receiving the twice-monthly HQL Update, as well as candidate-specific updates, which contains everything you need to know about taking strategic action with Sister District.
- The Affiliate will carry out Sister District action items, often in collaboration with their local Sister District Teams, as they choose. Our candidates will see increased grassroots support, which means they can spend more time in their districts, talking to their voters.
My Team already has partnerships with local groups. Should they register as Affiliates?
Yes, please! Share these FAQs with your local partners, and ask them to fill out the interest form to set up a conversation with staff so that we can answer any questions. Once they’ve completed the process and are officially in our directory as Affiliates, they’ll receive the HQL Updates. This is the same newsletter that HQLs on your Team receive, and ensures free flow of information and maximum ability to respond quickly to any time-sensitive opportunities to support our candidates.
Why should Teams bother with getting partner groups registered as Affiliates?
Every registered Affiliate means less work for you as District Captains. Affiliates will be able to go directly to Field Managers to get phonebank links and postcard allocations. You can of course continue working as closely together as you wish—we just hope that participation in the Affiliate Program means that there’s more strategy and fewer logistics in your interactions.
Additionally, you’ll be helping out Sister District. We keep a variety of organizational metrics, and one of them is the number of Teams and Affiliates that we have to understand our capacity. Right now, we’re up to about 60 Teams and 40 Affiliates. By encouraging your partner groups to register, you’re helping us get a more accurate view of how much activity is really happening on the ground.