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Virtual Organizing HUB

Resources for keeping volunteers engaged during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

How to Use this Resource

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have asked all our volunteer leaders to postpone, move to virtual, or cancel in-person events of any size through at least May 10.

Unfortunately, that means we are unable to gather in person, which is our favorite mode of organizing. But as any true organizer knows, we never give up—we get creative! Obstacles can also spur innovation, new approaches, and even increased productivity.

This hub will be updated frequently. If you have ideas or need help, please contact your organizer, or email us. And if you’d like to start a team or add your existing group as an affiliate, we’d love to hear from you too!

Principles for Activism During the Outbreak

Safety first!

Social distancing is deeply disruptive and un-fun, but it is also very effective. It is a personal and public health imperative to limit the risk to ourselves, our families, and our communities. Unfortunately, this means not moving forward with in-person events as planned. Fortunately, there are alternatives to cancelling—that’s what this guide is for.

Community is key

We have found, both through our research and anecdotally, that folks love Sister District because of their social relationships and sense of community. As we think about how to organize online, we should always be thinking about how to strengthen connections among volunteers, and create a sense of community.

Be kind (and silly!)

These are unprecedented and stressful times, piled on top of a political environment that was already overwhelming. While physical distancing is imperative, we need to find ways to stay connected emotionally. Sharing silly memes, or giving friends, family, and community members a quick phone call just to say “hi” can go a long way.

Beware of fake news

When sharing information online, be extremely careful to only promote credible sources. As in any emergency, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Let’s do what Democrats do best—use science, facts, and compassion.

Tools for Virtual Organizing

There are a number of tools that we may be relying on more heavily during this time of social distancing. At a minimum, every organizer needs a way to run videoconferencing sessions. We recommend a commercial solutions that we think has enough functionality while still being easy to use: Zoom.

Want to learn more? Please send us an email!

Screenshot of the Sister District Organizing Department on a video conference
The Sister District Organizing Department on a one of our frequent video calls.

Zoom

What is it? Zoom is a video conferencing tool. It is our preferred tool because of its ease of use, features, and stability. It offers a chat function, recordings, breakout rooms and more.

What is it good for? In-person event substitute. Nothing can replace an in-person gathering, but Zoom still lets you host speakers, field questions, facilitate discussion and troubleshooting, and even allow people to network and get to know each other.

Screenshot of volunteers making phone calls while on videoconference

Our Top 7 Recommendations

We highlighted a few creative strategies for remote organizing during the outbreak in a recent blog post, and we will continue to share more in the coming weeks. If you’re looking for a quick summary, check it out for our top 7 recommendations!

How to throw Virtual Parties: The Basics

Our volunteers are incredible at hosting in-person fundraisers, phonebanks, and postcard parties. Here are some tips for how to move these activities online: in general, treat these much like actual parties with their component parts: planning, invitations and reminders, execution, and follow-up. Volunteer leaders can contact us directly for our step-by-step resources tailored for Sister District work.

Virtual Fundraisers

Fundraisers are one of the key components of Sister District organizing, and now we’re bringing it online.

What stays the same?

For a virtual fundraiser, you will still:

  • Send an invitation and reminders with a fundraising link to collect donations in advance;
  • Meet at a specific date and time (but via Zoom);
  • Have a speaking program;
  • Have a designated host to MC the event and make “the ask”;
  • Follow up with no-shows and donation pledges.

What changes in a virtual environment?

  • The event will be much shorter.
  • The bulk of the event will be the speaking program. However, there may still be opportunities for small group discussions and networking employing thoughtful facilitation and/or Zoom breakout rooms.
  • The event will start and end on time.
  • No need for a sign-in process – you’ll automatically have a record of everyone who attends.
  • You can easily send the donation link to attendees via the chat box.
  • If the speakers incorporate slides with their talk, it’s easy to screen share with no additional technology.

Read our Step-by-Step Guide to Throwing a Virtual Fundraiser

Virtual Phonebank Parties

Instead of asking your volunteers to make calls on their own, host a virtual phonebank party! We know making phone calls for campaigns can be intimidating for newbies, and if we’re honest, an activity that we sometimes need extra motivation to do. Keeping a “party” setting – which is time bounded and includes a social atmosphere – can keep everyone excited about calling voters.

What stays the same?

You will still:

  • Meet at a specific date and time (but via Zoom);
  • Convene at the beginning for intros and training;
  • Encourage participants to ask questions and share stories, but during specific times;
  • Report your metrics to HQ after the party.

What changes?

Not too much! Participants are already on their computers, and should have their phones nearby. The host will need to:

  • Put everyone on mute after intros and training;
  • Set a few times for a group check-in and story sharing (for example, every 20 mins);
  • Be ready to answer questions via chat box.

Read our Step-by-Step Guide to Throwing a Virtual Phonebank

Virtual Postcard Parties

Instead of asking your volunteers to write postcards by themselves, host a virtual postcard party! One reason postcarding has become so popular among grassroots activists is because it’s a productive activity one can do while chatting with like-minded volunteers. The social element of postcarding is important!

What stays the same?

You will still:

  • Meet at a specific date and time (but via Zoom);
  • Convene at the beginning for intros and training;
  • Encourage participants to ask questions and share stories throughout;
  • Report your metrics to HQ after the party.

What changes?

For the actual party, not much changes. However, depending on the details of your postcard assignment, there may be some challenges in getting addresses and postcards to volunteers and back to the host in a way that maintains social distancing and keeps everyone safe.

The added logistics of distributing cards and addresses may take a while, so be sure to plan ahead!

Read our Step-by-Step Guide to Throwing a Virtual Postcard Party

Lessons Learned (So Far!) About Going Virtual

It’s only been a couple of weeks of the “new COVID-19 normal,” but to many of us, it feels like years. We’re learning quickly how to adapt and make the most out of our fully virtual world – here’s what we have learned so far, from our personal experience at Sister District HQ and our volunteer leaders across the country.

Black and white projector screen displaying a videoconference with a candidate

Making Virtual Parties More Fun

Our community has always shown incredible creativity in developing ideas for in-person events that attract a variety of people and achieve meaningful results for candidates. In these early days of social distancing, our community is showing great resilience as well.

From tiny desk concerts to remote yoga classes, we’ve collected some fun ideas to bring a little pizzazz to your virtual events while we adapt to social distancing. We’ll continuously update this post with new information and ideas, so check back often!

Screenshot of Zoom call with volunteer leaders

Surprising Advantages of Virtual Parties

Although we love meeting in person, meeting virtually can have some unexpected benefits. For example, a virtual event is often a shorter and more flexible time commitment, which can mean more people have the opportunity to join. For a phonebank party, the virtual environment is a quieter and less stressful atmosphere for making calls – which makes callers more productive and efficient.

As we settle into life with social distancing, read about a few surprising ways that virtual gatherings can actually improve your organizing.

Partner Resources

The pandemic is affecting all of us right now, and our friends and colleagues in this space are also working hard to adapt their offerings to the new reality. Here are some further resources developed by our partners for candidates, volunteers, and campaign professionals. Let us know if you have material you would like to be added!