The current political climate offers an opportunity for local groups to expand their ranks, recruit new activists and energize voters.
Students, immigrants, people of color, displaced workers, people with disabilities, issue advocates, LGBTQ+ activists, and more, are seeking ways to make their voices heard. Protests, rallies, town halls, and forums, are springing up from the grassroots, and these events offer Democratic leaders a chance to connect for party-building and upcoming campaigns.
Go Where They Are
Expecting people to find their way to the Democratic Party on their own is expecting a lot. Emailing a meeting notice or posting an ad on Facebook is good for informing people already active in the group, but it won’t usually attract many newcomers. To overcome this, demonstrate interest in meeting new potential Democrats on their turf. Whether it’s a meeting, community celebration, campus rally, or concert, representatives of the group should attend regularly and meet people.
Respectful outreach to people of different ethnicities, cultures, races or religions requires understanding what words and actions are appropriate. When in doubt, and there is no one nearby who can provide insight, contact the relevant DPO Caucus for guidance.
After introductions, talk less and listen more. Politely ask what people care about, what they are worried about, what kind of change they want to see or what kind of help they need — but, don’t ask a battery of questions as though it’s a survey. Show genuine interest in learning what’s important to them.
Represent the group and its activities — but only if people really want to know. Not everyone loves to talk politics, but they might still want reasons to support the Democratic Party at the polls. Keep answers brief. Once again, this is the time for more listening and less talking.
Offer to Help
If they have identified a need, see what help the group can offer. It is vital that an offer to help is sincere and will be followed up. Don’t drop the ball. Whether it’s publicizing their event, loaning some tables and chairs, or recruiting volunteers for a community event, make sure it happens as promised. The result can be a trusted, mutually-beneficial relationship.
Learn people’s names and faces — and don’t limit contact to the group leaders. Meet as many people as you can, even if it’s only a simple, friendly greeting. Building friendships takes time, and success will only come with sustained effort to connect.
Welcome New People
New people may be interested in attending a Democratic Party event, but it may be hard for them to imagine walking in alone. In meeting notices, event postings or personal invitations, encourage people to bring a friend. Have greeters at the door and other strategic locations to welcome people and introduce them to others.
All meetings of Democratic Party groups should be held in spaces that are ADA accessible, and groups should be willing to make accommodations for people with disabilities. Some easy things groups can do to increase accessibility include, but are not limited to: having an RSVP process that allows folks to identify accommodations they require, using amplified sound consistently (even if you have a smaller group meeting), having all speakers state their names before they speak so that participants with visual limitations can easily follow debate. The DPO’s Disability Justice Caucus has made a checklist of consideration for groups who are choosing meeting locations, and this is available to all leaders.
Ask for Help
It is much easier to ask a friend for help than a total stranger, and it is easier for a new person to say yes to someone they know. If the effort to build relationships with new people is based on mutual understanding and openness, it will soon become possible to ask for their help in political activities, and get a yes. Pairing newcomers with more experienced volunteers is always best. Taking a moment to explain how the task fits into the overall plan can help new participants understand how tasks like stuffing envelopes, entering data into the Voter File or collating caucus materials all contribute to our success. Remember that help comes in all forms, so be open to what is offered, show respect and express gratitude.