Module 7: Developing Campaigns

To run a good campaign you need to begin by thinking through each of the categories in bold below. Under each set, I have offered an example of how the categories might be applied to a Democracy Matters “Numbers Campaign.” The “Numbers Campaign” is described under the “Tactics” category.


Democracy Matters Campus Coordinators have developed great campaigns over the years. They are all on the website, often with step by step instructions! Check them out at “Action Campaigns” and as you develop your own, email them to so we can put your’s on the website too!


The categories below are based on the Midwest Academy Manual for Activists – Organizing for Social Change (Seven Locks Press, 2001). (I strongly recommend that you buy the manual. It has an enormous amount of excellent additional information). We have applied each of their categories to one of our most popular actions – the “Numbers Campaign.”


I. Goals


1. Long Term: what are the long-term objectives of your campaign? (e.g. to win campaign finance reform)

2. Intermediate: what are the intermediate goals? (e.g. give people a sense of their own power; educate people about a problem; encourage them to act)

3. Short Term: what short term goals can serve as steps to your long term and intermediate goals?


Application to “Numbers Campaign”

Long Term: Deepen democracy by passing legislation for the public financing of elections at the state and federal level.

Intermediate: Build an active national student movement dedicated to advocacy of public financing.

Short Term: Create broad campus political awareness of the problems of private financing of campaigns and of the promise of public financing, and stimulate activism and organizing to advocate change.


II. Organizational Considerations


1. Resources you have (e.g. number of activists, number of hours they can devote, co-sponsors, budget)

2. How your organization can be strengthened by the campaign (e.g. recruit new members, expand leadership group, increase organizing experience, build solidarity, expand into new groups, get your name known)

3. Internal Problems to Overcome (e.g. what organizational obstacles does the campaign face and how can they be best dealt with?)


Application to “Numbers Campaign”

Resources: e.g. 1) Committed activists in core chapter: six people willing to devote 5 hours a week (e.g. one person coordinates the campaign, two others are great speakers, one is artistic, and one writes for the school paper); 2) five other people available for 2 hours a week; 3) support from four faculty members (who will make announcement in classes) and one student activities administrator; 4) budget of $200; 5) weekly planning meetings.

Strengthening Organization: A “Numbers Campaign” will raise the visibility of Democracy Matters on campus, help recruit new active members, increase the organizing experience of the core group and reinforce their ties to each other and DM, and offer an opportunity to talk about DM goals to new groups on campus.

Internal Problems: 1) Problem – too much work for too few people. Solution – build enthusiasm for the campaign which will help recruit new members; take time to have fun together at meetings as well as getting work done; do a less ambitious version of campaign until membership builds. 2) Problem – poor accountability – people fail to accomplish tasks they have committed to. Solution – campaign coordinator checks up on, coaches, and helps out others.


III. Constituents, Opponents and Allies


Power map your school and your community (determine whom you need to influence, who already influences whom, who has power, what they care about)


1. Constituents – List people who may be open to your message (e.g. whose problem is it; what do they gain by helping; in what groups are they organized; how can they be appealed to/reached)

2. Opponents – Who are your opponents (e.g. how strong are they; how can you neutralize or ignore them)

3. Coalition Allies – Organized groups that might support your cause, sign a petition, co-sponsor an action


Application to “Numbers Campaign”

Constituents: Students, faculty, and administrators on campus all potentially are harmed by having their influence on politics lessened and democracy threatened by the role of big money contributors. They all could gain by a more fair and just election process through public financing. Faculty in subjects like political science, sociology, public administration, peace studies, and history are likely supporters; Deans of Students and student activities staff might be open to helping. Freshmen and Sophomores are often open to getting involved in something new. Don’t neglect non-political groups like sororities and fraternities, pre-law and pre-medical societies, student government associations, honors societies, etc.

Opponents: The biggest opponents of organizing are apathy and hostility to politics, as well as disillusionment with possibility of change. Neutralize these by directly addressing them, and by modeling effective action and by raising consciousness of how people can make a difference.

Coalition Allies: Organized groups on campus whose goals are blocked by the dominance of wealthy contributors in the political process (e.g. environmental groups, civil rights groups, peace and social justice groups, global fairness groups, and groups doing community service work with at risk teens, homeless people, battered women, etc.). 


IV. Message


The message should have three components: the problem that requires change; the solution and its benefits; actions people can take.


1. Broad message that captures your mission/goals as an organization

2. Targeted message that speaks to specific constituents

3. Sound bite that gets repeated everywhere

4. Logo or visual by which group is recognized


Application to “Numbers Campaign”

a) Problem: Democracy is threatened when wealthy corporate interests dominate the political process by campaign contributions, when politicians (and the laws they pass) are beholden to their funders, and when ordinary citizens cannot afford to run for office. Campaign spending is out of control.

b) Solution: Public financing of election campaigns — already successfully working in four states.

c) Actions: Students must speak out and press for Clean Money laws.

Broad Message: Students can make a difference in creating a fair and just society and thus in deepening democracy.

Targeted Message: Link the problem of money in election campaigns to what constituents are already interested in, e.g. environmental protection (or civil rights or affordable education or lower student loans or gun control or health care problems, etc). All these are likely to be enhanced by public financing.

Sound Bite: Get big money out of politics and people back in! You can make a difference!

Logo: Put Democracy Matters logo and website address on all posters, printed materials, buttons, banners, etc.


V. Tactics


1. Educational Campaigns – posters

2. Media – campus and local newspapers, radio, TV

3. Letters, petitions and emails

4. Events – lectures, teach-ins

5. Art/ Music/ Drama – consciousness raising

6. Lobbying

7. Tabling

8. Canvassing

9. Actions


Application to “Numbers Campaign”

To carry out this campaign, you can choose among various tactics or – even better – implement several so that they reinforce one another. People have to hear things more than once to catch on and to create a “buzz” on campus. Create your own tactics – the idea is to: a) reach as many people as possible and b) get them to pay attention to your message without c) turning them off!

Poster Campaign: Place posters in strategic locations (e.g. dorms, bathrooms stalls, classrooms as well as high traffic areas). They should be large, eye-catching, provocative or funny, bright, and easily read (not too many words):

Poster 1) “Do you know what this number is? Stay tuned.” (with an outrageously big number that deals with some aspect of money and politics). Be sure to put the Democracy Matters logo on all posters.

Poster 2) A few days or perhaps a week later a similar-looking poster in the same locations as Poster 1, with a new number and different question. “Did you get the last one? What’s this number?” The perhaps even a third round of posters – “This number could save you money!”

Reinforce this with small flyers with these numbers (quarter pagers perhaps, or table tents) on chairs in classrooms, tables in dining halls, or chalk on sidewalks to get the word out!)


Media: At the beginning of the campaign, place an article in the school newspaper with the numbers campaign theme (not revealing the answer of course). If they won’t take an article, try a letter to the editor. When the campaign ends, get a reporter to cover the campaign as a news article. Have her/him interview DM members for good quotes on the importance of this issue. (If the school newspaper won’t cover it themselves, they might accept an article you write). Use the school radio to announce the secret numbers and mention Democracy Matters.


Emails: Send campus-wide emails with the same information as the posters, or email the numbers and questions to various group lists and listserves on campus.


Events: To conclude the campaign, schedule a teach-in or panel discussion (with students and faculty) to reveal the numbers. This event should also educate people on the issues – get students and faculty to speak and/or invite a DM staff member. Don’t forget to talk not only about the problems of money in politics but also the SOLUTIONS and what people can do about it by working with Democracy Matters.


Art/Music/Drama: Use these to reinforce your message about numbers, e.g. get a student band to play at the event; stage a rally or agit-prop performance in the middle of the campus (perhaps holding up the numbers from the posters with answers and handing out Democracy Matters information (perhaps on fake dollar bills.) Act out a skit outside in a high traffic area with someone dressed as a politician taking money from fat cats and ignoring “real” people (people dressed as students, old people, children and others.) GET CREATIVE!!


Tabling: Reinforce the campaign by setting up a table in strategic/high traffic areas on campus and giving out information about money and politics. Or table with a petition to sign that incorporates the numbers of the campaign and supports public financing at the state or national level. Identify your table not only with a Democracy Matters Banner, but also a big sign: “We’ve Got The Numbers,” or some other reference to the campaign.


Canvassing: Go door to door in dorms or apartments to talk to students about the issue and ask them to sign a petition or a letter to a sitting politician linked to the Numbers Campaign. Give them DM information (as you would while tabling). Or go to the meetings of student groups on campus and ask them to let you talk about the Numbers Campaign for 10 minutes. Or ask for 10 minutes in classes!


Actions: Hold an open mike event on campus – preferably outside – with speakers on the issue instead of a teach-in or panel.


VI. Timelines


For each campaign, make a time chart leading up to the day or days of the campaign:


1. Weekly (or daily) responsibilities and deadlines

2. Who is responsible for completing the activity

3. Who is accountable for over-all coordination

4. Check list for what resources/materials will be needed       


Application to “Numbers Campaign”

At the end of the campaign do a group de-briefing, including a summary and an assessment of what you did. (Have someone write it out and send it for posting on the Democracy Matters website so others can benefit from your work.) Be sure to talk about all your accomplishments, all the people you reached, and all the lessons you learned.




Back – Module #6: Running a Meeting

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