Archive for May 11, 2010
Iowans, Get Wise When You Organize: Put Organizers Database On Your To-Do List
by Alta Price, M.D.
Every political campaign knows you have to identify and track your supporters. The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) maintains a database of voters with all sorts of information that can be used by candidates to find voters likely to support them, or to target for specific messages likely to appeal to that voter. The IDP spends considerable resources updating and maintaining their database, and therefore campaigns have to pay for access.
If you are involved with a small campaign, whether for an elected office or for a political issue, you need to find and track supporters, too. Most likely you lack the resources to buy an existing database, or there isn’t an appropriate database available. If you are in this situation, I highly recommend Organizers Database for your organizing needs.
Organizers Database (ODB) is a free, customizable database developed for nonprofit organizations by Organizers Collaborative. It is used by hundreds of groups around the country. Personally I use it for our local Democracy for America – Quad Cities group and for precinct organizing. We also use it for Progressive Action for the Common Good (PACG).
You can choose from many different templates, based upon the type of organization, but that is just a starting point. You can easily modify the templates to suit your needs.
For example, PACG is made up of multiple different Issue Forums. The database has an area we modified to be a listing of all the Issue Forums. An individual in the database can be assigned to the appropriate Issue Forum/s. Not only that, we can make that entry a “1” to designate a leader of the Forum, a “2” for someone who regularly attends planning sessions, or a “3” for someone who will come to events or take action even though they don’t help plan.
So let’s say we want to find people to cover shifts at the county fair to collect Handprints for Health Care. Naturally we will send out an email to the entire PACG email list. But as a general rule of organizing, emails are not an effective way to get volunteers (especially if you need 55, like we did for the fair!). So you use ODB to generate a call list of everyone marked as a 1, 2, or 3 in the Health Care Reform Issue Forum and start making calls.
You can easily search the database to find people you want to ask to volunteer, give money, attend an event, or target with a message. For example, you could search for students from Illinois interested in local food issues. You could look for teachers and labor activists living in a particular district to lobby a state legislator on an education bill.
Organizers Database generates call lists, mailing labels, and group emails with ease. You can also keep track of dues or donations and print thank you letters.
The key to effective organizing is having good data. Organizers Database makes the technical part easy. The harder part is making yourself actually enter all that contact information you collected on those sign-in sheets from your last event! If you can get past that part, Organizers Database will help your grassroots group flourish.
As for me, I’m going to add the local Drinking Liberally people to my DFA-QC ODB today, so I can send an email and invite them to Sippi’s on Friday!
Alta Price is a
physician practicing Pathology in Davenport, Iowa. One of
the original Deaniacs, she stays involved with Democracy for America,
Iowa, and the Quad Cities. She advocates for quality, affordable health
care for all, primarily as a volunteer with Progressive Action for
Common Good (Health Care Reform Issue Forum). E-Mail Alta Price
The Plane Facts About Media: What I Learned While in Flight
by Dave Bradley
In the early nineties I was spending a great deal of time traveling for the company. And I shared time and stories within the pressurized cabin with quite a cross section of America. The one that has stuck in my mind and continues to be replayed over and over was a Saturday morning I spent with a gentleman who had just quit a seemingly great job over a principle.
He was very quiet to begin with. But slowly he let his story out. He worked for Gannett Corporation. Gannett was still in the midst of an acquisition and expansion program in the newspaper and television market. Gannett already owned newpapers such as USA Today, the Des Moines Register and many other major dailies throughout the country. They were set for more expansion and my seatmate opposed the expansion. He opposed it on the principle that Gannett and other companies had so consolidated the media that it was now past the point of choking the news that America got.
This guy was a vice-president. He was right in on the decision. And he opposed it vociferously. When push came to shove, as he told me, “I probably did the worst thing I could possibly do for myself. I quit. I could no longer sit by and watch the media in this country go to hell. What the government is letting Gannett do, they are going to let others do and in a few years America is only going to have a couple of sources for news. And the country will be much the worse for it. This will end democracy.”
The former Gannett VP was around 50. His kids were grown. He was going to buy a small newspaper in North Carolina and try to save at least one corner of the world. BTW, go here for a listing of Gannett’s holdings (note: this is an incomplete list).
Even with all these holdings Gannett is not one of the really BIG media companies.
As for me, I was greatly affected by our conversation. I became, if not an activist at that time, at least keenly aware of how America’s great diversity of opinion was slowly becoming the toy of the corporations. And while my acquaintance could not be specific about the how of consolidation, he was certainly right about the what. Shortly after our plane ride the so-called Republican Revolution took place in 1994. And one of the major targets for Republicans was to greatly diminish ownership rules so that only a few super big media conglomerates were left standing.
And so the stage was set for The Telecommunications Act of 1996. If you are not familiar with this travesty, click here for an interesting analysis I ran across.
After a short discussion of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, we shall look at where we are now. Then I will offer and seek some ideas for the future.
E-mail Dave here
Dave Bradley is a self-described
retired observer of American politics “trying to figure out how we got
so screwed up.” An
Iowa City native currently living in West Liberty, Dave and his wife
Carol have two grown children who “sadly had to leave the state to find
decent paying jobs.”
Observations on Iowa Media will appear here on Blog for Iowa Tuesdays.