“____ days.” At the start of every phone call we’ve had with our grantees during these past few months, that countdown until Election Day has been their universal answer to the question, “How are you doing?” As that clock winds down until next Tuesday, we wanted to highlight some of the great revenue generation work these organizations are doing, as well as share lessons they’re learning and thoughts on what we think could be next for electoral-adjacent fundraising.
Eddie Van Halen, Dave Grohl and….People’s Action? These venerable rock and roll icons weren’t the only ones making headlines in Rolling Stone this fall. People’s Action (PA) is a national network of state and local grassroots power-building organizations united in fighting for justice. The organization’s innovative electoral deep canvass experiment was covered by the legendary publication in September ahead of the release of PA’s study confirming that the tactic can significantly reduce Trump support in rural and small-town America in key battleground states.
The study’s findings are particularly poignant at a moment when division rules the political landscape. Deep canvass conversations, rooted in, as George Goehl, director of People’s Action, told Rolling Stone “curiosity and compassion” proved to be 102 times more effective at changing an undecided voter’s mind than traditional presidential voter persuasion tactics. The deep canvass campaign made over 1 million phone calls by mid-October and is continuing straight through Election Day.
Kelly Boehms, the group’s Digital Outreach Organizer, said, “There is a whole new level of experimentation going on at People’s Action.” PA built upon its deep canvass experiment by testing television and radio ads as well as garnering earned media opportunities in the districts where they are deep canvassing. They have also tested fundraising appeals to current supporters through email to fund these ads or advance the deep canvass. Historically, People’s Action has primarily focused on supporting base-building for affiliates in states across the U.S. “People’s Action has never had a national base of distributed volunteers at this scale – so we’ve never had this kind of data to work with,” Boehms stated. “We’re trying to find the best balance between building a national political home for these new supporters and helping our network meaningfully absorb these people too.”
Since its inception in 2016, People’s Action has embraced agile experimentation as a path to scale on the inexorably linked fronts of organizing and independent revenue generation. The organization partnered with Progressive Multiplier to test a c4 planned giving program, garnering over a half million dollars in bequests from the $25,000 Recoverable Scale Grant. Looking at post-election, Boehms, in partnership with PA’s fundraising and movement politics teams, wants to further test how the organization can fortifying donor organizing within the context of deep canvassing and the thousands of volunteers and supporters it has brought into the organization. She believes that “…donor organizing is the key to our collective liberation.” This may be in the form of a deep canvass to defend democracy if the election is contested. It may be around COVID-19 relief and recovery at both the national and state levels. The data and these next critical weeks will define their direction.