August, 1981 <---------- Note Bene
This "Blueprint for Libertarian Activists" is a compilation of experiences of Libertarian party organizations at the state and local level, designed to show by example how our activities can be successful. I hope you will find it valuable, and that it will be one of many contributions I can make to the Libertarian Party over the next few years.
I'd be less than honest if I didn't acknowledge that my purpose in producing this booklet was twofold. First, I believe that a booklet like this one, which brings together our successful experiences into one format and shares them among Libertarian activists, has been needed for a long time. Second, I want to demonstrate through my actions, rather than just my words, the kind of National Chair I would be. Developing a "Blueprint" has been one of the eight major points of my program ever since I began campaigning for National Chair. In fact, this may be the first time in history that a candidate has fulfilled a campaign promise before the election!
Just as in society as a whole, the key element in the success of the Libertarian Party is the individual activist who is willing to devote his or her talents, at any level, to helping the party grow and succeed, thereby furthering the cause of liberty. Many of the experiences in this booklet relate the activities of one or a small handful of individuals who seized opportunities, or created them where none existed, and saw them through against long odds.
The important point, of course, is that any dedicated Libertarian activist is capable of duplicating and improving on the successes related here. The "Blueprint" is meant to be a tool to help Libertarians do just that. By capsulizing actual examples and outlining the basic principles behind these seemingly diverse efforts, I hope to help accelerate our overall growth and to minimize* the problem of $ reinventing the wheel" which can occur when parallel organizations are developing over a wide geographical area. As committed Libertarians who are dedicated first and foremost to the implementation of our principles in the real world, the challenge of building a libertarian society is formidable enough without the problem of inadequate communication to retard our progress. We need systematically to share our successes, and the reasons for them, with each other.
The "Blueprint" is designed to be used, added to, improved upon. I would hope that any activists who is faced with a specific task in a given area could use this booklet as a reference, to remind himself or herself of the kind of effort which has succeeded in the past. I would further hope that reading the experiences in the "Blueprint" will bolster and renew our confidence that our efforts for liberty can and will succeed. As National Chair, I will continue to compile and distribute experiences such as these, and the materials I will prepare will include actual samples of what was done. wherever they are appropriate. If you agree that continuing "Blueprint" material would be a valuable ongoing project of the Libertarian Party, then please take a few moments to complete the Survey at the back of this booklet.
The period between now and the 1984 presidential election is as critical to our party's development as any time in our history. I believe our next National Chair should be, like you, an effective, successful, principled activist. This "Blueprint" is a token of my belief that I'm best qualified to be your next National Chair, and I'd particularly like to thank the nearly 100 Libertarians whose financial contributions to my campaign have helped make the production of this booklet possible.
I hope I have earned your support.
Table of Contents
KEEPING IT GOING
RECRUITING AND DEVELOPING LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATES
GETTING ON THE BALLOT
REACHING THE NEWS MEDIA
The purpose of the "Blueprint for Libertarian Activists" is to illustrate through actual examples how Libertarian Party activists at all levels can accomplish their goals successfully. It is designed to be used as a reference guide and includes an index of topics covered. At the user's option, it can be part of a loose-leaf notebook.
Although eight aspects of successful activism are discussed separately, it should be stressed that all of these subjects come together to form an integrated whole. No one subject is more important than the others, and many of the principles which apply to one apply equally to the rest. It should also be stressed that the experiences compiled in this booklet in no way are meant to suggest a narrow "right" way to do things to the exclusion of other means. They were chosen on the basis of their general applicability to situations faced by Libertarian activists everywhere, every day. Ideally, the principles of successful activism illustrated here will be useful to any level of organization, from a small town to a large city to a state party to the national infrastructure of the Libertarian Party.
The authors of this booklet wish to acknowledge the hard ,work of thousands of Libertarians, past, present, and future, to build an effective political means of achieving our common goal: Liberty in our time.
Return to Table of Contents
Back when the Libertarian Party first started, party organizations consisted of one or two contact persons and a handful of names on a few mailing lists. We've grown a lot since then, as a result of election campaigns, publicity, and outreach efforts. The most important ingredient in any of these, of course, has been the individuals in each state and city who have been willing to make consistent and courageous outreach efforts of all kinds. These people had what it takes to break the party organization out of a tiny circle of "true believers" into a widening sphere of organized, purposeful effort.
"What it takes" is often hard to define, but there's no question that, today, Libertarian Party organizations in states, large cities, and small towns must constantly deal with the question of how to grow and develop. How does a small circle of Libertarians set down roots and grow into an effective political group? And, once established in a central area, how do they reach out and develop other organizations in other areas?
The experiences compiled in this-section are meant to help illustrate methods by which existing Libertarian Party organizations large and small can attract new members and activists to expand all of their efforts at every level.
The Minnesota Experience
In terms of population, the state of Minnesota is dominated by the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and it's not surprising that most of the active Libertarians in Minnesota have been from that area. That is, until they decided to make a real effort to expand their base beyond the Twin Cities into the smaller outlying cities and towns, and thus develop a truly statewide Libertarian Party.
Minnesota Libertarians drew up a systematic plan to attract new activists, and their first step was to recruit volunteers to participate in the plan. Their key tool was their existing mailing list of party members. They looked for names of people who lived in outlying cities, then made telephone calls to those members -- most of whom they had rarely or never met -to enlist their aid in the project. A typical example came off something like this:
Party member John Jones in Lake City was contacted by a Twin Cities Libertarian and asked to arrange a public meeting room and to place some ads in the local paper. A carload of
Twin Cities volunteers -- not necessarily the same people -would drive back to Lake City to meet whoever showed up at the meeting. One of them was prepared to make an introductory talk on libertarianism, while others were assigned to handle specific questions about the party itself, or to deal with particular areas of questions, as well as to help run the meeting smoothly. After the talk and questions a sheet was passed around on which the attendees could sign up if they wanted further information about the party -- which of course was promptly sent to them. Within a week or two of the meeting, those who had expressed continued interest were contacted to participate in a campaign project -- doorbelling, stuffing envelopes, whatever was needed -and a later business meeting would be held to elect local party officers and create a party structure.
What were the results of these efforts? Greater than anyone imagined. The public meetings, advertised as they were through leafleting and newspaper ads, would attract anywhere from 20 to 40 people from the town, 80 or 90 per cent of whom would sign the "further information" sheet at the meeting, and thereby form the nucleus of the organization. In one outlying Minnesota city, there are now over 50 party members where there had previously been a tiny handful. And the real key, according to one of the leading Twin Cities-based organizers of the project, was to keep the new members active and involved -- and to find activities of different kinds, whether social or political, in which they could become immediately involved.
The Oregon Experience
Very recently -- spring and summer of 1981 -- Oregon Libertarians have independently started an outreach program similar ,to the Minnesota program. Details differ to some extent, and are worth recounting here as a supplement to the Minnesota example.
Oregon Libertarians rely heavily on news releases prepared ahead of an organizational event and sent to the local newspapers in outlying counties. Many of these papers have tiny circulation are starved for local news, and reprint the Libertarian releases verbatim. Thus, it's possible to read headlines like "Libertarians To Meet Regularly," in the Newburg Graphic (Circ: 5,300) with the accompanying story reading that the first meeting was so successful that regular monthly meetings are scheduled for the foreseeable future.
Oregon Libertarians also make use of their party officers, such as the State Chair, whose billing as a featured speaker at a local meeting adds a note of credibility to the publicity.
The California Experience
The following example almost qualifies as ancient history, since it occurred in 1975, but it still represents a valuable insight into party building. The essential element here was a political campaign.
In San Francisco that year, there were only about 20 known LP members, but one of them decided to run for Mayor, with the express goal of using his campaign to build the party. The campaign itself was a solid effort, earning considerable exposure for the party in the newspapers and other media; but accomplishing the candidate's goal required the willingness to reach out and involve other people in the actual activities of the campaign.
Not only did the candidate use the existing mailing list, he asked neighbors, friends, co-workers -- everyone he thought might be willing to participate -- to become involved in the campaign in some way, either by contributing money, or attending a work party, or distributing literature door-to-door, or accompanying him on a "Candidate's Night" appearance. Between these efforts and the natural result of public exposure, a mailing list of several hundred was built, virtually from scratch, within a few months.
After the campaign was over, a campaign worker independently mailed a Libertarian Party membership application, and a voter registration card, to every name on the list, along with a letter requesting each person to join the Libertarian Party and change his or her party affiliation to Libertarian. The result: Party membership in San Francisco shot to over one hundred, and Libertarian registration increased by a similar percentage. Many of those initially attracted by this mayoral campaign have gone on to become key activists in California Libertarian efforts.
The Alaska Experience
In Alaska, prior to Dick Randolph's first successful race for state legislature, the prime technique for building party membership and support was a "house parties" project, whereby Libertarian Party members would invite friends and neighbors to their homes for the express purpose of introducing them to libertarianism and the Libertarian Party. There, in a friendly social setting, those who attended heard an introductory explanation of the philosophy, and were invited to join and participate. A high percentage did, right on the spot in many instances. This technique increased the mailing list, the membership roster, the-number of people exposed to libertarianism -- and it also raised money from those willing to write out a membership dues check.
The New York Experience
The Free Libertarian Party of New York has adopted a goal of having party organizations in all regions of the state in time for the 1982 elections, and one of their early success stories has been in the Binghamton area. Each time a new name in a previously unorganized area is found, the party contacts that person and asks if he or she would be willing to serve as a contact point for other people in the area. As new names come in, they are given to the contact people in the various areas, who are encouraged to begin organizing. State party officers, such as the Chair, will make it a point to visit these developing areas to meetwith the Libertarians there.
In the Binghamton case, there was only one name -- a man who was initially attracted through the 1978 Greenberg for Governor campaign -- but he gradually built up a list of twenty or so others. Thanks to the systematic encouragement of the state party leadership, this handful of local activists has already been highly successful, having nominated candidates for mayor and county legislature, attracted considerable local media attention, and won the bid to host the FLP's next state convention. According to the state chair, the key to building local organizations is to focus would-be activists on continuous preparation for election campaigns. These preparations include making contacts in the news media, recruiting candidates, writing position papers, and researching issues.
Letters to the Editor
As an outreach technique, letters to the editors of newspapers is simple, inexpensive, and effective -- both in terms of writing them, and in monitoring the letters of others. Activists in various parts of the country have found that making a point of writing one letter per week, or one per month, is a surefire way to keep the Libertarian Party visible, particularly in non-election years. Writing letters can be a project for party members who may be unable to other things; in New York, for instance, a member who is physically disabled keeps up a steady stream of letters in his local papers. He makes it a point always to find a way to mention the Libertarian Party. The letters are short -- one or two paragraphs at most -- and give a concise Libertarian view on a particular issue.
The other side of this coin is monitoring letters to the editor for those which express, usually unwittingly, a libertarian sentiment. A volunteer responsible for this project will scan the letters each day, note those which appear sympathetic to the party position, and send a thank-you note and packet of party material to the writer. Not only does this project reach Politically-aware people with the Libertarian message, but it also serves to involve volunteers who may otherwise be unwilling or unable to participate in other activities.
Summary and Conclusions
The experiences described in this section have differed significantly in specific details. Some have been in connection with campaigns, others with more general activities; some have relied on available media while others have not. But all have certain universally applicable points in common:
* Libertarians were willing to ask people to participate, and the requests were personal and specific. Even in the Minnesota example, where leafleting and advertising were major elements, personal solicitation was the key: first, of the original party member in each outlying town, second, of the people who attended the introductory meeting.
* They didn't spend time "qualifying their customers." In sales, it's a standard maxim never to prejudge a customer according to appearance or manner, because you never know who will be a buyer. The same applies to successful outreach efforts. They usually were directed to a wide audience without much worry about whether or not the new recruits were more or less likely to become 100 per cent immediate plumb-line libertarians.
* After being asked to join and participate, a certain percentage of those contacted said Yes, and a certain percentage said No -- and the percentage which said Yes was always higher than expected. The people involved in the outreach project were not afraid of rejection.
* Once a successful contact had been made, and a positive response obtained, the new people were kept active. Work parties, social events, or special projects were organized, announced, and regularly scheduled. The new members were encouraged to set up their own structures, then followed up periodically by activists at the state level.
* The best resource for party development has been the existing mailing list. In many parties, the names on the list have never been contacted by phone, and sometimes not even by mail, and in other parties, the contacts are irregular and infrequent at best. People who never hear from the organization will tend to lose interest and understandably assume that no party with dynamic people in it exists.
* Successful activists have recognized
that most new members come to an increased understanding of libertarianism
through contact with other party members, gradually over a period of time.
It's extremely important, of course, to educate new recruits in terms of
principles and issues, but it's clear that those party organizations which
have been most successful in growing outside of the "inner circle" have
not demanded any sort of "Purity test" from their new people. Instead,
they have assumed correctly that the more experienced libertarians will
take care of explaining philosophical points to newcomers in the natural
course of social events and political activities.
KEY POINTS ON PARTY DEVELOPMENT
1. The mailing list of party members and prospects is your most important tool. Everyone on it should be contacted in person and asked to participate in party activities.
2. Keep building your list by entering the names of everyone who expresses an interest in the party.
3. Friends, neighbors, co-workers -- they, too, should be invited to participate in or attend party events.
4. Accept the fact that a certain percentage of the people you contact will say "No."
5. Use news releases., flyers, and ads to support your public recruitment efforts.
6. Provide a structure and specific activities for newcomers both at the initial meeting and at subsequent events.
7. Don't prejudge newcomers. Remember that most people become increasingly libertarian through contact with other libertarians, so plan events to mingle new People with "veterans."
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KEEPING IT GOING
Once a party organization has started, or has branched out to satellite areas, the critical problem becomes keeping, it going successfully. Far too many initially successful organizational efforts have fallen apart because of lack of follow through. But many party groups, once they've taken shape have not only continued but grown because of a conscious program put in motion for this purpose.
The question to be addressed is how to keep relatively new party members active and interested -- in fact, how to move them away from thinking of themselves as "newcomers" at all.
The Rochester Experience
Perhaps one of the most consistently successful local party organizations in the country has been the one in Rochester, N.Y., a relatively small city which is not adjacent to other population centers, but which nevertheless has been able both to attract and keep the interest of old and new Libertarian activists.
Rochester Libertarians employ two major tools: a good internal communication device., their newsletter; and frequent meetings which combine philosophical, political and social elements. Actually, they use these tools in duplicate. There is an active chapter of the Society for Individual Liberty in the Rochester area, and an active LP organization , each of which has a newsletter and meetings. The overlap in membership is considerable, but the SIL chapter activities focus on philosophy, while LP activities concentrate on politics and activism. In this way, a broad cross-section of libertarians, regardless of their primary interest, are consistently brought into contact with other libertarians.
Meetings typically are dinners served at a hotel or restaurant which have been publicized well ahead of time through the newsletter. After dinner, routine announcements are dispensed with, and the floor is given over to the featured speaker, who is often from out of town and has had his or her transportation and lodging arranged and paid for by the organizers of the event. This program has meant that Rochester-area libertarians have frequent opportunities to hear outside speakers on a wide range of topics, to keep abreast of libertarian activities in the area, and to be in the friendly company of other libertarians. They have come to look forward to these events; typically at least 50 paying people attend. At one such dinner, for Alaskan legislator Dick Randolph, organized with only four days notice, 70 people were willing to come out.
Rochester Libertarians' ability to keep the organization going and growing doesn't just stop with dinner meetings. They take advantage of each election campaign opportunity, even of local elections which are held in odd-numbered years, and do their utmost to recruit candidates as an almost-perpetual focus for party activism. The candidates are recruited simply because certain activists make it a point to ask other libertarians to run. One Rochester party leader identified 15 people he thought would be good candidates, asked them all, and ended up with six enthusiastic local campaigners (that would be a .400 average if it were baseball).
Attempts are consistently made to involve all members, especially newcomers, in basic party activities. In the case of one dinner meeting, for example, the organization's Chair had no hesitation in asking a couple who were brand-new to the parity to lodge the out-of-town speaker overnight; they were delighted to accept, and felt much more "part of things." The Chair views this process of involving all members as routine. Of this instance he said, "It just made sense to ask them because they lived close to the airport. If they had said " No" , I would have asked someone else." Simple and obvious, of course; but in how many other organizations does the party leadership rely exclusively on a small circle of longtime activists, afraid that asking newcomers to participate would be interpreted as being "too pushy"?
The Montana Experience
Montana is an immense state, with a number of small to midsize cities scattered far apart. It was not until less than two years ago that Libertarians were able to set up effective organizations in many states have successfully used one or more Montana's activities to keep the party growing. The Montana party has simply been able to combine them all at once, as follows:
1. Immediately after the election, the party tackled the project of trying to change the state's ballot access law in their favor. Previously, Libertarians could only qualify for the ballot on separate petitions, but the party wanted to be able to qualify the entire party with one petition. They identified some sympathetic legislators, explained the problem and what they wanted, and asked if a bill effecting the change could be written and sponsored. The legislators agreed and, several months later, the bill was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the legislature.
2. After the bill had passed, the party decided to start its ballot drive early, more than a year before the signatures were due. They now have ten coordinators around the state and planned activities for fundraising and volunteer petitioning.
3. The Montana Party, like many party organizations, participates in an activity which always promotes visibility, credibility, and outreach: staffing booths at major county fairs, around the state. In at least one instance, their booth appeared where the Republicans did not -- a fact duly noted by the local newspaper.
4. They have already recruited a candidate for U.S. Senate who is not only attracting publicity for his campaign and the party but also is providing a focus for volunteer efforts such as the ballot drive.
5. They are planning to sponsor two statewide initiative petitions, one to abolish the state Milk Price Control Board, the other to change the state's restrictive liquor licensing law. These initiatives will build credibility for the party and will also give activists the opportunity to attract support from constituencies who would be benefited by the proposed law changes.
Members of the Montana Party believe it's important to create opportunities for action such as these during non-election years, and they believe that multiple activities are beneficial to attract a wide range of activists. This model can be considered by any state or local party when deciding the kinds of activities needed to keep their organization going and growing.
General Note: Running a Successful Meeting
Once you've enticed a number of Libertarians, through your newsletter or phone calls, to your meeting, it's obviously of critical importance that the meeting be enjoyable and productive, so that your attendees will want to come back and bring their friends.
(The reference here is not to meetings which are exclusively for party business, but rather those set up to keep the party going. In most local party organizations, business meetings would be held quarterly at most, and the routine business taken care of by an executive committee.)
Scheduled meetings need not be of the full-blown dinner type, but instead can be gatherings to hear an interesting speaker or discussion. It should be noted, though, that most people are perfectly happy to pay 12 or 15 dollars for a dinner event if they think that they're getting-their money's worth. In either case, certain basic rules apply for a successful meeting:
1. Have a fixed time schedule, announced ahead of time, and stick to it as closely as possible. Example: cocktails at 6:30, dinner at 7:15, announcements and introduction at 8:00, main speaker at 8:15, Q and A and wrap-up at 9:00, event concludes at 9:30.
2. Tell the speaker how much time he or she has, and suggest a topic if necessary.
3. Select topics and speakers on the basis of the widest possible interest in the group. Ask yourself, if a stranger walked in off the street and heard this speaker, would the topic make sense, or would it sound weird and obscure?
4. Don't hesitate to import speakers from out of town, and pay all reasonable costs. The novelty of an out-of-town speaker will attract a bigger audience.
5. Select a Master of Ceremonies for the event whose responsibility it is to make the announcements, introduce the speaker, keep things moving on time, and wrap everything up at the end.
Summary and Conclusions
"Keeping It Going" has required the application of much of the same points covered in "Party Development." The most important point, as with getting an organization started, has been:
* People have been asked to stay involved: asked to attend meetings, asked to be the Master of Ceremonies or to be the featured speaker, asked to help produce the newsletter or to organize work parties, asked to become candidates. And not only have the "old reliables " been asked but everyone, whether they've been known for very long or not.
Other important points in successfully "keeping it going" have been:
* To have a regular internal communications device, usually a newsletter, which lets people know what's going on.
* To vary and diversify the activities so that the broadest possible range of libertarians will be attracted to participate. Even the people who have taken visible roles are varied so that people don't start dreading "the same old faces" doing everything.
* To take advantage of election campaigns, especially local elections occurring in odd-numbered years. If running candidates has been inappropriate, to try sponsoring an initiative petition or organizing to defeat a proposed tax increase, etc.
KEY POINTS ON "KEEPING IT GOING"
1. Meetings and events should be held regularly and should combine social aspects with political education or activity.
2. Notice of events should be mailed to the entire mailing list in the area, preferably in a regular newsletter, and should be followed up with telephone calls.
3. Don't hesitate to spend a little extra money to increase interest in and attendance at your events. People don't mind paying if they think they're getting value in exchange.
4. Create as many opportunities as you can for activity: candidates, initiatives, fair booths, speakers bureaus, etc., etc. -- the more, the better.
5. Involve new party members by making it a point to ask them to take on specific responsibilities.
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Keeping activists, party members, and interested people informed about party activities on a regular basis is closely related to successfully keeping a party organization going and growing. Some system of internal communication is essential to maintaining enthusiasm and awareness; it is asking too much to expect people to drop everything and get together every six months for a purposeful activity if they haven't been informed of what's been happening in the interim. Motivated activists are those who feel that they are part of a growing organization; regular communication does much to impart this feeling.
The Michigan Experience
Many state and local organizations have good, informative newsletters. Recent issues of the Michigan Libertarian are as close as any to a "model" of a good Libertarian Party newsletter.
The Michigan Libertarian is an eight-page publication which is typeset and printed on an offset press. It follows a regular monthly schedule, and maintains a continuity of features and departments which readers have come to be familiar with and look forward to.
The front page typically covers the most important current activity of the party for that month -- an election, the state convention, proposals for party involvement in a statewide issue. Another "activity" article will also appear on the front page, along with a listing of the items covered inside the newsletter.
Inside pages are devoted to local party news and announcement as well as regular reports from various permanent committees of the state party. For example, if an out-of-state libertarian is scheduled to speak in the state, his or her appearance is noted. There are regular departments for "Committee Reports," "Meetings and Events," and "Key Libertarians to Contact." Then there are such features as "Hot Spots," discussions of political issues in the state of interest to Libertarians, and "News Brief" short news items which are written to make some relevant libertarian point. Finally, there is space devoted to editorials and a "guest column," in which various writers are invited to express their opinions each month on political topics of interest to libertarians. The format stays basically the same for each issue.
For the most part, all of the items are kept brief, and are separated by prominent headlines, subheads and captions. Articles and reports are confined to a journalistic style of writing, with a minimum of overt editorializing. The overall effect of the newsletter is one of professionalism and interest in party activity and real-world issues -- yet with a touch of lightness and personality which adds variation and diversity.
Newsletters With An External Appeal
At least four state parties -- those in California, Colorado, New York and Texas -- publish tabloid-newspapers which not only cover internal party activities but also discuss libertarian theoretical issues and try to appeal to an outside, non-party audience. Their distribution goes beyond just the party membership.
These publications -- Caliber in California, Colorado Liberty, New York Libertarian and Free Texas -- represent a commitment on the part of their organizations to reach out and influence state residents who may be interested in or sympathetic to what Libertarians have to say. The combination of news, opinions, and analysis is a challenging package to bring off appealingly to a large cross-section of people, but these publications appear capable of doing it. Free Texas, for example, is published every two months and is sent to a list of nearly 7,000 people.
These publications were a natural outgrowth of what had been good, regular internal party newsletters. In each case the party decided that the time, money, and effort required to go to the expanded format would result in a wider audience, more members and contributors, and a tangible asset that the party could be proud of.
The Illinois Experience
There are other forms of internal communications aside from party newsletters. One of the most successful of these is a working telephone network, that is, a system whereby a large number of members, activists, and prospects can be contacted by telephone in a very short time. Such a system takes a considerable amount, of preparation and organization, and one of the best illustrations of how it can work effectively comes from the Libertarian Party of Illinois.
When the need for this system was first recognized in Illinois, steps were taken to identify locations which contained multiple phone lines -- essentially, phone "banks" where ten-or-so volunteers could gather and make calls. Party leaders identified members who might be willing to make their offices available periodically for this purpose, and asked them to do so. (Real estate, insurance, and brokerage businesses are typically the kind of offices used, turned over to the party by members who work there.)
The basic system has been in place for several years, but within the past few months efforts have been made to expand it to the point where there are three available phone banks and as many as 35 available volunteers to staff them. According to the State Chair, it takes about a week and a half to organize a three-bank phone-calling operation -- to line up both the banks and the callers -- but that the entire list of about 2,000 names in Illinois can be reached by this method during three nights of calling.
Purposes for the phone bank operation include fundraising and notification of such events as conventions and candidate appearances, urging members to turn out. It could also be used in the case of a special project such as barraging a state legislator with postcards regarding an important piece of legislation.
Illinois party members have found that these phone banks are far superior to asking individuals to make calls from their homes. The distractions and disincentives which often occur at home are removed, and more important, a spirit of camaraderie and purpose develops within the phone bank. Each phone bank operation has a supervisor, a party volunteer who is there to assign tasks and answer questions. All calls are made between 7:30 and 10:00 in the evening. And the existence of the phone network has attracted many volunteers who are outside of the "inner hard core" of the party.
Summary and Conclusions
All party organizations, even if they consist of only two people, already have a system of internal communications whether they realize it or not. In concept, internal communications is no more complex than members of the organization talking to each other. But for organizations with more people than can conveniently talk with each other on a regular basis, some sort of formal communications vehicle is required, and creating and perpetuating this vehicle requires forethought and organization. The experiences related above are hardly unique, but they do illustrate good examples of simple, yet effective, internal communications vehicles designed to maintain the size and enthusiasm of the party and to broaden its base.
* The Michigan newsletter, as with all effective newsletters, relies on the party, not the personality of its editor and staff, to communicate important facts about party activities. The editor's job is to provide information, and this creates a snowball effect, for once the activists come to understand that what they do is newsworthy to the party, they are motivated to keep doing it and reporting on it.
* Both the Michigan newsletter and the Illinois phone network have the advantage of being considered by party members to be natural and important party affairs. Newsletters which appear regularly and have a standard format are treated with more respect and interest than those which appear every so often and which look radically different from issue to issue. In the instance of the phone network, party members know that it exists and that, if they receive a call, it means something important is happening.
Internal communications devices such as these are a good means of involving other people in an active way in party affairs. They create a wide-variety of opportunities to ask people to participate -- to make 20 phone calls, for example, or to take charge of a particular section of the newsletter.
* Internal communications devices, when done professionally and competently, add an air of credibility to party activities which tends to -attract those who are new to the party and possibly not quite sure how much to get involved. By the same token, they are a visible demonstration that an ongoing party organization is worthwhile, and tend to help raise the general level of financial support from both newcomers and veterans.
KEY POINTS ON INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS
1. Newsletters are the one essential internal communication device for any party organization at any level. They generate interest and involvement in a way that nothing else can.
2. Internal communications devices should come to be perceived as integral components of the party organization. In particular, newsletters should be published regularly and have a standard format.
3. Newsletters should rely on party activities, not personalities, to generate interest and involvement.
4. Internal communications, particularly newsletters, should be intelligible to non-Libertarians. Ask yourself if the material presented would mystify or turn off a non-Libertarian.
5. Internal communications such as newsletters or phone banks are opportunities to ask party members to get involved in party affairs by assigning responsibility for small aspects of the overall project.
6. Don't hesitate to use the newsletter to solicit funds and memberships, perhaps by enclosing a reply envelope.
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RECRUITING AND DEVELOPING LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATES
It's obvious to the point of being simplistic to say that one of the major purposes of a political party is to run candidates for office. Yet in a small, growing party where ballot status is not automatic and the chances of losing the election are great, finding people willing to run as Libertarians is often a serious problem. It takes courage for a person to understand that his or her effort may bring little or no immediate reward, but is instead a stepping stone toward long run success.
But, of course, it is a vitally important stepping stone. The party needs thousands of credible, energetic, articulate candidates each year both to spread our message in a political context, and to set the stage for future electoral victories by convincing voters that the Libertarian alternative belongs in the mainstream of political discussion.
Many of the candidates the party has fielded at all levels would never have run at all, left to themselves; and many who were willing to have their names on the ballot would never have run active campaigns. But in these cases, the candidates were recruited and developed. They were truly supported by their fellow Libertarians, and this support made the difference between mediocre campaigns and effective campaigns.
The Pennsylvania Experience
In 1979, Pennsylvania's Libertarian Party was quite small in proportion to the size and population of the state. Virtually all of the activity had been in the Philadelphia area, and only three Libertarians had ever run for office before.
Two of these, with the support of other party members, decided that 1980 was going to be different. They decided that for the party to grow and start to become influential statewide, it was important to organize small groups of Libertarians wherever possible and to convince as many members as possible to run for local, state, and federal office. Thus, candidate recruitment became an integral part of their organizational effort.
If party leaders took an organizational trip to Pittsburgh, for example, they would meet with the handful of Libertarians there, explain the basic points of building an organizational structure, state that an important party goal was to run candidates, and almost immediately begin to solicit potential candidates. When new members joined, often one of the first questions asked of them was whether they were willing to be candidates.
The people asked to run were Libertarians who were articulate and knowledgeable about the area where they were running. But there was little concern about the length of time the individual had been a member of the party. -
According to the Pennsylvanians who organized the 1980 candidate-recruitment effort, achieving their goal of running as many candidates as possible had several benefits. Gaining ballot status was easier, since so many had a personal stake in the effort. Local activists were more enthusiastic because they had their own "local favorite" to cheer for. And the news media took note of the fact that many candidates were running, treating the party as a whole with greater respect.
When the field of candidates had been assembled, the party helped further by developing a standard-format brochure which all candidates could use, varying photographs and details according to the candidate and the office, but leaving the basic design and general message about the Libertarian Party the same. This approach not only saved money, but further developed a spirit of "team effort" among the candidates.
Pennsylvania's record of over 20 Libertarian candidates in 1980 is particularly commendable given that there were scarcely over that number of party members in the state only two years before.
The California Experience
As in Pennsylvania, strenuous efforts were made in late 1979 and 1980 to recruit Libertarians to run for office. Over 100 were found; but the significant point about many of their races was the effort put into developing them as candidates after they agreed to run.
In the San Francisco area, for example, a handful of party members with previous political experience decided to hold weekly "workshops" for area candidates, each session focusing on a particular campaign technique -- precinct analysis, media contacts, fundraising, etc. Through these sessions, the candidates developed a team spirit and a common understanding that they would help each other as much as possible. Many shared a common headquarters, and most, when covering their districts door-to-door, handed out not only their own literature but also that of other Libertarians running in the same area for a different office. The result was that the media and the voters perceived that the Libertarian Party was a broad-based, aggressive movement, not merely a collection of people trying to out-shout each other.
Another California Experience -
Finding the "Perfect" Candidate
Many state and local party organizations have experienced the desire to run a candidate for a particular office, with the feeling that an especially good or well-qualified individual would be the best candidate. But they immediately figure, "He (or she) would be a terrific candidate, but he (or she) would never agree to run."
This was the situation facing California Libertarians in late 1977, when they hoped to convince Ed Clark to run for Governor. When they asked him, he declined; but they weren't willing to give up yet. They decided that Clark might change his decision if he were convinced not only that he would significantly help the party, but also if the party was able to give him solid support based on a careful understanding of what that would entail.
To that end, a small number of Californians prepared a "Clark for Governor" booklet which identified the achievable goals of the campaign and specified what would be needed in terms of money and people, and when they would be needed. In other words, they "sold" Clark on the idea that the people supporting him knew what they were doing and were willing to do the hard work necessary for his candidacy to be a success. On this basis, Clark changed his mind and agreed to run; and his election results were greater than anyone expected, propelling him toward the presidential nomination, and setting the stage for Libertarian permanent ballot status in California within a year.
Summary and Conclusions
The history of the party shows that there are two competing theories for getting Libertarian candidates. One theory holds that the party organization should wait until the "right" candidate comes along to volunteer to run. The other theory says that most Libertarians are potentially good candidates, and that they should be solicited, recruited, developed, and supported on a systematic-basis. It's clear that, of the two theories, the second results in more Libertarian candidates within a given area to spread the libertarian message and build political credibility and support. The instances mentioned here had the following points in common:
* The party organization, through its leadership, made candidate recruitment a conscious goal, integral with party building.
* All sorts of complex "screening" processes were avoided; rather. the individual judgement of those soliciting candidates was relied upon to determine whether the prospective candidates were good spokespersons for the party. The attitude was that it was preferable to have many candidates, even if a few were bad, rather than to set up complex screening procedures and therefore insure only a few candidates.
* A great deal of forethought went into demonstrating to the prospective candidates that they would get tangible support from the party; and the promised support was given.
* It was important to develop a "team spirit" among the candidates, in which they all thought of themselves as-part of the same effort and had a common understanding of the kinds of activities they would engage in.
It should be noted that "Paper" candidates,
or "line holders" -that is, candidates who are willing to do no more than
have their names on the ballot -- were not discouraged, although the first
priority was always to recruit active candidates. Many of the people who
initially intended only to be line holders in fact became active candidates
after the team spirit took hold and became contagious. Those who did not
at least helped convey the impression that the party was broad-based and
KEY POINTS ON RECRUITING AND DEVELOPING LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATES
1. Develop a consensus among party activists that running candidates is an important and integral part of party activities.
2. All potential candidates should be asked to run; comparatively few will volunteer, but many will agree if approached.
3. Avoid complex screening procedures for candidates,at
least at this point in party development. One or two objectively bad candidates
will be outshone
by many good ones, and most potentially bad candidates will give themselves away before they are recruited.
4. Demonstrate to potential candidates that the party is willing to support their efforts with volunteers, money, advice, headquarters, etc. Develop a written plan if necessary to prove your commitment.
5. Hold training sessions for all of the candidates in the area. Not only will this impart useful information, but it will also develop a "team spirit" and increased cooperation among the candidates.
6. Candidates who are willing to be active
should be the top priority, but don't reject "lineholders.11 They often
evolve into active candidates once the campaign gets going.
Return to Table of Contents
GETTING ON THE BALLOT
At this point, of course, Libertarians in every state have participated in the experience of successfully qualifying one or more of their candidates for the ballot. It should be acknowledged, however, that some state party organizations have been more successful at this than others in terms of demonstrating their capacity to qualify for the ballot without massive assistance from outside, usually the national office. Achieving a level of strength which allows a state party to qualify for the ballot with little or no help from outside should be an ultimate goal for everyone.
No state party, of course, should hesitate to ask for or accept ballot drive assistance from outside if it's necessary to get the job done. But even when outside assistance is necessary, the state organization can do a lot to carry the burden on its own, by understanding exactly what is required and taking the trouble to do some simple, but critically important, advance planning. The examples given here illustrate this point.
The North Carolina Experience
North Carolina has a unique law for new parties: a party which qualifies for the ballot on or before a non-presidential election year automatically holds ballot status in the presidential year. Therefore, when the Libertarian Party of North Carolina qualified for the ballot in 1978, 1980 ballot status ,-was assured.
The North Carolina party lost its ballot status after the 1980 election -- Ed Clark's percentage of the vote wasn't high enough -- so it resolved to regain it as quickly as possible. Within a few weeks of the 1980 elections, the party made plans to qualify for the 1982 and 1984 ballot in early 1981. Their primary reason was to get it out of the way ; but events soon proved that they had another, more pressing reason: the state legislature was about to pass a bill changing for the worse ballot status requirements for new parties. The effective deadline for submitting signatures was mid-year.
The party decided that the most effective way to assure the signatures they needed was to hire paid petitioners. Their goal, then, became twofold: first to raise enough money to pay for the necessary 15,000 signatures, and second to hire reliable paid Petitioners -- and of course, to get all of this done before the deadline. North Carolina ballot status had required significant assistance from National in 1978, but North Carolinians made it a point of honor not to ask National in 1981.
They never came close to needing it. They calculated how uch money needed to be raised, and they raised it. They calculated how many signatures were needed from how many petitioners, and they hired petitioners -- mainly Libertarians who had participated in 1980 ballot drives in neighboring states -- sufficient to do the job. When the smoke cleared, the North Carolina party submitted over 15,000 signatures (they needed 10,000 valid) comfortably before the date that the new law changed. They now have ballot status for two election years.
The Wisconsin Experience
In 1979, in preparation for the 1980 election, Wisconsin Libertarians faced another quirky legal situation affecting their ballot status. They had a choice: they could either wait for 1980 and qualify each Libertarian candidate as an Independent with a low number of signatures, or they could start early and qualify the entire party for a higher number of signatures. The catch was, in order to do the latter, they had to collect a certain number of signatures in each of ten counties. They had their choice of any ten, but to reduce the total number of signatures, they chose to petition in the least populated, and therefore most remote, counties in the state.
The Wisconsin party in this case did ask for and receive outside assistance in the form of money and petitioners, but the clear majority of the work they did themselves. They selected the ten target counties and organized "petitioning caravans" of Libertarians on weekends to blitz them. They systematically polished off one county after another, carefully keeping track of the signatures collected and directing the most effective use of the outside help. By January of 1980 they had collected the necessary signatures with plenty of time to spare, and thus qualified the Libertarian Party in Wisconsin. And the benefit of this action became clear after the November election, when Ed Clark's vote percentage was high enough for the party to maintain its ballot status automatically in 1982 -something which would have been impossible had they decided to go the easier, later route.
Summary and Conclusions
North Carolina and Wisconsin are hundreds of miles apart, and their ballot access laws are unusual as these things go. But it was in fact the unusual nature of the laws which impelled the Libertarians in each state to take the steps which any state or local organization is capable of taking to help achieve ballot status:
* They were thoroughly familiar with their state's legal requirements, and kept careful track of any proposed changes.
They had their plan mapped out well in advance, and a key element in their planning was simple arithmetic: knowing how many days they had, how many signatures per day it took to meet their numerical goal, and how many petitioners were required to get the number per day they needed.
* They consciously imposed on themselves standards, such as early deadlines, which were more demanding than the law actually required. In North Carolina, for example, the party could have decided not to run candidates in 1982, and conserve resources for 1984. In Wisconsin, they always had the option of qualifying their candidates as Independents. Instead, they chose to take the more difficult, and more rewarding route, instead of putting the decision off indefinitely.
* They knew exactly what was going to be required in terms of outside assistance. In North Carolina's case, what was required was nothing. In Wisconsin, they knew they needed a certain amount of money and a certain number of petitioners from outside, and they requested them well in advance. In both cases, communications between the state and the National office was regular and complete.
Whether the state requires 3,000 signatures
or 60,000; whether the law is simple and straightforward, or Byzantine
and complex; these same steps can be followed by any party organization
to facilitate the ballot access process.
KEY POINTS ON GETTING ON THE BALLOT
1. Have a plan drawn up well ahead of the actual ballot access drive. Calculate how much money and how many petitioners you will need, as well as how much outside assistance.
2. Be thoroughly familiar with all applicable legal requirements -- have one person take responsibility for this. Read the actual law involved, don't rely on verbal information from officials.
3. Simple mathematics is essential in calculating what you will need. Determine the number of days in the drive' the number of signatures required, and the number of petitioners you will need to collect those signatures in that number of days.
4. If there's any chance you will need outside assistance, communicate this potential need to whomever you will need help from as early as possible.
5. If possible, set goals which are more difficult than
those set by the law. Start early, finish early,
and collect more signatures than you think
Return to Table of Contents
REACHING THE NEWS MEDIA
"The media doesn't pay any attention to us." That unfortunately, has been an all-too-common belief of Libertarians who feel, Justifiably, that their hard work goes unrecognized by the public at large. In the years between elections, the problem can become acute, for the media may cover a candidate but it will rarely go out of its way to cover a relatively small party with no visible activity.
The trick, of course., is to be active and visible at all times, whether or not it's an election year. "Visibility" in the news media requires a systematic effort, based on experience gained during election campaigns which pays off later. The most difficult part of the overall effort comes at the beginning, when the party and the news media are unknown to each other. Once that hurdle is cleared, it then becomes possible to attract regular, ongoing news coverage.
The Ohio Experience
During the 1980 presidential campaign, one of the most consistently productive cities for good news coverage was Columbus,
Ohio -- a city where, prior to the campaign,
coverage of Libertarian activities had been sparse at best. When a local
Libertarian volunteered to be the media coordinator for the campaign, she
decided that to be successful she had to accomplish two things: first,
to organize her task properly, and second, to develop a personal relationship
with the individuals in the news
She created a media list simply by copying down addresses of newspapers and broadcast stations from the yellow pages of the telephone book. Instead of relying exclusively on that list, she took the extra step of finding out the name of the person to whom she should send news releases, and then making personal contact through a phone call or visit with each person. Her real goal was to develop relationships with them such that, when she had a news story she thought should be covered, they would know her and she would know them.
By taking this extra step -- that is, by treating reporters and editors as people -- she found them to be receptive, friendly, and cooperative. They were even willing to give her advice on how best to attract coverage. For example, she asked one reporter whether it was better to hold a scheduled news conference downtown or at the airport, and his advice (downtown in this case) resulted in a news conference with 20 reporters attending.
She also decided to be creative about generating news coverage. During the presidential campaign, she could have waited for the one or two instances when Ed Clark was in town, but she decided that coverage of local Libertarian events was every bit as important. For example, she took advantage of a First Amendment dispute between a local TV station and a judge over the station's right to keep material confidential, and she organized a public demonstration by Libertarians in support of the TV station -which, of course, earned considerable coverage.
By concentrating on the "personal relations" aspect of media coordination, she set the stage for positive, regular coverage of party activities after the campaign. Because she knows many of the reporters on a friendly basis, she is able to call them up periodically, even if nothing in particular is going on at the moment. But when events do occur -- such as an April 15 tax protest demonstration -- she is virtually assured of coverage (the most recent tax protest event was covered live by one TV station). And, because people in the news media tend to watch each other to see what they find newsworthy, her efforts have had a ripple effect outside of Columbus. A reporter from an Akron daily, for instance, wrote a feature story on the Libertarian Party after the election; his angle was that, unlike John Anderson and other third party efforts, it appeared certain that the .Libertarian Party was here to stay.
The Iowa Experience
Libertarians in Iowa have provided a classic example of seeing a need and filling it, generating positive local news coverage for themselves in the process. Iowa has many small rural communities served by weekly or semi-weekly papers. most of which are eager for any local news angle they can get. The Iowa party, perceiving this need, began a program of preparing short, simple, standard-format news releases for use in these local papers, and they added a special feature: photographs.
It worked this way. At every party gathering -- a convention, a Clark campaign appearance, etc. -- attendees who lived in small towns would have their photographs taken and be given the standard news release to take back to their paper. For example, John Jones and Suzy Smith from Boonesville would be photographed with the state party chair (a Polaroid is adequate for some small town papers, but is not recommended for larger papers). The release would read, "Boonesville residents John Jones and Suzy Smith recently attended the Libertarian Party state convention in Des Moines," and then go on to describe what happened at the convention. The accompanying photo would be captioned to identify the subjects.
Response from the local newspapers was excellent,
and this simple, inexpensive technique became a mainstay of the Iowa party's
efforts to generate regular news coverage.
Summary and Conclusions
The examples here are only two of many successful instances of positive relations between local party organizations and the news media. And, of course, there have been hundreds of individual experiences which have been successful throughout the country. But there is a substantive difference between having one or two positive experiences and building a regular, permanent, ongoing relationship with the news media. The key distinctions are:
• Personalizing relationships with the news media.
• Creativity in identifying opportunities for coverage.
In the Ohio example, the fact that the media coordinator was willing to get to know the reporters on a first name basis more than made up for any technical deficiencies there might have been in the preparation of news releases or the staging of news conferences. In Iowa, too, the party recognized the personal.. human element inherent in small town news coverage.
In both illustrations, those responsible for generating media coverage were quick to spot opportunities, or to create them where none existed. They found an "angle" of interest to the media, and developed a Libertarian slant for it. Too often, this is done the other way around, with the news angle either submerged or nonexistent, with disappointing results.
The technical details of media relations, of course, are extremely important, and knowledge of them is essential to building and keeping credibility and regular coverage. Some of these will be covered in the summary of Key Points. Technical knowledge, however, can only go so far; the rest is up to the enthusiasm and innovative-ness of the people responsible for news coverage
KEY POINTS ON REACHING THE NEWS MEDIA
1. Personalize your relationships with members of the news media. Get to know them, and treat them like people.
2. Be creative in finding opportunities for media coverage. Consider what needs are there to be filled and think of ways to fill them.
3. Local news media, such as small town newspapers, are usually hungry for any news with a local angle and will often run your news releases verbatim.
4. Develop a formal media list, including the names of the individuals to receive your releases.
5. Your news releases should follow a standard format: double-spaced, written with the most important information first, and including a name and phone number for the contact person.
6. Follow up news releases with phone calls to ask if the release was received and if it will be used.
7. Don't hesitate to ask reporters and editors for advice, once you get to know them. Demonstrate that you want to make their jobs easier.
Return to Table of Contents
In early 1981, thanks to the generosity of a dedicated Libertarian, a national Speakers Bureau program was established to develop Libertarian speakers and to set up speaking engagements for them around the country to audiences of civic groups, service clubs, high schools, and colleges. This coordinated effort sprang from the knowledge that individual Libertarian Speakers Bureaus have worked effectively within limited geographical areas. Therefore, in theory, a major effort to build a nationwide network could multiply these success stories many times over.
The potential numbers speak for themselves. If an average of one speaking engagement occurred in each state per week, with an average audience of 50 people, then Libertarians could be presenting their message in person to a total of 125,000 people each year -- and these numbers are conservative if the more successful early Speakers Bureau reports are any indication.
The South Carolina Experience
The Libertarian Speakers Bureau in South Carolina focused its initial efforts on civic groups and service clubs -- organizations like the Rotary, Optimists, Sertoma, American Legion, etc. After a slow start, their efforts picked up momentum to the point where they have four local coordinators and eight speakers in addition to the state coordinator, and were able to complete or schedule over ten engagements within a few weeks.
The effort started slowly because, the coordinator found, it was difficult to locate the individual in each group through whom to schedule a speaking engagement. Initially, the coordinator used a Chamber of Commerce directory of groups and sent standard letters to the persons listed as heads of the groups, describing the Speakers Bureau and offering its services. There was no response. The coordinator decided to call each person -_ and found that, in most cases, the head of the organization was not responsible for scheduling speakers and knew little about it. Through persistence, the coordinator found the appropriate person, sent another descriptive letter, and followed up two weeks later with a phone call.
Initially, these people were noncommittal about inviting Libertarians to speak, but the coordinator persisted in calling them every few weeks to see if they had made a decision. In most cases, the decision was "Yes" because, as the coordinator described it, they became convinced that the Speakers Bureau was a serious program. After the first engagement was finally scheduled, the next several engagement soon followed, and audience response, according to the speakers, has been excellent.
The District of Columbia Experience
D.C. Libertarians have focused primarily on the other likely opportunity for Speakers Bureaus: high schools and colleges. According to the D.C. coordinator, she first began by compiling a list of schools and calling them for the names of department heads in Government, Political Science, Economics, etc. She then sent a descriptive introductory letter to these people.
As was the case in South Carolina, she found that no one responded to the letter alone -- but that they did respond very readily to her follow-up phone calls. Again, as in South Carolina, persistence paid off. She found it helpful to list a choice of topics for teachers to select from, and that most teachers were delighted with the opportunity to have a Libertarian speaker once the coordinator established through her actions that the Speakers Bureau was a serious effort. And, even though the Speaker Bureau in D.C. didn't get started until near the end of the school year, six speaking engagements were scheduled and completed, with good response from both students and teachers.
The Arizona Experience
This example illustrates what may be the key point of successful Speakers Bureaus activities: that it's often difficult to get the program off the ground initially; but that the hard work will pay off for a long time to come.
Several years ago in Tucson, Libertarians there decided to offer speakers in high schools and made contacts in very much the same way the D.C. experience illustrated. After the first few weeks of systematic contacting and follow-up, invitations started to come in and the program started rolling.
It hasn't stopped yet. The Tucson Speakers Bureau rarely has to write letters to make contacts, because they're getting one or two invitations per week from area high schools to come speak --all because they decided to do the ground-breaking work a few years back. High school teachers now know that the Libertarian party organization is there to supply speakers, and they are happy to take advantage of its presence.
The Vermont Experience
Sometimes a new activity is the essential ingredient needed to get a party organization off the ground. In Vermont, a state where formal party activity has been scarce, Libertarians suddenly took to the idea of a Speakers Bureau as an ideal way to get active and communicate their message. The coordinator who agreed to start up the program managed to recruit ten participants within a short time, and this activity has provided the impetus for party meetings and other planned activities which had never really existed before.
The Massachusetts Experience
In Massachusetts, the Speakers Bureau program provided a new weapon for the arsenal of Libertarian activities designed to keep members interested and involved. They started up "speech-craft sessions" for potential speakers -- an eight week course on techniques of effective speaking, with plenty of opportunity to practice. The sessions were arranged by a party activist with the cooperation of a local Toastmasters group, and the participants received formal certificates of completion of the course, and thoroughly enjoyed becoming more confident of their ability to speak in public.
The Massachusetts experience duplicates other examples of local party organizations which have become affiliated with Toastmasters International, an organization with chapters in most cities which exists for the purpose of training people in public speaking. Libertarians who have joined Toastmasters report the experience to be very positive, since the organization is designed to combine pleasant opportunities for socializing with a structured course in public speaking. The parent organization will charter clubs made up primarily of Libertarians. Anyone interested in improving his or her public speaking ability should consider joining a Toastmasters group, or better, making a party project out of such involvement.
Summary and Conclusions
Forming a Speakers Bureau is a project that any Libertarian party organization, regardless of size, can accomplish successfully. It isn't expensive, and it doesn't require some outside event to occur before members can get active. More than enough opportunities already exist in high schools, colleges, service clubs, and civic groups. The only tool needed is a telephone.
Libertarians who have started Speakers Bureaus have found:
* Most groups are eager to have Libertarian speakers once they become convinced the Speakers Bureau is a serious effort.
Audience response is almost always very positive.Initial persistence in finding the right person to contact, and then in continuing to talk to him or her, is required; but persistence more than pays off in terms of future speaking engagements, once the availability of the Speakers Bureau becomes generally known.
* The Speakers Bureau is an excellent
way to activate a wide range of Libertarians, and to increase their feelings
of accomplishment and involvement.
KEY POINTS ON SPEAKERS BUREAUS
1. Persistence is the key ingredient to success. The most difficult phase of any Speakers Bureau effort is the very beginning, before people get to know you and realize you're serious.
2. Find out the name of the individual responsible for arranging speaking engagements, and direct all your communication to him or her.
3. Letters are important, but they don't produce responses by themselves. Letters followed up by phone calls -sometimes more than one -- will produce speaking engagements.
4. Offer a range of topics for teachers or program coordinators to choose from.
5. Speakers Bureaus provide opportunities to involve party members in useful activities. Members should be asked to participate by becoming speakers or local coordinators.
6. Take advantage of such structured training groups as Toastmasters, and get party members involved in improving their speaking abilities.
7. Scheduled speaking engagements
can be good opportunities for publicity if news releases are sent out to
your media list.
Return to Table of Contents
Probably no other aspect of political action is as basic and necessary as fundraising -- and no other aspect has posed such a difficult problem, at one time or another, to virtually every party organization. Few party organizations consider themselves to have "enough" money, and, unfortunately, the perception of not having enough has accounted for many worthwhile projects which never got done: ballot drives, newsletters, fair booths, and election campaigns, to name a few.
While few party organizations have ever had "enough" money, many have managed to keep growing and developing rapidly, raising money sufficient to fund all the activities they think are important. Success stories in fundraising tend to be remarkably similar, for reasons which should become apparent. This section, therefore, will not only present case histories but will also discuss successful fundraising techniques which apply in different situations.
The New York Experience
This experience occurred in 1972, and may be the first example of successful fundraising in the Libertarian Party. It has been duplicated in almost exact detail many times since.
The new New York party in 1972 had decided to run candidates for the first time, and needed to raise about $3,000 for the ballot drive and related expenses. The Finance Chair had done no political fundraising before, so be relied on his intuitive sense of how to go about reaching his goal. The scene he chose was the party convention.
Having identified how much he needed, he first decided to make a contribution himself in an amount which was significant to him. He then identified the people in attendance whom he thought were most likely to contribute, and approached each of them in turn. To the first he said, "We need to raise $3,000 to qualify our candidates for the ballot. I've already contributed $100. Can I count on you to contribute? How much?" To the second person he said, "We need $3,000 for the campaign. Joe and I have already kicked in $150 between us. What about you? How much?" And so on, down the line, until everyone had been asked and the goal had been reached.
According to this fundraiser,
his success rate was 100 per cent. "Not 92 per cent, 100 per cent," he
remembers. "Everyone I asked in this manner was willing to contribute."
The Texas Experience
After the 1980 elections, the Libertarian Party in Texas saw the need to build a permanent fundraising base, to prepare for future ballot drives and elections and to fund such projects as their 7,000 - circulation newspaper Free Texas. The State Chair delegated the responsibility for fundraising to a committee of those who were particularly interested in the problem, and the committee decided to institute a monthly pledge program in which people gave relatively small amounts to the state party every month. This was decided on the theory that it was preferable to build a large base of small contributors than to try to rely on a few large contributors. The committee chose direct mail as the major means of attracting monthly pledges.
Before they sent their fundraising letter, however, they took. an important first step. They identified several potential large contributors and called them to ask for their monthly pledges and support for the program. The committee created two auxiliary boards: "consultants" who pledged $25.00 per month, and "advisors" who pledged $50.00 per month. The initial members of those boards were recruited from among the people who were called. When the direct mail package went out to the entire list, the stationery used by the committee listed the members of both boards -- 15 in all -- and identified the significance of being a member.
This technique accomplished several important goals. it demonstrated to the party membership that the fundraising program had already started, and that responsible people were willing to pledge significant amounts. It showed that the committee was willing to recognize and reward those who pledged. And it created a party-wide sense of involvement in an important program.
The letter was a success, but the committee didn't stop there. At the state convention, the committee members made it a point to explain to attendees the importance of the program, and to solicit both new pledges and increased amounts from current pledgers. By summer of 1981, the Texas fundraising program had raised over $20,000 in pledges from about 150 people, and was well on its way toward meeting its annual budget goal of over $30,000. And this has been done even without extensive telephone follow-up calls.
The real key ingredient of the Texas success was creating a sense of involvement among the contributors, not only through the initial solicitation but also after pledges were made. For example, the state party sends out monthly reminder notices to the pledgers which include the notice and the return envelope and a thank you note which describes the activities which their pledges have helped accomplish. As another example, all monthly pledgers, regardless of amount, are given recognition at the state convention by being seated at "prestige" tables at the banquet. In other words, every contributor is made to feel special and appreciated.
The success of the statewide program has resulted in similar programs for local party organizations. In Harris County (Houston) a program modeled on the state program has raised over $500 per month in pledges. The "consultants" and "advisors" concept was retained, but the threshold amounts were lowered. Party activists have found that most of the pledgers for the local program are not the same people who pledged for the state program. This indicates that many different people are motivated to contribute for different purposes. Therefore, it's important to create as many opportunities as possible for people to give.
Raising Money by Telephone
Telephone fundraising solicitations are usually the most productive way to reach a significant number of contributors in a short time with a personal appeal. Successful telephone fundraising requires careful organization.
Typically, the first step is to define the reason the money is needed ( a permanent headquarters, a ballot drive, etc.), set a goal to be reached, and decide how much to ask from each person.
This having been done, a sufficient number of volunteers should be recruited to call the entire list of prospects, and each volunteer should get his or her own list of prospects to call, with their phone numbers. A written explanation of fundraisers' responsibilities should be included, as well as a written script - a fundraising "pitch" which can be read to each prospect. In fact, most volunteers won't need the script after the first few calls, but it will provide the necessary facts to get the job done. Each volunteer should be given, and should agree to, a time frame in which to get the calls finished.
Deciding how much to ask for depends upon the situation and the information available about each prospect. Ideally, everyone should be asked to contribute as much or more than what he or she had given previously. If that data isn't available, however it's still extremely important for callers to make a specific request, based on how much is needed. For example, if it takes $1,000 to open a headquarters and the list has 100 names on it, each person should be asked to give at least $20 on the assumption that half the list will refuse or be unreachable.
People who agree to contribute should immediately receive a "thank you', in the mail along with a reminder notice and an envelope.
In 1979, Maryland Libertarians followed the approach, described above with outstanding success, raising $16,000 in pledges over a three week period toward their difficult ballot drive. Because the goal was immense and the list was relatively small, fundraisers had no choice but to ask each person for amounts as large as $200 -- amounts which were often agreed to by the prospects because the motivation to give was created by the callers.
Raising Money by Direct Mail
Direct mail is a passive medium, as opposed to direct personal solicitation. State and local party organizations should not rely on it by itself to raise the money they need. If the list of prospects is too large to be called individually, direct mail can raise quite a bit. But even when the list is too large, a smaller subset of the list -- those who are identified as most likely to make a large contribution -should be called after they receive the letter. In that case, the letter serves as a reference point for the caller, as in "I believe you received a letter from us explaining why it's important to have a permanent headquarters ... " etc.
All the individual technical details of direct mail have become an encyclopedic subject which can't be explored here. But the basic idea is the same as in any form of fundraising: identify the need, identify the goal, and ask for a specific amount of money.
All too often, party organizations have decided to send out direct mail solicitations and have been disappointed. All too often, their list of prospects was small enough that each person could have been reached by telephone. Organizations contemplating direct mail fundraising should decide whether or not it would make more sense to organize a more difficult, but much more rewarding, telephone fundraising effort instead.
Raising Money at Banquets and Events
It's become traditional to raise money at convention banquets and similar events, and for good reason. These events represent occasions where large numbers of Libertarians are all together in one place. There have been many examples of successful fundraising at these events -- and, unfortunately, many examples of fundraising attempts which were not successful. The difference hasn't been accidental. Fundraising succeeds or fails according to the preparation that's gone on before it. Successful banquet fundraising usually follows these guidelines:
1. Pledge/contribution cards and envelopes are ready and on the tables before the banquet starts. This is absolutely essential, since it makes no sense to ask for money without providing a means to respond.
2. The fundraiser -- the person making the "pitch" -should identify the need, set a financial goal, and ask for a specific minimum contribution from each person there.
3. As a general rule, there is a formula which can be used to set the financial goal for a typical event. Multiply the number of people in the room by $25.
4. Two or three should be assigned the task of collecting the pledge cards and envelopes. They should visibly circulate around the room, asking each table of people if there are any envelopes to be collected.
5. The fundraising portion of the event should have a predetermined pace. For example, the fundraiser makes the appeal, sets the goal, asks for the amount, and signals the collectors to begin making their rounds. While the envelopes start coming in, it's often a good idea to have another person say a few words, in order to vary the program and keep the interest of the audience. Then the principal fundraiser can come back and make the final appeal.
6. When possible, obtain commitments from several people ahead of the event to make significant contributions which can be announced as the fundraising starts. Being able to say "Joe Smith has already pledged $200 toward this important effort" will set the tone for subsequent contributions -- people will then tend to give their maximums.
7. Consider having party members who can play the piano or guitar, sing, etc. provide entertainment between the initial pitch and the wrap-up. Sometimes this can be an incentive for more contributions: "If we get four more pledges of $25, Sally here will play 'Lady of Spain.'" This idea was enormously successful at a Florida state convention, and has worked well since. (As a variation, some people may be willing to pay not to hear Sally play "Lady of Spain.")
S. Fundraising gimmicks, such as auctions, require someone who knows what he or she is doing to be pulled off successfully.
9. A 1980 Oregon experience illustrates a variation on good banquet fundraising technique. The party needed $400 per month for a headquarters, so the fundraiser announced that he needed twenty people in the audience to raise their hands and pledge $20 per month for the next six months. As hands started to go up, the fundraiser ticked off the number of people he still needed -"OK, I need eight more people. Now six." etc. -- until the goal was reached.
Summary and Conclusions
Of the thousands of illustrations of successful fundraising, whether they involved phone calls, direct mail, one-time-only contributions, monthly pledgers, wealthy people, not-so-wealthy people, experienced fundraisers, or novices, the essential ingredient to the success of the effort can be summed up in one word: ASK.
Unless people are willing to
ask other people to contribute money, no fundraising will be successful.
There is no substitute for asking, no "easy way" to get the money party
organizations need. But successful fundraisers attest that, after the first
few approaches have been made, asking for contributions gets progressively
easier because the success rate among Libertarians is usually so high.
KEY POINTS ON FUNDRAISING
1. Most people must be asked before they will give. There is no substitute for asking.
2. You will be a more effective asker if you have already made a personally significant contribution yourself.
3. The most effective form of fundraising is one-to-one solicitation, either in person or over the phone. Direct mail, by itself, is the least effective, and should be followed up by phone calls to as many names as can be reached.
4. Requests for money should be for specific amounts, or at least specific minimum amounts, and they should include an explanation of why that amount of money is needed.
5. Once someone has made a contribution, he or she should always be thanked, kept informed of the activity the contribution has helped to fund, and treated as a special person. Making a contribution means involvement.
6. Recognize that different people will be willing to contribute to different projects; for example, some will contribute to the state party and not the local, some vice versa. Therefore, many different purposes and activities will generate many more contributions.
7. Requests for funds should not be mixed with requests for other things, such as volunteers for certain activities. Many people will avoid contributing if they can choose another option, but would have gladly contributed if the other option had never been presented.
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The "Blueprint for Libertarian Activists" was prepared by the Kent Guida for National Chair campaign and is intended for use by the Libertarian Party. Please express your opinions about the "Blueprint" by completing this survey and sending it to the Libertarian Party National Headquarters.
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