Part of staying engaged in effective political action comes from having connections to people who can inspire, challenge, and motivate you. Some people don’t have to look far: maybe their friends share common passions, or their families are just as fired up as they are.
But sometimes finding your people might be one of the hardest things you face as you work to be more effective politically. This is true for me right now: I just moved to a new city, and I don’t have people who can our for coffee, much less organize a political revolution.
The shape of that connection can be pretty diverse, based on your commitments, temperament, and environment. But you have to find somebody to work with, because if thoughts are the spark for political action, then our relationships are its fuel and substance.
Here are different kinds of communities you could establish for yourself:
Advocates. These people may not share the same goals, but they support you and are happy to serve as a sounding board and source of encouragement. If you have a crazy schedule or you live far from your friends/ like-minded people, advocates can make all the difference.
- Ex. This Coalition website only launched because two of my good friends reviewed my proposal, called and emailed me with encouragement, and nudged me when they didn’t receive updates.
- Set up a facebook page to make it easy to share ideas and get feedback.
- Call them. You’d be amazed what 30 minutes can do to give you new life around a project.
- Send them updates and specific asks (“Can you read this over?” “What do you think about…”)
Collaborators. These people are energized around your goal(s) and have capacity to work directly with you. This could be online collaborations to raise awareness or manage a website, or in-person meetings to run events, participate in campaigns, etc. It should be people who are excited and committed; don’t waste your limited energy chasing after people all the time.
- Ex. Lauren N. (MN) gets together a few times each month with the same group of friends to plan for and carry out targeted political activities.
- Create a facebook group, set up a regular conference call, or schedule a monthly meeting to move the work forward.
- Share your goals with one another and check in on progress to be accountable.
Connectors. These people share common goals and can help you expand your reach. They may not have time to read through a proposal, but they are willing to provide access to their networks. These are usually people you know well, and are a great resource if your ideas and activities to reach more people.
- Ex. Whether I write an op-ed or raise money for a cause, I know my sister will elevate my work by pointing it out to others.
- Ask them to forward your emails, share your posts, promote your events, or retweet your tweets.
- If they know someone in a field relevant to your efforts, ask them to make an introduction via email or in person.
Funders. Some people can’t offer you time, but they can offer you money. This likely isn’t the group that can cheer you up when everything is going wrong, but they can advance your priorities by putting their dollars behind your efforts.
- Ex. When organizing a retreat to bring together women of color, a friend of mine who couldn’t make it still dug deep and contributed $500 so others could participate.
- Set realistic goals. If you’ve never raised $500 before, don’t expect everyone to help you reach $10,000.
- Learn to ask. It isn’t enough to tell people why an issue is important to you or the world. You have to be explicit. “Please consider making a gift…” “Please help me reach my goal…”
- Be persistent. People who don’t raise money often are typically afraid to bother people. While you don’t want to send daily emails, if you want people to give you need to give them time to pull together the resources, and then be persistent enough to see them follow through.