As members of Congress prepare to burst out the doors of the U.S. Capitol like a bunch of 16-year-olds headed for the beach (cue Alice Cooper chanting schooooooool’s out for SUMMER! ), it’s time for you to prepare your in-state activists for August Recess activities.
Yeah…August Recess sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than it really is — especially if you’re an overworked organizer. So I’ve put together a handy little Recess Advocacy Packing List to help your advocacy teams hit the doors, phones, townhalls, and sometimes the beach with gusto this August — with an occasional pun just to keep the “fun” in “exercise of our fundamental right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
(Sunscreen/Timeliness): Apply early and often! If you wait until the August rays are beating down to start planning your recess activities, you’re gonna get burned! Lay out your comprehensive August strategy by late July, and adjust and reapply as necessary. If you’re going to be laying out/lobbying on a particular bill, prime your activists with action alerts and social media posts on that issue in early August. An ounce of prevention, y’all.
(Beachbag/Workplan): Whether it’s a trip to a boardwalk or a board meeting, you’ve got to pull everything into one place. One concise document (it’s summer,people…who wants to read a tome?) All your people, assets, tactics, strategies – if it’s not in the workplan, I bet you’ll find that your legislative, comms, online, and field teams are a little sluggish when the time comes to get things done. Put all components and tactics in one easy-to-read (beach read?) comprehensive plan, and get buy-in from everyone you’ll need.
(Flip Flops/Grassroots Strategy): Forget about “boots on the ground.” Try flip flops on the sand! Your grassroots strategy this summer needs to be flexible, comfortable, and easy – just like your 4-year-old broken-in Havaianas. You need simple toolkits, plug-and-play actions, straightforward asks, and lots of sample/template language for your field to use. Put it all online. Make it mobile-friendly for anyone who’s peeking at their email on vacation. Easy, breezy, powerful.
(Sunglasses/Press Strategy): You need to be ready for the spotlight. Consult with your press shop now and spend some time styling your messaging tracks and polishing your media relations. While MoC’s are back in their home states this August, they’ll be paying extra attention to what’s in the local newspaper and who’s on the hometown evening news. So start tweeting at local and state-level reporters now, build relationships, then pitch those segments and write those op-eds and letters.
(Summer Reads/Handout Materials): Are your reading materials and leave-behinds up to date and ready with current bill numbers, back-up data, and a pool of personal stories? Are they online and easy to find for hurried grassroots leaders who need to run copies in a pinch? Take a close read of all your docs now and spruce them up before they go into heavy circulation this August. While I’m not ashamed to admit that I have 2 months of unread Entertainment Weeklies to catch up on, your Congressional staffers might be a little less forgiving.
(Sunhat/Thinking Cap):Your field and chapters SHOULD be doing something in August, but they probably should not be doing evvvvverything. Put on your thinking cap sunhat and make strategic decisions to maximize your August activity.
I know – it’s easy to want everything. And MAYBE a full court press – lobbying in every district, with every member – makes sense for you, because you’ve got active legislation moving and active chapters or supporters across the country. But if you, like most field directors in this world, don’t have unlimited resources and a bumper crop of geographically-well-dispersed activists, ask yourself (and maybe your colleagues) these three questions to give your strategy some cover:
: Can I narrow my targets down to just a handful of key MoC’s, taking into account my field program’s current capacity and my legislative priorities?
: Is this piece of legislation something that my field is primed and educated on, or am I starting from scratch?
: Would my time be better spent intensively coaching activists to get 6-8 activities successfully off the ground in key districts or lightly coaching to 50-80 activists? Can I prioritize handholding those 6-8 key districts and make tools and templates available to the other 50-80?
And finally, don’t forget…A cooler full of refreshing beverages . Reward yourself and team for a job well done.
(Finally for real…if you’re looking for more details about how to succeed with August advocacy, look no further. If you’re looking for a photo of Nancy Pelosi’s head elegantly photoshopped onto Geena Davis’s body, that same link still works.)