Our 2018 strategic plan

Run for Something will help recruit and support young diverse progressives to run for down-ballot races in order to build a bench for the future — the folks we support now could be possible members of the House, Senate, and maybe even President one day. We aim to lower the barriers to entry for these candidates by helping them with seed money, organization building, and access to trainings needed to be successful.

In our initial strategic plan, we laid out exactly why this organization was necessary — the progressive movement’s systematic failure to create a diverse pipeline — and laid out our objectives. Initially, we aimed to recruit 10 strong, authentic, community-centered millennial candidates, focusing on two states. Two months in, we quickly adjusted our scope to include all 50 states plus DC, and hoped to be deeply engaged with 20–30 candidates.

2018 is going to be even bigger and better. Welcome to our strategic plan for year two.

A quick table of contents for you…

  1. A review of what we accomplished over the last year — successes are fun!
  2. An overview of what we’ve learned
  3. Our goals and priorities for 2018
  4. A breakdown of how we’ll be executing and improving on each component of our program, including:
    - Recruitment
    - Community-building
    - Partnerships
    - Mentorship and coaching
    - Endorsements
  5. How we fit into the big-picture goals of the movement and how we’ll build infrastructure that can make an impact for decades to come
  6. Our values as an organization
  7. What our team looks like (and what we want it to look like)
  8. The nitty-gritty of our spending in 2017 and what we’d like to spend in 2018
  9. What our pie-in-the-sky dream is if someone gave us $100 million today
  10. FAQ!!

2017: What we accomplished

By nearly every metric imaginable, our first year was wildly successful. Pardon us while we brag a little…

Holy. Shit.
That’s a lot of winners!
The new hot kick off to the holiday season: National Run for Office Day
Our average gift is still under $30. Boom.

We accomplished a ton in our first year — with only four full-time staff for most of that time — and we learned a lot along the way that informs how we think about our second (!!) year.

2017: What we learned

We spent a lot of time over the last year figuring out how to actually execute on the vision we started with — sometimes things worked; other things were a bit tricker than we expected…

  1. Some of our biggest value-adds for candidates are the squishier stuff: Coaching, mentorship, and community. We did debriefs with many of our endorsed candidates and what we heard over and over again — much to our surprise! — was how valuable their connections with each other were. The consistent affirmation that “yes, this is supposed to be hard!,” and the tools for support to make it even a little bit easier were invaluable. Our mentors helped candidates with everything from advertising to messaging to basic campaign operations, and our state leads acting as coaches helped candidates get over the psychological challenges. Folks also loved getting to know other people running around the country.
  2. Money cannot and should not be the only factor in determining a candidate’s viability. We believed this as a principle before we started, but our experience over the last year has reaffirmed this. The amount of money a candidate can raise is an indicator of how much money their friends, family, and immediate network have. It’s not an indicator of whether or not they’ll be a good candidate or a good elected official.

Informed by those learnings and guided by our core values, we’ve got big plans for 2018.

2018: What it looks like

In most ways, our second year won’t be dramatically different from our first. We will continue to recruit and support young diverse first-time candidates for local office, with the goal of building the progressive bench.

We gotta grow.
  1. Scale. 2. Scale. 3. Scale. 4. Scale while providing our candidates the best possible support, ensuring our volunteers have the best possible experience, and giving our donors a great return on their commitment.

Every indicating stat we can find — flipping seats from red to blue in 34 special elections in the last year; the incredible turn-out in Virginia, Alabama, and Georgia; the surge in the number of candidates running at every level; the spike in early fundraising for congressional elections; the sky-high number of Republican incumbents retiring — tells us 2018 is going to be a wave election for Democrats. With that wave comes a once-in-a-generation chance to elect new folks at every level that can dramatically change the makeup of our government, make a direct impact on local and state policy, and ultimately change the direction of our collective future.

Big goals. Consider this to be our vision board.
  • 50,000 potential candidates
  • 1,000 endorsed candidates

2018: Recruitment

We aim to recruit 50,000 potential candidates for state and local office by the end of 2018 in order to broaden the pool of leaders of the progressive movement, with the goal of making that pool as diverse as possible.

Our recruitment strategies and tactics include:

Storytelling about our candidates because “you cannot be what you cannot see”

  • Earned media: regional and demographic-specific outlets
  • More explicit work with regional media and demographic-specific media outlets in order to get in front of our target audiences
    Highlighting compelling stories, with an explicit focus on candidates who identify as women and candidates of color
  • Owned media: Expand into video & audio
  • Getting staff/freelancers on the ground to create content about our candidates — possible options include a web series, a podcast, photo essays, etc
  • We’ll pilot a tour of 5–7 metro areas that have several universities and colleges. In trips consisting of one or two days, we will visit as many schools as can be reasonably scheduled.
  • The current proposed list of areas includes Phoenix, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando, San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley, and Las Vegas. Each of these areas have large populations of students of color that come from in-state and attend “commuter” schools. These cities also have substantial community college systems and are in politically important areas.
  • We aim to start the tour as soon as possible and continue until the spring semester ends in mid to late May.
  • The tour would partner with organizations who have existing college campus infrastructure to expedite logistics as well as reach underrepresented groups. (Is that you? Email us: lesley@runforsomething.net)
  • Once a speaking event has been scheduled, RFS will provide a packet to the organizing student group that will help with promotion, media management, and general organization.
  • We’d like to run more concerted tests about what kind of messaging is most effective for candidate recruitment. Our initial tests in 2017 showed that candidate leads can be as expensive as $50/name; other groups have shown a lower cost per candidate but the quality of that lead is often lower — what are other cost-effective ways we can use paid media to recruit people?
  • In 2018, we’d like to partner with other organizations with similar goals to share costs on this
  • We’ll continue to work with our existing partners to support their candidates however we can, bringing them into our network.
  • We’ll bring on a Political Director who will deepen our relationship with partners like the DLCC, EMILY’s List, Emerge America, as well as with state Democratic Parties to ensure that we are helping to fill in many of the gaps around candidate recruitment.
  • Create an Ambassador Program to allow individuals to recruit their friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances quickly and easily
  • Develop a guide that takes volunteers through the process of finding individuals in their own communities to run for office. The guide will include ways to be visible in their community, how to talk with folks about running for office, setting-up a house party to recruit (or for their own candidate), etc.
  • Set-up a nomination form for community members to recommend folks that they think should run for office.
  • National Run for Office Day 2018, run by Run for Something Action Fund (our affiliated 501c4) will be bigger and better than ever. We’ll start planning even earlier, bring on more partners, and bring on someone to project-manage the entire day.
  • We’ll make a concerted effort for NROD to be even more accessible — including subtitles, sign language, and multiple languages.
  • In 2017, Run for Something Action Fund (our 501c4) partnered with HeadCount and other organizations to go on tour with Grizzly Bear and War on Drugs. Nearly 5,000 people signed up to get involved in local government — including running for office — through that tour. In 2018, we’ll look into other ways to partner with musicians and organizations that reach our target audiences.

2018: Support

Once someone has signed up at runforsomething.net to say they want to run for office, we take them through a metaphorical funnel from “potential candidate” → “filed candidate” → Election Day. Our support program in 2017 included four buckets: (1) community, (2) coaching and mentorship, (3) resources, and (4) endorsements.

  • Run for Something staff and interns will be more proactive about sharing social and feel-good stories on the RFS candidate Slack team, into weekly candidate emails, and quarterly candidate conference calls
  • We’ll create and share video and audio content from past candidates — both winners and losers
  • Formalize mentorship between 2017 candidates, new/young elected officials, and 2018 candidates
  • Empower more volunteer community managers to facilitate conversations on Slack
  • Create and moderate Facebook groups for different cohorts of individuals, including those who’ve already had elections
  • Continue hosting weekly office hours on Slack so candidates have visibility into questions others are asking
  • Build on our partnerships with organizations like Emerge America, EMILY’s List, Wellstone, Indivisible, National Democratic Training Committee, the DLCC, and others through regularly scheduled communication
  • Expand on regional partnerships with state and local groups
  • Provide regular updates to partners about our endorsed candidates so they can identify which might be good fits for their particular program
  • Work with partner groups to further their recruitment goals by formalizing list-sharing agreements
  • Connect candidates and potential candidates to partner trainings using Slack, emails, texts (both blast and peer-to-peer), and potentially Facebook messenger bots
  • Expand the volunteer team that does candidate screening to make it through our queue faster
  • Create a new funnel for candidates by which every person who gets screened is then immediately able to get access to coaching
  • Refine our mentorship process so it is both active and passive, understanding that the people who most need the help may not be the ones to ask for it
  • Generate automatic follow-up emails to candidates once they’ve gone through a 1:1 pushing them to the mentorship database
  • Continue recruiting new mentors — both expert political operatives and creatives who can support candidates, with the goal of building long-term relationships between candidates, mentors, and RFS
  • Add 3–4 regional desks as staff to oversee coaching and mentorship in their areas as well as manage state leads. Regionals will be responsible for direct candidate support to our endorsed slate as well as traveling to campaigns for on-the-ground support.
  • Refine “state leads” program built on local political operatives volunteering their time to support and coach candidates. Our state leads will be responsible for following up with candidates as they apply for endorsement OR after they complete a one-on-one and reporting out on those interactions.
  • Build out resource library with short videos and documents from political experts on a few key areas of campaigning that we get common questions on — including questions like compliance, opening your bank account, campaign planning, and budget templates
  • Continue gathering and surfacing resources from other organizations that can be helpful to our candidates, especially with regards to policy
  • Finalize and update guides on how to file in every state (which we completed in August 2017!!)
  • After piloting in 2017, we’ll formalize endorsement process and criteria
  • Identify states where we can legally fund candidates. We have a list of states we are currently exploring with our legal counsel to identify the best path forward. Our criteria for this list included…
    —Is it a DLCC-identified target or flip-the-chamber opportunity?
    — How many candidates are applying for endorsements from that state
    — Do we have diverse and exciting candidates?
    — How complicated is campaign finance law in that state?
    — Is is a state where Democrats can win one day if we invest in infrastructure now?
    — A ceratin ~je ne sais quoi~ about states
  • Continue sending endorsed candidate lists to partner organizations
  • Provide access to boutique resources like creative and tech support; generate volunteer efforts for endorsed candidates including virtual phone banks, text messages, and canvass shifts
  • Negotiate rates at scale for candidates — like reduced rates for the voter file, SMS tools, etc
  • Spotlight endorsed candidates to press and on social media

2018: The big picture

Our scope of work is specific — first-time millennial candidates (40 and under) running for local office — but the possible impact of our work is massive. Accordingly, we want to ensure we keep the proverbial “big picture” in mind as we operate in 2018. Our candidates can have an effect on the immediate up-ballot elections, they can and will be long-term leaders in the movement, and Run for Something can (and should!) become the kind of organization that can last.

  • Explore research projects with academics or the Analyst Institute to assess the impact a local candidate can have on a top-of-ticket race
  • Maintain good data on where our candidates overlap with critical federal and statewide races and consistently tell the story of their work as it relates to those campaigns
  • Tentatively called “Ran for Something”: An intensive multi-day program hosted by RFSAF for 15–20 candidates who previously went through an election and lost. We want to truly invest in the individuals who’ve demonstrated that they are willing to step up and help their communities. At the end of the program participants will have formed strong bonds with each other and will have fleshed out exactly how they can continue making a difference in their communities.
  • Run for Something Fellows: A stipend-based program that allows RFS to learn from the unique experiences of individuals who are civically engaged in their communities. RFS Fellows will be responsible for completing a project for the organization so that we all come to a better understanding of how to truly engage communities in the civic process.
  • Hire a development director to build out and execute a cohesive fundraising strategy
  • Continue to invest in online advertising for the purpose of list-building, brand awareness, and candidate recruitment
  • Host low-dollar events every quarter in as many cities as possible — but make them fun! Build community around Run for Something outside of candidates and volunteers. (Maybe we’ll even do the literal RUN for Run for Something 5k that people email us about once a week.)
  • Explore paid partnerships with organizations where it makes sense
  • Build out creative 501c4 programs that foundations and non-partisan entities can help fund
  • Use earned and owned communication channels to cement ourselves as the pre-eminent organization for millennial electoral leadership.

2018: What we believe

We spent time as a team this year coming up with our values — and we try to live them in how we run our program, how we run our organization, and how we treat each other. There is often tension in these values (that’s where the fun is!) and sometimes they are more aspirational than we might admit, but we’re proud to say this is who we are, what we believe, and how we behave.

  • We have big dreams and are unafraid to pursue them.
  • We have a high risk tolerance; we’re not afraid of fighting the system when fighting is necessary. We’re not afraid of primaries either.
  • We’re willing to fail; we’d rather fail than avoid challenge.
  • We believe in radical openness; we never shy away from challenging dialogue.
  • We tell the truth, even when telling the truth is difficult.
  • We’re transparent.
  • We’re here for the candidates and we put their needs first.
  • We meet people where they are, with warmth and without judgment.
  • We work hard while respecting people’s lives outside work.
  • We support Democrats that share our values and want to run for office.
  • We value cultural competences and strive to exemplify it in all we do.
  • We believe in diversity and seek to build a team that demonstrates diversity across race, class, geography, professional background, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
  • We’re committed to our goals and will make short-term sacrifices in service of our long-term goals.
  • We take principled stands, but don’t believe it’s our job to be the “purity police.”
  • We invest in talent, both at RFS and in the field.
  • We build infrastructure designed to last beyond individual election cycles.

Nuts & Bolts: The team

We’ve got big dreams for 2018. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot with a team of five full-time staffers — to accomplish what we’d like in the next year, we need to grow our team substantially.

  • Executive Director
  • Chief Program & Recruitment Officer
  • Community/Organizing Manager
  • Political Director
  • Regional Director 1 (Lead Desk)
  • Regional Director 2
  • Regional Director 3
  • Regional Director 4
  • Data/technology manager
  • Chief Communications Officer
  • Social media manager
  • Content production managers (x2), overseeing freelancers traveling around the country doing video and audio storytelling
  • Press secretary
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Events & Special Projects Manager
  • Operations associate
  • Development Director
  • Fundraising associate
  • Chief Product Officer
  • Amanda Litman
  • Ross Morales Rocketto
  • Pedro Torres-Mackie
  • Tim Lim
  • Jennifer O’Malley Dillon
  • Cristobal Alex
  • Garrett Arwa
  • Mike Blake
  • Amanda Brown
  • Jon Carson
  • Brad Elkins
  • Teddy Goff
  • Sabrina Hersi Issa
  • Omar Khan
  • Andy MacCracken
  • Aneesa McMillan
  • Caitlin Mitchell
  • Charles Olivier
  • Emmy Ruiz

Nuts & Bolts: What we’ve got

Throughout 2017, we opened a 501c4, a 527, and a Virginia state PAC. Our expenses across the three entities included:

  • A full-time staff of five (four until October 2017)
  • Legal counsel, to keep us on the right side of some complicated campaign finance law
  • Compliance, because executing on that campaign finance law is hard and we want experts to help us
  • Online advertising, both the media buys and the firm doing the creative
  • Website maintenance and development, plus data infrastructure
  • Transaction fees
  • Contractors as needed for specific projects
  • Travel — we had places to go and people to see
  • Merchandise, that we then sold. (Buy a t-shirt!)
  • Insurance and other costs associated with running a business
  • Other miscellaneous operating expenses (a printer, stationary for thank you notes, etc.)

Nuts & Bolts: What else we need

We’re still evaluating which states we’ll be legally able to donate directly to local candidates.

  • Build out a full tech stack that allows us to better manage the data coming in and out of our organization
  • Break into video and audio storytelling, and fully invest in freelancers, travel expenses, and talent in order to execute on that.
  • Develop a blast SMS program and build on our peer-to-peer text message program
  • Invest in vetting software for the 1,000 + candidates we will be endorsing in 2018.
  • Provide extremely low-cost voter file access to our candidates, especially those who will have a hard time getting it otherwise
  • Provide low-cost P2P texting to our candidates, as well as guidance on how to properly integrate into a field and GOTV program

Nuts & Bolts: The 2018 budget

To fully fund the Run for Something program laid out above, we need $3.5 million.

  • 70% programming — including staff, advertising, travel, and events
  • 30% overhead — including legal, compliance, insurance, technology, and other operational requirements

The $100 million dream

Every so often, someone asks us: What if someone gave you $100 million? What would you do?


Over the last year, we’ve answered a lot of questions about who we are, what we do, and why it all matters. A few of the most common questions we get.

  1. Our work directly impacts taking back the House. Our candidates get more Democratic voters to the polls, which leads to more votes for Democrats up and down the ticket. That’s how we win.
  2. Winning in November is extremely important — but this not a zero-sum game. We can both support House races and support local candidates. Give $10 to your favorite swing district AND to your favorite local candidate. Here’s a fun secret: Your $10 will mean more to the local candidate than it will to the congressional candidate. The local candidate’s budget is small and scope is more narrow; your money will go further.
  3. If the only thing you care about is the House, you need to also care about electing Democrats to state legislatures in order to undo the dangerous gerrymandering Republicans have institutionalized across the country. Any victory in the House in 2018 is doomed to be short-lived unless we win state legislatures and redraw the boundaries to be more fair after the 2020 census.



Recruiting & supporting young people running for office. Building a Democratic bench. Want to help? hello@runforsomething.net

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Run for Something

Run for Something

Recruiting & supporting young people running for office. Building a Democratic bench. Want to help? hello@runforsomething.net