Relational Organizing


People vote when they feel their lives and others will be materially changed for the better because of the results of an election. And that is why campaigns exist: to get the word out to voters why someone should vote for Team Apple over Team Orange. But when fewer and fewer adults follow the news closely, and those who do get their news from an ever-increasing range of sources, the task of getting a campaign’s message out to voters has definitely become more difficult.

Lo and behold, there’s you! You are your friend’s trusted messenger, their democracy influencer, their one-of-a-kind bespoke personalized social media news feed. Slay. And all you have to do is what you’ve always done: drop it in the group chat. Or in an email, or during a coffee date, a PowerPoint Party, whatever you think works best for you and your network.

There’s a name for all of this, and you’ve probably heard it before: relational organizing. Relational organizing is reaching out to the people you already know and mobilizing them to vote. It is not dropping a link to a polling location in mid-October; it is creating space to share social posts, articles, content, and — big entrance here — listen to how your friends feel about any number of issues, and then follow up with them over time. Because whether your friends follow the news closely or not, they care about their well-being and the well-being of those they care for.

Ultimately, yes, our goal is to get our friends to vote. (What can we say, we wanna keep this democracy group project going just a bit longer.) The goal of relational organizing is to:

  • Connect our friend’s values to *shrugs in all directions* the salient issues out there 
  • Share why voting matters to us
  • Make voting feel like something we all should do, together

This resource, along with the accompanying Relational Organizing Worksheet (view only version), are meant to help walk you through the process of using your status as a trusted messenger to mobilize your friends to vote. If you’re on the prowl for even more resources, say good articles to share, or relational organizing programs to join, stop by the Vote Save America Community Slack!

Components of relational organizing

There are four components to relational organizing:

  • Make a list of who is in your network
  • Decide which modes of communication to use for each individual to speak with
  • Share, engage, listen
  • Follow up

1. Make a list of who is in your network

Who should you reach out to? It will be different for everyone, but you should reach out to people you have a general shared connection with, or someone who you think shares your values. This can be:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Parents of your kids’ friends
  • The last 5 people you texted
  • All the group chats you’re in
  • Clubs/sports leagues you are involved with
  • Book clubs
  • Mutuals on social media, etc

2. Determine modes of communication

Determine the best way to have a conversation about voting/volunteering with your friends. Obviously not an exhaustive list, but below is a short list of options and when you should choose each:

  • In-person → Go on a coffee date with your coffee date friends.
  • Call/Text → Text your friends you text with; call your friends you call.
  • Email → Parents still send you emails? Now you have a reason to email them back!
  • DMs → Someone react to an IG story or poll you posted about volunteering? DM them!

    3. Share, engage, listen

    Don’t overthink it, they’re your friends! Relational organizing can be as simple as dropping an article in a group chat and asking a friend or group of friends, “hey what do you think about this?” Remember, people be busy and dropping a news update in your friends’ personalized social media news feed aka texting them is a simple way to start a conversation and listen to how your friends feel.

    4. Follow up

    A favorite axiom of organizers from Fred Ross is, “90 percent of organizing is follow up.” Relational organizing isn’t about sharing your personal story and then saying, “ok, bye see you never.” The point of relational organizing is you are likely having a conversation with someone you communicate with regularly or semi-regularly.

    So, take advantage. Follow up with your friends whenever makes sense, and ask them if they have any follow up questions. Refer back to things they said in your initial conversation to let them know you were listening. (To be clear — and to state the obvious — do this because you care, not because it’s a tactic.)

    Relational Organizing Worksheet 

    You should absolutely keep track in a way that makes the most sense for you, but here is a Relational Organizing Worksheet (view only version) if you would like to use one.