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Campaign Boot Camp 2.0

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Christine Pelosi presents leadership lessons from the campaign trail from a diverse array of over forty public figures, lending advice for anyone who wants to run for office, advocate for a cause, or win a public policy issue. This book draws from her leadership “boot camps” conducted in over thirty American states and in three foreign countries, working with thousands of volunteers and dozens of successful candidates for office from city council to US congress.

Campaign Boot Camp 2.0 is basic training for future leaders who hear a call to service—a voice of conscience that springs from their vision, ideas, and values—and want to translate that call into positive change. Pelosi outlines the seven essential steps to winning: identify your call to service, define your message, know your community, build your leadership teams, raise the money, connect with people, and mobilize to win. Each chapter concludes with a “Get Real” exercise so readers can personalize and integrate these ideas into individual efforts.

In this edition, Pelosi updates the book’s “Call to Service” profiles of political leaders and their calls to service; details the expanding role of social media, the Internet, and technology as message multipliers; explores challenges unique to women candidates; and expands on the power of volunteers.

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1 Identify Your Call to Service


The future belongs to those who believe
in the beauty of their dreams.


The beauty of our founders’ dreams is set forth in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Our democracy is a call to reimagine the founders’ vision for America through the years. It requires a binding commitment between people, a commitment that begins with the earliest actions in family, school, worship, and community. It is a commitment that develops over time and experience, based on a call to service—the vision, ideas, and values that motivate each public servant.

Each of us has a personal call to service that motivates and inspires our actions in family, community, and public life. Whether your public service involves helping a nonprofit agency achieve its mission, voting or volunteering in an election, mastering the skills of running for public office, studying political science and civics, or networking with your peers in a community improvement project, everything you do to engage in democracy begins with your call to service. Your call to service springs from your vision for the future, the values that drive it, the ideas that embody it, and your commitment to work in a community with others to achieve it. Your call to service is your message to the future.


2 Define Your Message


Who are you?


Match these leaders to their campaign slogan:

Barack Obama

(a) Don’t Swap Horses in the Middle of the Stream

Abraham Lincoln

(b) Change We Can Believe In

Bill Clinton

(c) Morning Again in America

Nancy Pelosi

(d) Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow

Ronald Reagan

(e) A Voice That Will Be Heard

Each of these leaders chose a slogan that in just a few words would answer the question “Who are you?” Notice how each message answers the question and defines the leader:

Barack Obama:

(b) I am an antidote to war fatigue and transactional politics.

Abraham Lincoln:

(a) I am the commander in chief needed to win the Civil War.

Bill Clinton:

(d) I am optimistic and youthful.

Nancy Pelosi:

(e) I have the political clout to get things done.

Ronald Reagan:

(c) I helped America recover from recession.

Define or be defined. To define yourself you must lead with who you are. If people step onto an elevator with a supporter who is wearing your campaign button, what will the button tell them about who you are?

Take it a step further: what is the elevator pitch for you or your supporter to deliver to back up the button? You have less than a minute for your elevator pitch, and so you need a clear, concise argument promoting your effort, something the other person will think about later. This pitch is the heart of your message, and everyone who supports you should know it by heart and be able to make it under pressure.


3 Know Your Community


You gotta’ know the territory.


The traveling salesmen in Meredith Wilson’s musical The Music Man could be talking about nearly any neighborhood in America: every community has its unique way of life, a political and cultural history that you need to learn in order to serve effectively. You must know your neighbors and their families: How do they live, work, worship, and play? What are their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for their kids and their parents? In short, you gotta’ know the territory.

As you look to serve your community as a volunteer for a cause or as a candidate for office, prepare, connect, and target: prepare a Community Inventory, connect with leaders, and target supporters. First, prepare a Community Inventory by gathering raw data about your community’s people, economy, geography, traditions, opinion leaders, politics, social networks, and challenges. Second, connect with the community leaders, organizations, and networks that enhance civic life. Third, target people who are likely to support your candidate or cause.


4 Build Your Leadership Teams


Innovation distinguishes between
a leader and a follower.


To win you must lead—and to lead you must innovate. A confident leader draws upon the best resources available and welcomes the guidance of innovative experts whose associating, questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting will propel the campaign forward. As a practical matter this means you recruit a diverse team of people who have demonstrated success in their profession and leadership in their community and you make sure the egos blend well in the cauldron of crisis. Candidates who think they know it all and surround themselves with people who reinforce that self-deception are doomed to fail.

Ultimately, the candidate or the campaign leader must weigh all advice and make the decision. GreenDog Campaigns’ Dotty LeMieux reminds us: “The old adage ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ is true in politics as in cooking. Of course you want to get input from others, but some candidates just can’t seem to say ‘no.’ They forget there’s a chain of command, and want to take everyone’s advice. They’re nervous and insecure and it shows.”1


5 Raise the Money


Your values are all in your checkbook.

ANN RICHARDS (1933–2006)

The late Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, provided this plainspoken advice at a women’s networking lunch I attended in the 1990s: “I see a lot of nice handbags and purses in this room. Now if one of you ladies left this lunch and were hit by a car and someone opened your purse to find identification, they might look at your checkbook. What would they see? How would your spending priorities identify you?” She concluded: “Your values are all in your checkbook.”

To attract people to your vision and plan, you must be able to appeal to their values, ask them for money, and receive it.

Whether you are seeking donations for political or philanthropic efforts, you must believe in the purpose of your work and build the skills needed to ask others to help. Fund-raising in a down economy with intense competition for dollars is challenging, but your call to service demands that you meet those challenges with new innovations in values-based fund-raising.


6 Connect with People


Just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there oughta’ be a Man in Black


Every communication must deliver your message to head and heart. Some people speak better to America’s head, and others to her heart. Only the best communicators speak to both, literally wearing the colors of the people and connecting with their dreams as Johnny Cash did.

Most Americans spend only a few minutes of their week thinking about politics and public policy, so you compete with the million other messages from TV, radio, Web sites, and mailboxes. To fit your message into a sliver of attention, you must cast it in their language, not yours, and repeat it.

People must see you in the job to determine whether you can do it. Give interviews, do town hall meetings, attend debates—do whatever you can to “interview” for the job.

If you are volunteering, appear on behalf of your cause or your candidate at community forums, house meetings, and debates. If you are running for office, create opportunities to address the media as a leader in your community so that people can see you as part of the official family.


7 Mobilize to Win


Whoever owns the ground wins the election.


Public service takes people. A passionate, engaged volunteer workforce can make your offices or campaign headquarters hum with excitement. That energy attracts people who want to join others who share their values, to promote a particular candidate or cause, or to gain recognition and respect in the community.

Whether you are running for president of the PTA or the United States, the team with the best volunteer operation will bring out the most voters on Election Day.

Understand why people volunteer. People volunteer on campaigns for a number of reasons: to be part of a network of people who share their values, to promote a particular candidate or cause, or to gain recognition and respect in the community. Nearly all share the goal of making the future better.

Chris Finnie, a longtime Democracy for America (DFA) volunteer, expressed it this way: “After a Meetup, a woman stopped and asked me why I spent all the time and money I do on political activism. I told her I have a grown son. She said she did too. So I asked her if, when she had children, she didn’t feel that she had given them a gift—a gift of life. She said yes. I then asked her if this was what she had in mind. She said no. I said me either, and that’s why I do what I do—so I can leave my son the sort of world I promised him.”1


After-Action Review


What do we do now?


You have answered the call to service. You exercised your right to vote or to peacefully assemble for a cause and you fulfilled your commitment to serve your campaign or cause. The race has ended, and the voters have chosen you. Now what? The marathon begins.

Six keys to enduring success: review your campaign, prepare for the transition, do the job, stay close to your people, keep your word, and pay it forward.

Review your campaign. Review the following in terms of quality, timeliness, and usefulness:

1. Personnel and networks

2. Process for defining, refining, repeating, and refreshing message, including campaign pledges, promises, and commitments made on the trail

3. Ambassadors and allies

4. Communications strategy and media plan

5. Criticisms raised by citizens, local media, and opponents (Note what the responses were at the time and in retrospect what they should have been.)

6. Plan for budgeting and raising money

7. Process for mobilization—recruiting, training, and retaining—of volunteers



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