Down Home North Carolina unites to build the power and raise the voices of working people in small-town and rural North Carolina in order to take action on the issues that matter.
By weaving together their community’s different experiences, they are shaping a democracy that serves working people, where labor is valued, and food, water, and land are healthy.
This past cycle, they implemented a Relational Organizing program.
Down Home NC knows that rural voters determine elections in North Carolina. But how could they mobilize people who live on farms, gravel roads, and in unincorporated communities to vote?
“There are so many hard-to-reach people. Only 5% of people answer their phone, 15-30% answer the door. Some campaigns reach the same people every year,” explains Down Home’s Gayle Schwartzberg. “Door knocking and canvassing will always be our bread and butter. But we knew we had to do more.”
This past year, Down Home launched an ambitious Relational Organizing project to help burst through that bubble. RO harkens back to the ways our grandparents did things: Chatting at the post office or diner with people we know and who already trust us.
They equipped over 800 rural North Carolinians with the skills and tools they needed to engage their friends, neighbors, and families in voting.
These leaders logged over 11,000 conversations in addition to using creative strategies such as mailing handwritten cards, visiting Blackowned businesses, and hosting hangouts over social media.
“These conversations were more impactful than a conversation with a stranger,” says Gayle, pointing out that 75% of the people contacted through the program returned their ballots before election day.
Every county where Down Home organizes saw dramatic increases in voter turnout over 2016, especially in our Piedmont counties where progressive voter turnout, and in particular Black Democratic turnout, far exceeded state averages. Conversation by conversation, they used their RO efforts to help decide close elections and helped elect historic and groundbreaking candidates into office.
Down Home NC plans to continue running their Relational Organizing program moving forward. In a pandemic world where their members and volunteers are still the most vulnerable – poor and working class folks, communities of color – this model of organizing provides a way for people to engage and make a difference safely.
In a world where they can meet in person again and start knocking doors, they will absolutely do that. But in the meantime, Relational Organizing creates an opportunity for them to cast an even wider net.
They will still knock doors and make phone calls, but they will ALSO ask people to have conversations with their friends, family, and neighbors? Especially when they know that someone is more likely to listen to and trust a conversation that they’ve had with someone they know versus someone they don’t.
Looking at the future of North Carolina politics, they know they need to continue to have deep and impactful conversations with folks about the things everyone deserves: healthcare, living wages, housing, safety, dignity, and a better quality of life.
They will use Relational Organizing to teach their volunteers how to deep canvass . They will use Relational Organizing to activate folks for rapid response. And most importantly, they will use Relational Organizing to reach people they would never have been able to contact on the phone or at their door.
We can’t wait to see what they do with Relational Organizing moving forward.
Learn more about them and their work at downhomenc.org.