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Power is the flower of organization”—A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph knew in the 1960’s the importance of organizing like-minded people together to make change in the world. And he recognized the importance of starting with friends and family.

Knowledge is power stands so true as we organize folks together on issues that are important to their lifestyle or ambitions. Relational Organizing through a tool like Empower has given A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) the opportunity to create those spaces to have the conversations that will increase one’s knowledge and empower them to be a part of the change that is needed in their communities. 

One of the key components of Relational Organizing (RO) is to persuade, motivate, register, and engage voters and volunteers to take part in the political space that affects almost every aspect of their lives. RO allows us to track and focus on important pieces of data, by making those personal 1 on 1 connections, which leads to greater turnout.

The traditional pillars of political campaigns – phone-banking and (more recently) text messaging programs – are efficient methods of outreach. However these techniques usually only see around a 3 to 5 percent contact rate. People are less likely to pick up the phone for an unknown number, than to pick up a call from a friend or colleague. I personally will not even answer my phone unless I already have the number programmed. The best way to contact me is to text me first and state who you are and why you are calling. Then I MAY pick up the phone.

Generally, you only have friends and family in your contact list. Relational Organizing tools like Empower solve that problem by encompassing easy to access files and contacts, to allow you to phone-bank and text message with your pre-existing contacts, leading to a higher, more effective contact rate. 

While canvassing, another foundational element can be reinforced with more personal 1 on 1 meetings, that have been cultivated through data collected via RO. Relationships are already in place that can be taken advantage of to get someone to become more involved.

While working with us on our RO program, one of NC APRI organizers discovered that she had family that were not registered to vote and discovered other family members that were registered but hadn’t voted since 2016! This information gave her the ability to reconnect with family members while also providing them knowledge on issues relevant to their community, as well as letting them know why it is important to not only be registered, but to vote on election day.

Another one of our organizers discovered that her uncle has been voting for 30 plus years but his wife (her aunt) hadn’t voted since Reagan was president! Relational Organizing puts you in a place where you begin to ask yourself why that might be and, in the case of our organizer, actually led to a visit with her aunt and uncle to have a conversation about the importance of having both of them head to the polls.

Another benefit of Relational Organizing is that it helps facilitate more accurate modeling. Models give us the best possible idea at scale of which voters we need to reach and what message most motivates them. Utilizing these models puts you where you need to be at first, to give you a better understanding of your time management needs. You want to reach everyone, but of course some folks are going to need more time to change their mindset on some issues. Accurate modeling can help tremendously with those efforts.

The information you can collect from voters through a Relational Organizing program will be inherently more precise, which in turn conveys a better picture of the demographics of certain areas and reveals new profiles of potential voters. 

There has been a revival in the efforts of meeting voters where they are, whether online or face-to-face, building on the people who are already in your sphere of influence. With advancements in data and technology, Relational Organizing tools like Empower provide organizations an effective means and exciting opportunity to register voters, recruit volunteers and turn out communities to get out and vote!

Engaging new and lapsed voters is the key to mobilizing voters in 2020. The success of asking people to do something relies on having a good list.

As A. Philip Randolph said, “It’s easy to gain people’s attention, what counts is gaining their interest”.

Relational Organizing is a tool that can be utilized to make it possible to realize the promise of his message. Now is the time to invest in RO to “empower” the marginalized and disenfranchised with effective outreach programs.

Denicia Montford Williams
Associate Executive Director, NCAPRI