A Guide to Political Networking - National Democratic Training Committee

Relationships Matter

It’s incredibly important for all candidates to remember that no campaign is won alone. Successful campaigns are the result of a strong network of family, friends, and supporters. These are the people who organize and mobilize voters to help your campaign succeed!

But first thing’s first—how do you create a network?

We wanted to create a brief guide to political networking to give candidates and campaign staff a rundown of how to create a strong network. After all, a strong network makes for a strong campaign!

(This is just a short guide of political networking, but if you’re interested in learning more about how to expand your network check out our Online Academy. Courses like Building Your Network: Donors, Volunteers, and Validators and Campaign Events.

Who’s Who in Political Networking?

Before diving into how to create your political network it’s important to define a few terms.

Your network is basically everyone you know divided into four rough categories;

  • Personal circle — these are your family and friends. People you can count on to support your campaign.
  • Professional circle — these are people you know from either work, your community, or different organizations who are potential volunteers and donors.
  • Donors — people who you can count on to contribute money to your campaign (these people can belong to your professional/personal circles, as well)
  • Validators — people who can lend credibility to your campaign like community leaders or officials who have some kind of public presence

Don’t worry if you can’t immediately think of validators in your network. As you expand your network over the course of your campaign you’ll meet plenty of people to add to each category!

Your Campaign Rolodex

With a better idea of who’s who the first step of political networking is to create your campaign rolodex.

A campaign rolodex is a running record of your campaign’s contacts (and we mean all of them!). Every person in your phone and computer, all the members from the groups you’re a member of, classmates from high school and college—the list goes on!

(Make sure to use your contacts on social media to build up your rolodex—check out our Digital 101 course to learn more about social media usage.)

Once you’ve gathered all the people for your rolodex the next step is to compile all of the contact information for each person. This information will then do in a contact software or spreadsheet. The information you should gather includes;

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Relationship (with the candidate/campaign)

If your campaign doesn’t use software and you’re not sure where to start with a spreadsheet check out our campaign rolodex template. The template helps categorize and prioritize the people in your network who will help down the line with finding donors and volunteers!

To learn more about campaign rolodexing check out our posts How to Run for Office: Networking and Rolodexing and How to Run For Office: Re-Rolodexing Yourself.

It might take you a little while to gather and organize all this information, but it’s completely worth the work! All this information on hand is incredibly useful when you’re working to expand your network.

Use Your Personal Network

Now that you have your current network accounted for it’s time to start putting those contacts to work.

Along with meeting people on the campaign trail, your personal contacts are a surefire way to expand your political network. People in your personal and even your professional circles have networks you can easily tap into.

Maybe a work colleague knows a community leader who could be a good validator contact. Perhaps a family member knows someone willing to donate to local campaigns.

These potential connections could be great for your campaign! That’s why it’s important to refer to your campaign rolodex and reach out to all your contacts about volunteer and donation opportunities.

(For more info about how to keep track of contact efforts check out our Building Your Network: Donors, Volunteers, and Validators course.)

You never know what connections are available to you until you ask.

Expand Your Political Network

With a comprehensive rolodex, you can begin to build and expand on your relationships.

Remember—expanding your network by building relationships should not be transactional. You should not build relationships simply for your own gain. As a potential representative, your goal should be to best represent your community, so building relationships should be about what you can do for others.

Take the validators on your rolodex. These people have influence on your community, so as someone who wants to represent your community you should consider how you can benefit them.

Once you’ve found a validator or local group you’re interested in it’s time to build!

Find Your In

How does this person or group fit into your existing network? Do you have contacts who are already familiar with this person/group? If so, reach out to that contact for an introduction. If you’re not sure if you have a mutual personal connection, check Facebook and Linkedin.

No preexisting connection? No problem! There’s no harm in sending a message or attending a public meeting to introduce yourself.

Get Involved

Once you’ve introduced yourself it’s important to get involved with the person or group’s interests and concerns. Attend meetings and fundraisers. Talk to members. Anything that lets you interact with your contact and allows you to learn more about what they’re looking for.

Remember—this step is about asking questions and listening. This is not the time to pitch yourself or ask for votes.

Time to Talk

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the individual or group, identify mutual interests and concerns. Talking about these matters, and how you might plan on addressing them, will allow you to foster meaningful connections.

Keep in mind, especially for groups, you should not talk exclusively to higher-ups. While those connections are admittedly important, relationships grassroots members can open up doors to more connections beyond the group!

Get Out and Build!

Of course, we could go on and on about political networking, but we just want to give you a networking 101 guide. There’s so much to talk about!

If you’re interested in learning more about political networking or how to build intentional relationships take a look at our Building Your Network: Donors, Volunteers, and Validators course. Or check out our Online Academy with more courses about campaign management.

Let us leave you with one important reminder. The relationships you build through networking should not be simply added to your rolodex and forgotten.

The people and groups you meet and connect with throughout your time as a candidate are the heart and soul of your campaign. They are those who will donate, volunteer, and mobilize to help you win—don’t take that lightly!

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