Ingredient 1: Volunteer Tithing – Good Values, Smart Politics
“You shall know them by their fruits…”
The most successful field and communications program we have ever participated in is Volunteer Tithing. The strategic benefits of serving during a campaign should be obvious, and the principles should be clear to Democrats. Yet, we’ve seen only slow and sporadic adoption of this ground-breaking program. So as the first ingredients in our "Stone Soup Initiative," we’re adding an additional incentive of an in-kind donation of free access to Eleison's massive email list and distribution system to any campaign that commits to tithe volunteer hours.
Volunteer Tithing is simple. Your campaign commits to “tithe” at least 10% of all volunteer hours to community service. Find opportunities to serve, track volunteer time, and report it all back out.
Volunteer tithing is a great way to:
• Build a narrative of service with a campaign focused on making a difference, rather than just getting elected;
• Engage and energize grassroots support early, and lower the bar for peer recruitment;
• Build relationships with grasstops community leaders who run service programs;
• Generate positive earned media: each volunteer effort is an opportunity for local press coverage;
• Stand out from the pack, and create a strong contrast with Trump/GOP negativity;
• Make a positive difference now for constituents, instead of waiting until after the election.
Imagine an America where candidates competed to run the campaign that best served their community. Americans are tiring of politicians pandering to their respective bases with impossible promises and efforts to divide. But whereas nice words are often generally enough to turn this tide, voters will listen to what we do.
Perriello Case Study
Volunteer tithing was a program we first pioneered in Tom Perriello’s ‘08 campaign. Tithing became the most successful volunteer recruitment and earned media tool on the campaign, with over 800 unique stories/blogs being written about it during the election. And it cemented Tom’s narrative as a different type of candidate, focused on service and driven by values.
By huge margins, Perriello volunteers said the tithing program was their favorite part of the campaign. Not only were we able to begin engaging volunteers and their communities months earlier than campaigns generally do, but many of our most reliable canvassing/phone volunteers first signed up for a tithing activity. It also created a natural and easy way to form initial relationships with local leaders who ran the volunteer projects. Instead of swinging by the fall to ask them to support us, we began the relationship by showing up to support the thing they cared most about. Finally, the earned media and interaction with the community through the different service projects helped create a strong narrative of faith in action, with Perriello’s deeds proving his words and commitment to put the people ahead of politics.