Strategic Campaigns

A composite of three photos. The first shows 8 white people preparing to canvass. The second is a dog on a lawn, with the owner behind it and a Dan Kalmick for Huntington Beach City Council sign in front. The third shows 8 organizers in purple t-shirts at a rally.
credits: unknown, @lindsaybebout, @alvarezjuan9

Organizing to Win works with social justice organizations, unions and political candidates on strategic campaigns that bring people together to build power.

Our approach is different from traditional campaign firms.

In a traditional political campaign, we have one specific and tangible goal: win the election. We know we’ve won when the votes are counted and we have more votes than them.

In an Organizing to Win campaign, we want to do more than win. (We also win. More on that later.)

We design campaigns that bring people together to build power, using the opportunity of the election or issue to do it. To make the fundamental changes our society needs, we must do more than win. We must build power.

Organizing to Win campaigns start by creating opportunities to bring people together to build and strengthen relationships.

We create a plan to identify new leaders, support their development and identify an issue that is widely and deeply felt.

When those leaders bring people together, they build more relationships and plan a strategy to win and build the power of the people who struggle the most with the issue.

Election Campaigns that Win and Build Relationships

Even in a election campaign with fundraising deadlines and voter contact goals, we infuse the plan with opportunities to build relationships.

If you ask enough people to vote for you, you will probably win. If you build relationships with voters, volunteers and donors, you can win on the issues that inspired you to run in the first place.

Organizing to Win specializes in campaigns with candidates from historically excluded communities. Past clients include Stephanie Wade, a trans woman in Orange County (CA); Zekiah Wright, the first nonbinary person to run in West Hollywood; Dan Kalmick, a Jewish man in a city known for anti-mask rallies and white supremacist supporters; and Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez, an Afro-Indigenous-Latinx who became a US citizen three months before declaring a run for the Oakland (CA) school board.

Client Anecdotes

Below are a few examples of campaigns where the Organizing to Win model led to victory.

Brady United Against Gun Violence

Logo of the organization Brady United Against Gun Violence. A purple, blue and red star with the word Brady in purple below it on a white background.

When the president of Brady United Against Gun Violence said she wanted to “recharge the grassroots,” Mira designed a campaign that started by bringing people together. During one-on-one meetings, house meetings and Gun Violence Prevention Days on the highlighted campaigns, members shared the stories of what brought them into the gun violence prevention movement. They also shared what they wanted to do to make their communities safer. 

It turned out that no matter what they wanted to do to end gun violence, we needed a better Congress to do it. 

Soon, members who had never knocked on a door were recruiting others to do it with them. Members who were afraid to talk to strangers phonebanked up a storm.

By election night, we’d blown past all the goals we’d set to measure our progress. Members loved the campaign. Local chapters found new leaders. 

Eighty-nine percent of our highlighted candidates won. 

A new comprehensive background check bill was the third bill passed by the new Congress the following January.

Head shot of Kris Brown, a white woman with light brown hair and blue eyes. She is smiling, wearing a purple sweater and thin gold necklace.

“Mira’s organizing plan for our midterms campaign not only helped us win in 89% of our targeted districts, but more members engaged in campaigns than ever before. Her focus on building relationships, then moving together to action, not only meant victory on election night – but also more inspired, engaged and fired up activists for everything that comes after.

Kris Brown, President, Brady United Against Gun Violence

Colorado WINS

The logo of the organization Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions. A line drawing in purple of the Rocky Mountains, with a rising yellow sun and red border in the background. The words We Make Colorado Run and Colorado WINS local 1876 appear in purple around the drawing.

What does a state employees association do when it:

  • Loses 90% of its membership overnight?
    • Lays off most of the staff?
    • Loses any influence or visibility it had at the state Capitol?
    • Is forced to waste time and energy on rivalries and competition with sibling organizations?

It doubles down on organizing. 

Over a two year campaign, we doubled membership, elected a member to the retirement board, helped to elect a worker-friendly governor, identified dozens of new leaders and won raises and health insurance improvements. 

Most importantly, we transformed the organization from one focused on representing workers one-by-one to one where member leaders take collective action to solve big problems.

All that in a state where most public employees did not have the right to organize or negotiate.

Ultimately, we formed a coalition with former rivals and won an executive order from the new governor. That EO established an innovative system by which state employees could negotiate over workplace conditions – and the quality of the services that they provide to taxpayers.

Update: the current executive director started her career when Mira hired her as an entry-level organizer. Also, Mira was invited to the virtual signing ceremony where the governor signed legislation making the executive order permanent!

Dan Kalmick for Huntington Beach City Council

Dan in light blue. Kalmick in dark blue. for Huntington Beach City Council in smaller dark blue letters. a light blue line drawing of a surfer and a wave.

How does a down-ballot Democrat win in 2020 when we can’t do the thing that sets our campaigns apart from right-wingers? (Canvassing)

Improvise! And build relationships.

In 2020, all eyes were on the race for White House and traditional campaign tactics were off-limits because of covid-19.

In Huntington Beach, there are additional challenges for a Jewish Democrat: the city’s reputation as the place where southern California white supremacists come out to play, low contribution limits and an at-large race. To overcome these hurdles, we designed a strategy that relied heavily on building relationships, identifying and developing new leaders and reaching out multiple highlighted universes.

To stand out in this crowded cycle, we sent over 100,000 peer-to-peer text messages, made thousands of phone calls and engaged volunteers in relational organizing. The relationships we built enabled us to inoculate against the inevitable October surprise and stay on track. Proving once again, that victory depends on good field, messaging that resonates and a great team, not yard signs.

When the votes were counted, Dan won by a comfortable margin, setting the stage for significant progressive improvements to the city’s infrastructure.

a photo of a white man in a blue suit, white shirt and light blue tie. He's smiling and has his arms crossed. There are trees in the background.

“Mira led a great strategy during the weirdest campaign on record. She wrangled together a team like no one I’ve ever seen. By election day, we’d exceeded our goal for contacts, built a team of over 100 volunteers and won decisively. Her field, messaging and relationship-building expertise made the difference in my campaign.”

— Dan Kalmick, Huntington Beach City Councilmember