8 Things I Learned as a Campaigner
In the summer of 2001, before my senior year of college, I worked on a public interest campaign in Florida.
My job was to:
* Go door-to-door in Tampa neighborhoods;
* Give a quick pitch for the campaign; and
* Generate support, which was measured in signatures and donations.
I can’t say I really cared about the cause; I just wanted a summer job that gave me experience working on a grassroots campaign. That’s exactly what I got.
But the summer of 2001 also prepped me for working/volunteering in the animal welfare field.
Looking back, here’s what I learned:
(1) Start with the low-hanging fruit.
There are a lot of people in the world. A LOT. Work the numbers in your favor, and focus on the easy ones first.
There are many, MANY people who are compassionate and open to new information, they just haven’t been engaged yet. Or they haven’t been engaged in the most effective way.
Start with them.
It’s not sexy, but it’s effective.
(2) Keep Focusing on the Low-Hanging Fruit — There’s Even More Than You Thought!
Seriously, times are tough.
The economy sucks and pet care is expensive, especially when you’re surviving on a fixed income.
Don’t under-estimate how much these services are needed.
There are oodles of people who are trying — often in the face of incredible obstacles — but just can’t make ends meet, given the cards they’ve been dealt.
You don’t need to convince them to “do the right thing”; they already want to. Really, really want to. You just haven’t connected with them yet.
That time and those resources?
Yep, keep focusing here.
It’s less about convincing, and more about connecting.
Picture me: a 20-year-old college student talking to citizens of Hillsborough County, Florida, about campaign issues they’d faced before I was even born.
Yeah, I was not the best spokesperson. I had trouble relating.
But I quickly realized that I, personally, was not convincing them to care; I was just sharing information, information they didn’t have yet.
That was my role: to be a link. Nothing more, nothing less.
Be a link.
We assume people have access to information and then fault them for reaching the “wrong” conclusions.
Don’t assume. Don’t judge.
Your role is to connect the dots, and to not assume they’ve been connected before.
Don’t believe me? Google a topic you know nothing about. Then try sifting through all the junk info out there. There’s a LOT of it, and it’s usually not obvious. Good grief, it’s confusing!
Pet-care info is no different.
(5) Don’t Get Tainted By the Rotten Fruit.
There will be bad apples (errr, oranges). It’s part of being human.
But don’t let them taint your experience, or you will burn out. Fast.
When I campaigned, there were a few people that made me cry. They made me hate humanity. Oh man, they scared me! They disappointed me. I still remember them. Blech!
But they were few and far between.
Fuhgeddabout ’em. Keep going. You have more people to meet.
(6) When you meet that “rotten orange” who gives you hell?
Remember: we have ALL been rotten oranges at times.
Really, we all have. Have you ever had a door-to-door-salesman come to your house? Or a telemarketer call your phone?
How did you react?
Exactly. Me, too.
(7) Reputation Matters.
You thought middle school was rough? Your reputation counts even more now!
Don’t over promise; be honest.
You’re not a magician.
If you let someone down, word will travel fast. Be true to your boundaries. People will appreciate it in the long run — even if they’re frustrated at the time.
We’re talking about the human-canine bond, the most pure emotional connection in the book.
People might do crazy things, but most of them love their dogs.
We’re not teaching them how to love; we’re sharing information and resources so they can do what’s right for their pets.
If we can’t trust most of the people most of the time, then what are we doing anyway?