Do you think that existing Democratic and progressive organizations suck? Do find them pathetic, ineffective, beholden to status quo power structures, and generally lacking in vision? Do you want to start your own organization to fill the vacuum created by this suckitude?
If so, then against my better judgment as an (occasionally) professional consultant, allow me to provide you with a free, five-step guide to creating your own progressive organization. You know, that organization that will be free of all the mistakes and errors that the pathetic, ineffective, sell-out organizations currently in existence keep repeating.
For less than $1,000 a month, you can provide yourself with all of the necessary tools to get your organization going. In the extended entry, I explain how.
Starting your own netroots organization in five easy steps
Determine a purpose. The first step is to figure out what your organization is actually going to do. Let's say, for example, that you intend to support federal (that is, House, Senate and President) candidates who meet your eight-point issue platform. Good job. Now you have a purpose.
Set up your legal structure. Once you have a purpose, you can determine what sort of legal structure your organization will need to function. You need one of these structures, as there are a lot of laws surrounding political action, and you really don't want to run afoul of them.
If, for example, you wish to support federal candidates who meet your eight-point issue platform, then you are probably going to need to register as a federal multi-candidate political action committee. Doing so will allow you to directly coordinate with federal campaigns, and make independent expenditures on their behalf.
In addition to a PAC, you may also want to form a 527 in order to run negative campaigns against opposing candidates. This is because 527s have far fewer restrictions regarding fundraising and disclosure requirements (although they don't allow you to coordinate with--or even mention--favorable campaigns). A 501(c)4 may also work, since you are promoting eight policy goals with an ideological bent to them.
Figure out whatever single or multiple structures best serve your purpose. Getting legal recognition costs a few hundred dollars, and a small amount of paperwork. You are also going to need a bank account, a mailing address, and accounting tools to make sure you stay kosher with IRS and FEC laws. All of that will cost you a bit more, and it is probably best to hire a lawyer to help you with this.
Purchase an online toolkit. Once you have a purpose and have become a legally-recognized organization, the next thing you will need is a toolkit that will allow you to engage in online activism. This will include a domain name, a website, and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc). It will also include purchasing or developing a range of online activist tools, such as the ability to:
Collect online donations;
Contact members of Congress and / or the media;
Building and manage an email list;
Send text messages;
Develop your own social networking tools for your website;
The cheap versions of these toolkits cost a few hundred dollars a month, and the expensive ones cost a few thousand. You can also develop your own tools, but that takes a huge amount of technical know-how and hundreds (or thousands) of hours of work.
Use your message to starting getting people to join your organization. Phew! All of the annoying structural work is out of the way. Now, its time to begin operations.
The next step is to use your glorious message to start getting people to join your organization. So, you need to start getting your message out there, always with an eye on convincing people to join your cause:
Social networking. Using your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other accounts, create content that gets people to become a supporter, a follower, or a regular viewer.
Blogs. Create content on your website that gets people coming back for more. This can get you regular readers and, if you put a splash page on your website, allow you to collect their email addresses.
Also, develop a network of allied bloggers who will link to your website, and help distribute your content. Note that just emailing these bloggers with boring content, or with content unrelated to their website, will not get them to help distribute your message. Also note that regularly telling these bloggers how much they utterly and completely suck will probably not get them to help distribute your message.
Allied netroots organizations. Another good technique is to work with allied netroots organizations on a single action or long-term campaign. If you join together in a fight, and if you give proper disclosure, then you can often share the information of the people who take part in that fight.
Again, note that telling other organizations how, despite their good intentions, they are unbelievably wretched at what they do, will probably make them less likely to work with you.
Search engine optimization. Use SEO techniques to get your website highly ranked on keyword searches relevant to the purpose of your organization. For example, when people are looking for information on progressive candidates or progressive policies, you want your website to appear high on their searches. This way, like-minded people will see what you are doing, and join your group.
Online ads. If you have some start-up cash, you can use online advertising to attract interested parties to your your website and join your cause. There are lots of ways that you can micro-target your online ads to reach just the type of people you are looking for.
Producing and distributing your message like this is going to take a lot of work and practice. You are either going to need to do it full-time yourself, or find a group of several volunteers who can collectively do the work of a full-time employee. If you can't manage either, then I would strongly recommend at least one full-time employee.
Make a difference. Now that you have a purpose, a legal structure, the ability to engage in activism, and a lot of followers, the fifth and final step is to start making a damn difference.
Get the candidates you endorse to really inspire people. Turn the candidates you oppose into major villains. Take stances on issues other politicians ignore, but lots of people are demanding. Raise money. Hold House parties. Organize big rallies. Run hard hitting ads that go viral. Start getting media mentions. Flip votes in Congress. Start winning elections. Pass legislation.
Whatever you do, start a fight relevant to the purpose of your organization, show people that you are engaging the type of fight they like, and demonstrate you can make progress on that fight. Once you do that, then your members will help you generate all of the resources and new followers you need to keep operating.
Viola! You now have a successful netroots organization.
At this point, it is likely that you will stop complaining about other netroots organizations. This is because you will be perpetually overworked and under-resourced, and really won't have any time to do that. Also, you like working with allies and enjoy learning from colleagues, so you don't want to burn bridges. Perhaps most importantly, you can actually benefit from the suckitude of other organizations. While others sell-out and remain consistently ineffective, you will be making a difference by staying true to the progressive masses. Why would you want to give away the secrets of your success for free? Better to not complain at all, and let your success do the talking.
Good luck. All of my advice is given in complete seriousness. It won't be easy--it is a crowded marketplace. All of these steps take a lot of work, specialty knowledge, practice and time. Sometime, even then, failure is still common (I know this from personal experience). Still, it can be done, and it is very rewarding when it works. Even if you don't do it for your career, don't give up right away. You will always remember the time you spent doing this work.
Update: Some of the meta comments that had shrunk to about one inch of width have been deleted in order to make this diary readable again.