At Impactive, we believe wholeheartedly in the efficacy of relational organizing. Anecdotally, our partners report that volunteers are enthusiastic about activating their personal networks, and that friends and family outreach makes tangible progress in pushes to support legislation, GOTV, and more. We’ve also been privileged to partner with rigorous research institutions to quantitatively demonstrate the impact of relational organizing; last year, the largest-ever relational organizing study that we conducted alongside Columbia University’s Data Science Institute found that a text message from a friend via Impactive increased likelihood to vote by 8.3 percentage points in the 2018 midterms.
2020’s unprecedented digital organizing environment offered another opportunity to study the results that relational organizing can generate for campaigns and causes. Community Change Action and the Analyst Institute partnered to conduct a study that explored the effectiveness of relational organizing in building long-term organizing capacity. Excitingly, the results showed that outreach from a friend or family member via Impactive makes a contact 6.5x more likely to sign a petition and 8x more likely to opt-in to an organizing event than if reached by peer-to-peer texting.
Community Change Action (CCA) and its affiliate organizations nationwide aim to “build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change the policies and institutions that impact their lives.” Community Change Action is a longtime partner of Impactive, and has used our tool for years to run a wide variety of digital organizing programs.
For this study, the Analyst Institute partnered with CCA and eight other affiliate organizations: CASA in Action, Michigan Liberation, Michigan People’s Campaign, Mothering Justice, Moses Action, New Jersey Organizing Project, OLÉ, and Plan Action. CCA and the Analyst Institute co-created an experimental design to investigate the effectiveness of relational organizing when used to increase supporter engagement and build long-term organizing power.
Using Impactive, 170 volunteers from CCA and affiliates mapped 3,661 friends and family contacts. These contacts were randomly assigned to either the relational contact condition or peer-to-peer contact condition on Impactive; they received either an SMS message from their personal contact, or an SMS message from a volunteer they didn’t know. These text messages asked contacts to sign an online petition and invited them to attend an online event.
In comparing results from the two experimental groups, the Analyst Institute reached a dramatic conclusion: relational contact (a text message from a friend or family member) made contacts 6.5 more likely to sign the petition and 8x more likely to opt-in to an organizing event than peer-to-peer contact. In short, the study concluded that relational contact is substantially more effective than more anonymous forms of contact in building engagement and support.
This study provided compelling insight into the efficacy of relational organizing beyond the electoral context. We now have significant evidence demonstrating that friends and family contact is highly effective both in boosting voter turnout and in engaging supporters to build long-term organizing power.
We owe many thanks to administrators and volunteers at Community Change Action and researchers at the Analyst Institute for bringing this study to life. Analyst Institute members can read more about the study here. For more on this experiment, and the relational organizing best practices that Community Change Action volunteers developed, watch our webinar on the study results here.