Whether they know it or not, many people will have experienced outreach through digital organizing efforts — maybe it was an email prompting them to sign a petition or an Instagram post informing them of an upcoming protest in their local city. Digital organizing takes many forms, and it’s now one of the core practices of many progressive organizations and Democratic campaigns.
The first step to leveraging digital organizing is to understand what it is. Here’s an overview of digital organizing and why it’s important:
What is digital organizing?
Digital organizing is the process of using technology to mobilize people. Organizing teams coordinate with people digitally to achieve goals and expand progress for an issue or cause. As mentioned, digital organizing can encompass many actions. It can look like volunteer coordination or outreach through email and texting campaigns; it can even be as simple as sharing important information, like election day reminders that help people understand their voting rights.
There are many tools and technologies that are used for digital organizing — some tools are built solely to support campaigns and organizations organize online, like Impactive, and others are everyday platforms that are used by organizing teams to help facilitate easier lines of communication between people, like Facebook.
It’s important to note that digital organizing isn’t only about being online. All the same principles of impactful organizing apply while mobilizing digitally. Organizing teams need to conduct meaningful and authentic outreach and continuously empower their communities. Digital organizing does, however, increase the communication methods that organizers can use to reach out to people around them.
Why is it important?
Digital organizing is significant for several reasons but most importantly, it naturally adapts organizing principles to the digital landscape most people are already in. The United States has over 313 million internet users, which means over 90% of the population has access to the internet. As the world of technology has grown, so has the subsection of software that supports campaigns and organizations manage and execute their operations smoothly.
Digital organizing is also important because it expands the ability of organizing teams to accomplish more without compromising on quality. For example, door-to-door canvassing is a guaranteed way to start genuine conversations with people within the community. But when door knocking isn’t a feasible option (for example, during a global pandemic), peer-to-peer texting is a popular and efficient way to conduct outreach to supporters or voters in a target community. Organizing teams can text multiple contacts in just a few minutes and jumpstart conversations that are just as authentic as face-to-face interactions.
In fact, digital communication can be a better option to pursue at times. People who feel more comfortable conducting outreach via text can see this as a more suitable volunteer option than in-person conversations. Or, if someone has a physical disability and has difficulty attending canvassing events, they can easily make a strong impact by participating in text banks.
Digital Organizing in Action
Digital organizing is necessary for campaigns and organizations of all sizes. In 2020, Mauree Turner led a successful campaign to become the first publicly non-binary elected official in the United States and the first Muslim member of the Oklahoma Legislature. Mauree Turner’s campaign used Impactive to mobilize voters for their win; volunteers for the campaign sent peer-to-peer texts and friend-to-friend texts to facilitate conversations with over 10,000 people, which played a key role in securing Turner’s victory.
Ultimately, digital organizing is one of the best ways to meet supporters and voters where they are — online. It increases accessibility and streamlines operations for organizing teams, and as more campaigns get innovative with ways to mobilize people, digital organizing will only continue to grow.