What is Relational Organizing, and Why is it Important?

Every day, phones and laptops are pinging with notifications. With all the noise, it can be difficult for the average person to pay attention to a singular cause. So, how can campaigns, nonprofits, and advocacy groups increase reach and engagement genuinely and effectively? Enter: relational organizing. 


Relational organizing is the single most effective way to make direct contact with supporters, and countless organizations and movements have leveraged relational organizing with great success. Read on to learn more about relational organizing and how it can make a significant impact in any organizing strategy.


What is relational organizing? 

Relational organizing is the act of mobilizing personal contacts within a volunteer’s network. It can be as simple as a call, text, or even a friendly chat at work or a community event — with a single conversation, volunteers can jumpstart action within their community.


More importantly, relational organizing is an authentic way to get people to take action. When a volunteer advocates for a cause, they aren’t only sending a checklist of actions that their contact should take. They’re inviting potential supporters to join an ongoing conversation and movement. Relational organizing is especially important for historically neglected communities because volunteers can help empower change from the ground up within their own networks. 


How can relational organizing magnify impact?

In the largest-ever study on relational organizing, Columbia Data Science Institute found that a text from a friend via Impactive increased an individual’s likelihood to vote by 8.3% in the 2018 midterm elections. The study affirmed that relational organizing is the single most effective way for campaigns to mobilize voters. Each volunteer has tremendous power at their fingertips: each contact they connect with is more likely to take action and can subsequently reach out to their network, kicking off a chain of change.


And although relational organizing is essential for voter mobilization, it can be used for many other forms of action. Nonprofit organizations can leverage relational organizing to increase fundraising impact, as individuals may feel more inclined to donate if a friend or family member reaches out to them. Issue advocacy groups can empower volunteers to organize in their own communities and increase awareness and support about their cause. In any situation that requires effective outreach, a familiar voice is more likely to encourage action. 


Relational Organizing in Action

To maximize impact, relational organizing should be year-round. It takes time and resources to build a robust relational organizing program, and energy should be invested into training supporters continuously. 


But particularly in the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic proved that campaigns need to leverage a diverse array of digital tools to organize people. With in-person activities no longer an option, campaigns transitioned to digital organizing strategies. With other tactics like peer-to-peer texting, digital relational organizing amplified the impact of outreach and delivered victories for trailblazing campaigns up and down the ballot.


Fortunately, new political technology has facilitated an easy transition to digital organizing. Tools like Impactive supported campaigns and organizations as they transitioned to digital strategies for relational organizing and more. In an extremely successful event for voter mobilization, Impactive helped nonprofit organization When We All Vote to reach over 400,000 unregistered voters in just a few hours. Relational organizing is no easy feat, but tools like Impactive made the process swift, efficient, and simple. 


At the heart of relational organizing is connection — connecting with supporters is the most powerful way for volunteers to mobilize their communities and advocate for their cause. For campaigns and organizations looking to increase reach and engagement authentically, relational organizing is the best tactic to use.

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