Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Courage Campaign Gives the Community a Challenging Fundraising Benchmark for a 2010 Ballot Initiative - You Game?

Today, Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs sent out a memo titled "2010: It's Time to Make a Decision." In it, he reminds the Californian LGBT community that the organization's 700,000 plus membership overwhelmingly voted to return to the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in 2010.

Now, it's up to this same membership and the surrounding community to make it a reality. Rick gives a fundraising benchmark that must be reached in order to proceed to the ballot in 2010. The money will be used to test ballot language, an extremely essential necessity for a successful campaign. If the challenging benchmark is not met, he says that we will have to work for 2012.

So what exactly is the benchmark? What's the challenge that the community needs to take on? Here's the memo in full:
I write to you today with urgency and seriousness. After months of discussion and debate, the time has come to make the tough decision.

In May, 83% of Courage Campaign members said that our organization should work with our partners to place a marriage equality initiative on the ballot in 2010. If the Courage Campaign and our allies in the movement want to initiate the repeal of Prop 8 in 2010, we must make that decision very soon.

Frankly, too much attention has been placed on the political consequences of running an election in 2010 or 2012. The bottom line is that we must begin now to convince the people of California that civil marriage rights should be made available to all people, period. None of us should have to wait one more day to achieve equality at any level.

And while I say that, I also don't want to lose this critical battle. Going to the ballot in 2010 is a decision that obviously comes with potential consequences.

Our members told us to help build the movement, so over the last several months, the Courage Campaign has mobilized 44 grassroots Equality Teams in 23 counties across California. And we've held five Camp Courage trainings in communities from the coast to the Central Valley to train people to be successful organizers. Last weekend alone, 279 activists gathered in East L.A. at the most diverse Camp Courage yet, with tremendous support from the Latino and Asian Pacific Islander communities.

We've also been working with some of the smartest, most experienced campaign professionals in America -- people who ran Barack Obama's campaign, who know California and who can help our movement chart a course to victory. They've given us tough love, great advice and helped us outline the steps necessary to a successful outcome. This team isn't telling us when to initiate the repeal of Prop 8, but they are telling us we need to start now with a persuasion campaign designed to win the hearts and minds of California voters -- no matter which election year we wage the battle.

The Courage Campaign will support a repeal of Prop 8 in 2010 if our members -- together with other major stakeholders involved in this movement -- make a strong commitment to this campaign.

I want to be clear that no one organization can dominate what will need to be an independent, but accountable campaign operation. The Courage Campaign will aggressively support the effort, not run it. A small governing structure should oversee the day-to-day operations -- giving an experienced campaign manager the latitude necessary to make smart, strategic and timely decisions. If a campaign for 2010 materializes, the governing structure should include those who did not necessarily support going to the ballot in 2010, but are necessary and fundamental partners to any campaign to win back marriage equality.

To win, we will need to run a smarter, stronger and more disciplined campaign. The first step in running a winning campaign is to ensure we use the most effective initiative language that a majority of California voters will support. This takes research - expert polling and focus group work that will help us gain the best understanding of the California electorate. And we must begin that research immediately.

Along with our allies, we need to raise $200,000 to conduct this research -- and we don't have much time to raise it. If the Courage Campaign can raise $100,000 and our partners and allies in the movement can raise another $100,000 -- for a total of $200,000 -- we can put the research effort in place and meet the late September deadline recommended by the Secretary of State for filing an initiative for 2010.

We are prepared to ask our members to raise $100,000 to meet our commitment to this goal. We are willing to ask the Courage Campaign community to make this commitment because they expressed their support for going to the ballot in 2010 by such an overwhelming margin.

If we can make this community fundraising goal, we can move forward. If we can't make this community fundraising goal, then we will have to accept that the movement is not ready to produce the funding and resources necessary to support a campaign to repeal Prop 8 in 2010. And we will have to wait until 2012 to bring marriage equality to the ballot again.

Our people-powered organization is ready to win, but we are faced with the reality of these deadlines. If we want to convince a majority of our fellow Californians to support full civil marriage rights in 2010, the marriage equality movement has to stand up and commit to the cause now.

Now this is something tangible that the community can get behind.

Part of the sound and valid objections to returning to the ballot in 2010 is that the economy will make fundraising extremely difficult and that donations will dry up. If the community can meet the goal of raising $100,000 through Courage Campaign, and $200,000 as a whole, then this could be a sign that the unity and commitment that is needed to win may just be growing.

Of course, so much more work and fundraising will still need to be completed. Courage Campaign's Sarah Callahan told Unite the Fight each volunteer would need to work 20 hours a week for the last 12 weeks of the campaign if we were to move forward in 2010 (and that's not counting all the other months.)

That's everyday folks willingly stepping up to take up the task, giving up pay from their day jobs, and time for themselves, friends and family among many other sacrifices. A 2010 ballot will demand the continual unity, hard work and commitment from the community in order for it to pass.

More benchmarks will need to be set in order to gauge the progress. This will be a subject addressed at this Sunday's Next Steps Summit, a working meeting at which Courage Campaign is participating.

Rick Jacobs told Unite the Fight that if this fundraising benchmark is not met, then "the money that is raised will be used towards the continued work of repealing Proposition 8."

So, it's a win-win situation. An email will be sent out to all members tomorrow with a link to the donation page.

You game?


  1. Um, seriously, the deadline for submitting the ballot language is September 23 (or is that 25?), in any case ... in any case just around 50 days from now.

    So, sorry to be skeptical, but they're going to try and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and then first conduct RESEARCH as to the ballot language? WTF?

    This after the $80,000 spent on a poll that basically told us nothing. One thing it DID clarify is that with the religious exemption stated in the ballot language, support went up by 3 or 4 percentage points.

    So what's to research? The school cirriculum language is obviously too controversial to touch with a pole or poll. The religious exemption language is a no-brainer.
    How many hundreds of thousands will it take to parse the 30 or so words of the ballot language that have been gone over and over again by organizations large and small, among them the Courage Campaign itself?

    I am baffled. No, outraged.

    I'd certainly contribute as large a chunk of change as I can manage ... to the Campaign. But not a single cent more for absurd, useless research.

    Enough. And time is short. Too short for such an ill-considered endeavor in any event.

    Get the lawyers of the Courage Campaign and EQCA to revise the 30 words as appropriate. Even at lawyer rates, we'll come in way under $200,000.

    It's no secret those are the only big players in this game. If EQUA is still waffling on 2010, that leaves it in the laps of the Courage Campaign ... and this is their expensive suggestion to punt?!?

    This is crazy!

  2. Boy, this is a risky move. I'm in favor of a benchmark approach like this, but the word "benchmark" is a real lightning rod right now. After the Summit (the one where everyone got pissed off), there was a lot of hostility to a benchmark approach.

    That surprised me, but I can kind of see where the opponents of benchmarks are coming from: the 2010 people are afraid that committing to a specific goal will give the 2012 people something to sabotage.

    This doesn't seem like a majority view to me -- in general, I see a lot of people trusting each other and working in good faith. We need more of that. Trust. Good faith. Trust. Good faith. Or respect, empower, include, as the Obama teams would say.

  3. It will be fascinating to see whether CC will be able to raise the money. I'll be surprised if they do. I think there is a HUGE cultural and generational divide between the 2010 and the 2012 folks. To make it worse, both sides think they can "win" without the other.

    From what I hear/read, the biggest obstacle to going in 2010 is our own disunity and disorganization, which is deep and profound. If we are going to manage a immensely difficult State-wide campaign in the same way we conducted ourselves in San Bernardino, we deserve to lose!

  4. How is this "something tangible the community can get behind" ?

    $200k is a meaningless number. How will they get the signatures in time? How will they build a strong, diverse coalition of people in time?

    I attended camp courage, I thought it was amazing. That is the kind of work that needs to continue, but I stand with the marjority of experts and long standing organizations that 2010 is just a logistical nightmare.