How does MVP identify and select local partners?
Our work is grounded in supporting organizations that do year-round local organizing work and voter mobilization work during election cycles, with a strong emphasis on people of color and youth organizations. We focus on local organizations that are rooted in their community, led by people who reflect that community, and those who are most impacted by the injustices we are fighting. These include well-established local anchor organizations, issue and constituency specific networks, organizations leaning into electoral work for the first time, and new and emerging groups that have recently formed or may be on the cusp of launching. We have built an extensive map of more than 500 movement groups involved in voter engagement and turnout and we are constantly scouting for additional groups alongside our state advisors and movement partners.
Step 1: Identifying Key Geographies
The MVP team works to identify the geographies in most critical need of investment during any election cycle.
- In each geography, we weigh key races, such as the Presidency, US Senate seats, US House seats, state executive races, state chamber flip opportunities, key local races (mayors, district attorneys, city councils, sheriffs, etc.), and ballot measure campaigns. In 2020, priority races include President, US Senate, and key state chambers that will impact redistricting after the 2020 census.
- We draw on in-depth political analysis and aggregated polling coupled with the insights from our national and state advising teams.
- Where possible, we look for investment opportunities with multiple and layered key electoral races.
- Based on our analysis of electoral priorities and organizational capacity, we cluster states in tiered priorities and develop individual state-by-state investment targets. We work to thoughtfully balance the critical need to make hard choices on how to deploy limited financial resources for the greatest impact, while not writing off any community, and we develop investment strategies that work towards achieving critical wins this cycle and building power long-term for future opportunities.
Step 2: Vetting Individual Groups
In our priority states, we have skilled state advisors who bring years of experience focused on local, in-state movement building and political campaign work to lead our vetting process. As each MVP advisor develops a comprehensive list of possible groups to support in the states they are overseeing, they are building profiles of each group and working to answer several key questions:
- Quality of vote work: Are they doing well-targeted vote work? How is their voter engagement strategy planned and implemented? Are their goals achievable? How do they track their progress? Are they developing new strategies or experimenting with new approaches to voter persuasion or mobilization?
- Connection between vote work and year-round organizing: How do they connect their vote work to year-round organizing and power building efforts? How do their mobilization efforts feed into building ongoing community engagement? Have they shown success with translating electoral victories into policy, regulatory, or other reforms directly benefiting their communities, or do they have plans to do so?
- Constituency and issue priorities: Who does the group organize, represent, and engage? What issues are they working on? Are they working in underfunded communities or with people of color? Are they youth-led? Does their leadership reflect the communities they work in?
- Place in the movement ecosystem: What role do they play within the local, state, and national movement ecosystem? We generally categorize each potential group in one of three roles: leader, established, or emerging. We feel it is critical to invest in all types of groups and so aim to understand if they are a leader or anchor of the work, an established key player in one or more movement networks, the only one engaged in a particular community or issue, a new and emerging group, or serving in another role. How might supporting their work impact other groups?
- Financial need and growth potential: What is their budget for their planned vote work and how much remains to be raised? What capacity do they have to scale with additional funding? Is there evidence that they will be good stewards of the funding they receive?
MVP state advisors review plans, budgets, and reports on the progress of all groups that we have previously supported annually with ongoing monitoring and updating as circumstances change. We review plans and budgets for new and emerging groups on an ongoing basis. We also do deep reference checking with key movement leaders, national networks, other funders, and peers to compare information collected directly from each group with the insight of others. Based on this review, we determine whether to recommend each possible group for funding.
Step 3: Prioritization of Investments
MVP’s advising team establishes priorities for each state and each recommended group based upon our overall national goals and the state of play nationally and state-by-state, as well as the mobilization capacity, potential impact, and financial need of each group in the context of local, statewide, and national movement ecosystems. MVP works closely with other funder partners to get a full picture of how investments are being made and make sure we are doing the best job to fill critical gaps that may not be prioritized by other partners. We are continuously evaluating how much each state ecosystem needs, how much has MVP and other funders have already given to a state, and where there are crucial investment gaps.
This Is How We Win
There is a lot of research on best practices around voter mobilization and how to optimize door-to-door canvassing, person-to-person texting, phone-banking, relational organizing, and social media. It shows a range of costs and impacts. The science is not perfect, but understanding the ranges and current best practices is critical. Our aim is to find groups that we believe have the potential to create, refine, and implement best practices in voter contact and base building. In some cases, the groups are mature and have documented results. In other cases, with new or less mature groups, we make considered investments based on potential and we monitor closely. We also support them and drive that quality up even further with our Movement Match capacity building program, which matches groups to proven movement resources, such as trainers and coaches, and provides grants for groups to gain access to the tools they need to level up. Like great venture capitalists, sometimes we bet on the business plan and sometimes we bet on the team. But in all cases, our investments are based on a deep knowledge of organizing best practices and local conditions on the ground. By combining our most up-to-date knowledge of mobilization best practices with the professional judgment of state advisors with deep field experience and knowledge of their specific state ecosystems, we are building a movement to win in 2020 and beyond.