Written Evaluations – How Do You Know if You Are Improving?

If you’re serious about fighting for freedom in your area, you must get serious about tracking your organization’s progress too.

Having been involved in extremely long legislative sessions for years, I know that there comes a point when you just about don’t care about what happens to your bill anymore and you just want the session to end.

Campaigns are worse.

When the session or the campaign is finally over, all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a week with your phone and computer turned off.

I get it. But it’s not time to take a break, not yet.

That’s because you’ve forgotten the final part of your months-long project: the written evaluation!

Evaluations are absolutely essential for the successful political activist who is always looking to improve his skills, which we all should be trying to do.

So whether you direct a municipal effort to ban red light cameras, run a state-wide non-profit political organization, or are directing federal level campaigns –- before you take that much needed break, write it all down!

It’s Not Just About Fault Finding

Of course if you made a mistake you need to take note of that so it doesn’t happen again.

But it’s important that you understand your written evaluation isn’t just about what went wrong, and it’s certainly not an attempt to unduly ascribe blame.

It’s also about what went right!

It’s vital to learn from our mistakes. But when you do good work, it’s equally important to take note of what worked well so you can do that again –- preferably faster, cheaper, and more efficiently.

The Big Picture

There are lots of ways to break down your evaluation. The evaluations I write for one of the organizations I work for, Iowa Gun Owners, are broken down into a macro and micro look at what happened.

So at the macro level, you want to write out a:

*** Political overview; what is the status of the legislation you’re seeking to advance or stop? How closely are you adhering to the indirect path to power you’ve been trained in? Did you get a roll-call vote?

*** Organizational health overview; how many new emails did we add to our list this session? How many new donors? How many volunteers? Where did you acquire these new names from? What’s the plan to increase this?

*** Fundraising overview; how much money did we raise? Where did that come from? What areas of your program budget went unfunded? How do you intend to do a better job at this in the future?

*** Staff/Volunteer overview; everyone has unique skill sets and areas of interest. Within the area that they are supposed to cover, how well are your people doing? How well are you doing? What did you do wrong? What did you do right? Is there a specific plan to improve?

This summary overview may only take a page or two to complete. It provides a concise 30,000 foot view of your efforts for that legislative session or campaign.

Details, Details, Details…

Once we’ve completed the macro review, we get down into the details! This is where we really learn what went right or wrong -– helping us to always improve.

You want to delve into the topics listed above while it’s fresh. Trust me, it’s very hard to recreate this after a 6-month break!

Political details to consider include: bill numbers and links to actual legislation you worked to support or defeat, links to any roll-call votes on those bills, specific lists of legislators who voted wrong on your issue and who are in districts you may operate in soon, and anything else that you may need to look up later.

Organizational details to include: of the new names you picked up this session, how many came from the mail? How many from email? How many from social media?

If they came from the mail, which mailing and on what issue did they get involved?

If they came from social media, what was the issue that got them involved?

How did you get volunteers to get involved? What worked, what didn’t, and why?

Throughout all of this you need to write down what you need to do to increase these numbers next time!

Fundraising details to include: of the money you raised, where did it come from? Did you ask people for money in person? Did it come from mail, from email, or through social media?

If your group is mature enough to run a regular mail program, you need to be tracking as many details as possible about each mailing.

The same goes with your email program -– track as much information as possible. Did you do a round of emails this year that did great at raising money? Can you simply replicate that next year? Why or why not?

What is your plan to raise even more money next year or legislative session so that you can hold even more bad politicians accountable during the next election?

Personnel/staff details to include: this one will be difficult if you’re honest about it. What did you do wrong? Did you stay true to the indirect path to power?

Did you agree to a political compromise and give politicians political cover as a result?

Are you improving at copy writing? Are you improving at fundraising? How about list building?

Then you need to look at your people — staff and volunteers. Are there folks within your organization that need to be pushed to do even more because they are excelling where they are?

Are others making it increasingly clear that they simply do not get our confrontation model -– or worse -– that are actively trying to sway you and others into access based politics?

Either way, these are things that you need to take note of.

What’s the Point?

My goal, and I’m sure it’s yours as well, is to constantly be improving my skills as a political activist.

If I’m doing something right, I want to do that again and do it faster, cheaper, and with less time having to be spent.

Of course if I’m doing something wrong -– I want to never do that again.

The written evaluation is the ONLY way to make sure that you are making steady progress at improving your skill set and streamlining your operation -– there are just too many details to trust to your memory!

What’s more, once you’ve put in the time to complete a thorough written evaluation, you’ll find that it has one more benefit to you as well: it sets up your planning phase for the next session or campaign!

Our evaluation process makes it that much easier for us to lay out a written plan of action for the next session, election, or major project for our organization.

We specifically intend to repeat what works, fix what doesn’t, and do it all faster than last time. And, since we have it all written down, we don’t just think it works -– we know it does!

If you’ve been involved in the fight to defend our constitutional freedoms for more than about five minutes, you know exactly how difficult it can be at times.

The other side seems to always have the rules in their favor, and they always have more money than our side does.

So if you’re willing to step out onto the political battlefield and contend for our freedoms, you owe it to yourself to constantly be improving your skills.

That starts with the written evaluation. So take some time when the session ends to start writing!

If you need more specific help with this or any other component of your organization’s development, or want to schedule a 1-day training seminar in your area, please contact me!