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Strong relationships are the foundation of good organizing

At the beginning of June, I arrived at my first one-on-one meeting feeling nervous and unprepared. About an hour later, I came out of my first one-on-one meeting with an oatmeal raisin cookie, a scheduled house party and a new friend.

During our Summer Organizer training, we were told that organizing is just a fancy word for relationship-building. Halfway through thesummer, I now understand this completely. During these past four weeks, I’ve built relationships with my fellow summer organizers, both in Iowa and across the country, Organizing for America staff members, and all of the great volunteers I get to work with every day.

Ginny, a volunteer from Cedar Rapids, was the woman I had my first one-on-one meeting with. When I spoke to her on the phone to set it up, she seemed a little reluctant. I did all I could to build urgency and enthusiasm before asking her to meet individually, but this didn’t help—when I made the ask, I could feel her cringe as she said, “I guess I can do that…” cautiously. Because of this, I was pretty nervous about actually sitting down with Ginny.

When I finally met Ginny in person, immediately my nerves went away. We sat down and shared a little bit of our own personal stories, and soon I began to see a side of Ginny that I wasn’t exposed to on the phone. She spoke passionately about why she supports President Obama and the importance of starting to grow and strengthen our organization now. All I needed to do was guide her through the conversation, and then the hard ask came naturally: would you like to host a house meeting? Ginny said yes without any hesitation. A few minutes later, we had worked out a day, time and rough agenda for the house meeting.

We continued to chat for a bit longer, and then as we said goodbye in her kitchen, Ginny gave me a hug and told me that I was welcome in her home anytime. This experience reaffirms that there is a clear correlation between strong relationships and successful organizing. I don’t think that any of this would’ve happened had I not taken the time to meet with Ginny that afternoon at her house and made a personal effort to get to know her. A lot of times, asking people to volunteer feels forced, but this felt completely natural. Our first meeting was just the start of our relationship, and I’m sure it will only continue to grow from here as we organize together for the President’s 2012 campaign.

For those of you in the Cedar Rapids area, join Andrea and Ginny at her upcoming house meeting. You can also sign up to host your own event here!
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