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Welcome guide

Building a Generation of Young

Voters for Democrats:
Activating and Strengthening Your Chapter
Dear Young Democrats,

On behalf of YDA’s National Leadership and Staff, I am thrilled to introduce the “YDA Welcome Guide.”
We hope this guide serves as an invaluable resource for you and your chapter as you continue to be a
part of our Young Voter Revolution.

YDA recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and it is an exciting time to be a Young Democrat.
Throughout YDA’s history we have made an important impact on local, state, and national elections,
and have built key networks of friends and colleagues around the country. YDA has transformed itself
into a political powerhouse that builds chapters, recruits activists, wins key races, elects Young
Democrats to office, and transforms the political culture.

Young voters will be nearly 50 million strong in 2008, the largest number since 1972. What does this
mean for you and other young voters? It means we truly are on the verge of a real Young Voter

The Young Democrats of America is leading the Young Voter Revolution. YDA’s peer-to-peer young voter
mobilization programs helped elect Democrats up and down the ballot in red and blue states. Time
and time again, when we talk to our friends about what it means to be a Democrat and how issues big
and small impact their daily lives, we see the results. You are the catalyst behind this change. You are
the Young Voter Revolution.

As we compiled this welcome guide, we aimed to provide your chapter with the immediate steps to get
started and to grow and sustain your chapter. The goal here is to empower you to go out and continue
the Young Voter Revolution in your area. We want you to be able to make the difference in your
communities through service projects, engaging young voters for Democrats, and advocating for
issues you care about.

Thank you for your dedication and your commitment. If you have more tips or creative tools you think
would be useful to include in future manuals, please send them to us at

Keep it Blue,

David Hardt
YDA President
Introduction to the Young Democrats of America
Building Infrastructure For The Young Voter

The Young Democrats of America (YDA) is the nation’s largest youth-led, partisan, political
organization. YDA mobilizes young people under the age of 36 to participate in the electoral
process as voters, activists, leaders, and candidates. The Young Democrats of America has
been the official youth arm of the Democratic Party since 1932, and is considered a non-
federal 527 political organization.

YDA has over 2,000 local chapters in all 50 states with over 200,000 members, including
middle school, high school, and college students, young workers, young professionals, and
young families, reflecting the broad diversity of our nation and the Democratic Party. Our
programs engage Young Democrats through their local county, college, or middle and high
school chapters, through state and regional programming, and nationally through campaigns
and issue advocacy work and at our national conferences and convention.

YDA’s goal is to build a generation of young Democratic voters. Dubbed the Young Voter
Revolution, our campaigns use a tested field model to identify young voters, engage them in
peer-to-peer communication and education, and turn out the vote with traditional and
innovative methods.

YDA is committed to electing Democrats up and down the ballot, in red and blue states, as
well as engaging in electoral strategies around key ballot initiatives. We also work with allied
organizations nationally and in our targeted states to maximize outreach and resources.

Our campaigns utilize an ambitious “VOTE DEMOCRAT” pledge program to expand and develop our
voter contact base in all 50 states. It has been found that if young people pledge to vote for
Democrats, they are more likely to turn out to the polls on Election Day, and more receptive to Get Out
The Vote (GOTV) tactics approaching an election. We then combine paid campaign operations in
targeted areas with volunteer-led programs across the country to get out the youth vote for Democrats.

Infrastructure & Sustainability

The Young Democrats of America is a national organization that connects local and state
chapters to a national organization and movement. All of our local chapters are chartered not
only with the national YDA organization, but also with their state “parent” organization. It is
crucial to charter with your state and remain in contact so that your local chapter can continue
to be engaged in state issues and campaigns, network with other local chapters in your area,
and learn of national campaigns and events that will be disseminated through your state
organization. Each state elects a State President, a National Committeewoman, and a National
Committeeman that represents your local interests to the National Committee of YDA.
Our network of state and local chapters are the key to our organizing efforts. YDA has evolved
our campaign model into a year-round effort to grow and sustain our chapter network with
direct support and staff assistance. You, as a new local chapter leader, have a lot of freedom
to set up and govern your chapter in a way that works best for you and your members while
also supporting YDA’s goals and mission. We strive to make our local chapters stable and long
lasting, with a membership base that is continuously growing and sustained. After building
your initial membership, you will have new members joining through your state’s website, or
the national YDA website, and it is important to engage those new members in the work of your
chapter, ensuring that your chapter outlives you and your initial members.
Developing Your Local Chapter
First meeting
Your first meeting is an important step for your chapter. It will give your initial members an
insight to the Young Democrats of America and a glimpse of what your chapter will develop
into. You can begin developing your chapter’s mission and goals, and begin planning how you
will recruit new members.

Mobilizing yo ur chapter for YDA:

YDA derives its power from its State and Local Chapters. By creating a chapter of the Young
Democrats of America you are mobilizing a group of other Young Democrats that are also
committed to the mission and organizational goals of YDA, but have the opportunity to create a
mission and goals for your local chapter. At your first few meetings it is important to discuss
with your members what their goals for your individual chapter are and how they can be
incorporated with the overall goals of YDA. Beginning to discuss your goals at one of your first
meetings will allow your members to feel engaged in the development of your chapter, and
build a connection between the organization and your members, Remember, this should be
ongoing so that new members can feel as engaged as your core members that have been
involved since the beginning.

Sample Agenda:
I. Introductions/Icebreaker Activity and Sign in Sheet
II. Discussion About YDA and It’s Mission and Goals
III. Discussion About Your Chapter’s Mission and Goals and How They Relate to YDA
IV. Discussion About Chapter’s Possible Structure
V. Take Ideas for Your First Campaign or Event
VI. Plan When and Where Your Next Meeting Will Be and a Recruitment Plan for New Members
VII. Announcements
VIII. Adjourn

Recruitment of members
One of the primary purposes of YDA is to engage and involve young Democratic voters in the
political process. Therefore, the way in which we extend the invitation to join is important. It is
essential to build your base of members and leaders to ensure that you have broad
perspectives when developing your governing documents and your chapter’s mission.
Remember, there is no one-size fits all model for membership recruitment; your methods of
recruitment should be as diverse as your membership base.

Recruitment Best Practices:

• Vote Pledge: not only are you getting young people to pledge to vote for Democrats, but
you can spread awareness about your chapter when getting people to sign the vote
pledge, and then add their information to your chapter’s database.
• Reach out to family and friends
• Social Networking Sites: Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, etc
• Contact your State Chapter to ask if there are other young people who have expressed
interest in a Young Democrats Chapter in your community or in your area.
• Young Professionals gatherings: happy hours, meetings, mixers, etc
• Allied group’s events: League of Independent Voters, the Hip Hop Caucus, MoveOn,
National Stonewall Democrats, Local Labor Unions, etc
• Progressive Organizations: The Urban League, Young People For, Choice USA, Campus
Progress, United States Student Association, etc
• Local School orientations and events
• Tabling in popular areas
• Local Party

Keeping your members engaged and active in your chapter is also essential in the growth and
development of your chapter. You will need a strong core of returning members to lead
campaigns, events, and ensure that your chapter outlives your leadership. By developing
leaders out of your members you can be confident that your chapter will continue on the path
that you and your members had set.

Identifying Leaders:
• Build investment in the organization by giving responsibilities and entrusting new
members so they feel personally connected to the organization and it’s goals
• Give all leaders the opportunity to take on a leadership role over time
• Ask for help
• Have one on one meetings with new members to identify interests, passions, skills,
and personal goals
• Give opportunity for members to give ideas for programming that they can “own” and
take charge of

Retention Best Practices:

• Keep in mind why YOU joined or created a Young Democrats chapter
• Make work/efforts meaningful
• Have a clear purpose
• Assign roles to other members to build investment
• Make sure your chapter is based on action
• Make sure you are spending your time efficiently
• Follow up calls and thank you’s
• Work hard, and then play hard so your members are having fun
Mobilizing your chapter to take action can be achieved in many different ways. We find young
people getting involved and getting their chapter involved through actions including
campaigns, issue advocacy, electoral action, and community service, to name a few. One of
the reoccurring campaigns that YDA runs, and encourages its local chapters to run, is the Vote
Pledge program. The model of the Vote Pledge program is one that your chapter can use for the
planning of many campaigns and events. By outlining the “what” and the “why” you can
clearly state your target, your tactics, and your goals; and using the peer to peer model to build
your membership and your chapter’s database will continue to develop your chapter through

What is a Vote Pledge?

A Vote Pledge is a simple way for you to ask your peer to commit to voting for Democrats and
collect their information so you can remind them to vote on Election Day. The Vote Pledge
Campaign is one that your chapter can begin working on from the start, and not only will you
be working toward the overall mission of YDA but also strengthening your chapter. The concept
is simple: get other young people to pledge to vote for Democrats in the next election.

Why Vote Pledge

Studies have shown that a young person is more likely to show up to vote when a Vote Pledge
is signed. It is a simple way to engage in issue-based conversations and then get a
commitment to vote for Democrats.

We talk to other young people so that we can build a voting bloc of young Democratic voters.
That effort starts when we talk to our peers, who are easier to persuade other young people,
about the issues that are important. We ask them to sign a pledge to vote for Democrats and
then ask them to fulfill their pledge on Election Day.

Collect and Use Information

Collecting these Vote Pledges help you build a database of people to engage and turn out to
vote. Vote Pledges help you collect the most up-to-date and accurate information on those
you’ve spoken with so that you can remind them to vote and turn them out on Election Day.
Not all of these young people will be registered to vote, so you can also get them registered
now that you have their contact information. And, young voters are more likely to show up on
Election Day after multiple contacts from their peers – that’s YOU!

Build Membership
Now that you have information for other young people in your community, you can invite them
to events that your chapter is having and build your membership. The Vote Pledge is a
campaign tool and a membership building tool.
DEMopolis is the online membership management system that YDA uses for all of it’s
communication to state and local chapters, and is able to offer this service free of charge to
all of our chapter leaders

Access to your DEMopolis

When you first went to the YDA webpage and created a new chapter, you also created a page
on our online membership management system for your chapter. To access your chapter’s
• Log in to and use your log in and password that you created
when you created your chapter

Three Important Features to Use in DEMopolis

A. Maintaining Contacts: keeping an accurate list of chapter members and those interested in
your chapter’s events is critical to staying organized and growing your chapter. In DEMopolis
you can:
• Send emails and updates to all of your members
• Lets young people find your chapter through our search engine and join chapters online
• Gives you administrative access to all of the members of your chapter
• Update chapter leaders in DEMopolis and give them access to your account
B. Email Blasts: do you want to email your entire list about upcoming events or how to get
• DEMopolis has “eblast” tools that allow you to message all of your members and
supporters and then check the status of each message
• See how many people open your email and follow any links contained in the message
C. Event Tools: once you have decided to host an event, DEMopolis helps your planning and
follow up stay organized.
• Create and send invitations and track thee attendees of your event
• Host parties, happy hours, campaigns, and meetings
• Send reminders
• Follow up with YDA reporting the success of your events!

Now Its Time To Get Going!

This is just the start! Remember, you are not treading these waters alone. YDA is here and
ready to assist you at anytime. Feel free to contact any of our State Chapters, our Board of
Directors, or our National Staff at anytime.

B est of l uck with your n ew cha p ter, a nd r em em b er to

Keep it Bl ue!