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College & University

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”
specifically for your College chapter. 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 to get youth involved in the
political process and committed to Democrats from an early age. 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

It has been proven that engaging young people from an early age, even before they are of legal voting
age, they will continue to turn out consistently throughout their lifetime. 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

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, future 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, and future 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 and for College students and
the under 18 population the “PLEDGE TO REG” program to expand and develop our member base in all
50 states. It has been found that if young people pledge to register and/or vote for Democrats, they are
more likely to follow through, 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 and raise awareness 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 College 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 may 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.

The YDA College Caucus

The Young Democrats of America College Caucus serves to advocate for and represent college students
to the Young Democrats of America.

As part of the Young Democrats of America the members of the College Caucus represent college
students at all levels of the Democratic Party. The organization claims a substantial percentage of
YDA’s membership with about 50,000 college students.

The College Caucus empowers college students to get involved in the American political party system.
The College Caucus engages students on their campus and gives back to their communities through
community service projects and campaigns. College Democrats train themselves and others in the
ways of leadership, to become leaders both now and in the future, in their communities, in the
Democratic Party, and in our nation.

The national College Caucus is headed by an Executive Board, with a National Committee consisting of
representation from different regions. YDA’s College Caucus leadership consists of a National Chair,
an Executive Vice Chair, a Vice Chair for Political Affairs, and Vice Chairs for West Coast Development
and East Coast Development.
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, glimpse of what your chapter will develop into, and
the type of involvement and action that your members can be a part of. You can begin
developing your chapter’s mission and goals for the year, begin planning how you will recruit
and retain new members, and brainstorm events you want to have to kick off your chapter.

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 own chapter. At your first few meetings it is important to discuss
with your members what their goals for your individual chapter are for this year 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 and invested in your chapter’s
purpose, 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.

YDA On Your Campus

A YDA College chapter will function as the center of Democratic politics on your College
campus and be the primary place for you and your fellow students to become active Young
Democrats. Your chapter will help you and your peers become responsible and active citizens,
acquire important leadership and speaking skills, and help influence the politics of your
campus and your community.

Sample Agenda (first one or two meetings depending on t ime):

I. Introductions/Icebreaker Activity and Sign in Sheet
• Be sure to do these at every meeting in case you have new members or visitors!
II. Discussion of Your Chapter’s Mission and Goals and How They Relate to YDA
III. Discussion of Chapter’s Possible Structure
• Leadership, members, meetings, etc
IV. Take Ideas for Your First Campaign or Event
V. Recruitment Plan for New Members
• Everyone bring 2 friends!
VI. Issue Spotlight
• This should happen at every meeting where you highlight or update on an issue that is
currently hot in Democratic politics
VII. Announcements
• These should also be at every meeting
VIII. Adjourn

Recruitm ent of m em b ers

Membership recruitment is vital to our organization because it allows us to engage young
people in the process and to become Democratic voters. 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. It will also be important to build coalitions with other like minded clubs and
organizations on your campus. These other groups can work with you on events and
fundraisers, and help you build your own membership. These partnerships will also remind
your members and other students at your school that your chapter of the YDA College Caucus
cares about issues concerning your community as well as candidates.

Recruitment Best Practices:

• Reach out to friends, classmates, and teammates
• Social Networking Sites: Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, etc
• Announcements on your schools newspapers and publications
• School orientations, events, and club fairs
• Tabling in popular areas: lunch time, big sports games, etc
• Announcements in your classes
• Post fliers on your campus bus stops

Coalition B uilding
• Attend the meetings of like minded clubs and organizations on campus
• Team up with other club’s projects or events- do a beach clean up with an
environmental club, a community service project with a student of color organization,
or a poetry slam with a creative writing or art club.
• Have joint events. Share the costs and have double the turnout by co-sponsoring

Retentio n
Keeping your members engaged and active in your chapter is also essential in not only the
growth and development of your chapter, but also in keeping your chapter strong and long
lasting. You will need a strong core of returning members to lead campaigns and events, and
ensure that your chapter outlives your leadership when you graduate. By developing leaders
out of your younger members, you can be confident that your chapter will continue on the path
that you and your original members will have paved.
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 from your members; they will help when asked!
• Have one-on-one meetings with new members to identify interests, passions, skills,
and personal goals. Have Juniors and Seniors team up with Freshmen and Sophomores
and mentor them so they will be able to lead the chapter in years to come
• Give opportunity for members to give ideas for programming that they can “own”, take
charge of and carry through.

Retention Best Practices:

• Keep in mind why YOU joined or created a Young Democrats chapter
• Make the chapter’s work/efforts meaningful
• Have a clear purpose for your chapter
• Assign roles to other members to build investment
• Make sure your chapter is based on actions- not just meetings
• Make sure you are spending your time efficiently
• Follow up with calls and thank you cards
• Hold meetings at convenient times. Make sure they don’t conflict with popular classes
or other extracurricular activities
• Have fun! Hard and meaning work often leads to this. A purely social group wont last.
• 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.

Ev ents
On a College campus events are largely what you will use to recruit members, get publicity for
your chapter, and to get your members active on your campus and in your community. It is
important to host your own events, and to make your group visible at other school events.

Hosting Your Own Events

• Community Service projects
• Speaker forums
• Debates
• Have a Friday Barbecue for new members
• Discussions or “though-talks” on Democratic issues
• Fundraise

Co-Sponsoring Events
• Have a table at your next big sports event that will attract a lot of attendees
• Co-sponsor a lunch time event or a day of your schools next spirit week
• Host a debate between your chapter and your school’s Republican club.

D emopolis- What’s that?

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 involved?
• 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
• 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 Tim e To Get Go in g!
While building your College chapter, you also want to build leaders that can continue to lead
the Young Voter Revolution. These leaders will be able to build young professional and local
chapters after college and have the experience to run pledge campaigns, host events, mobilize
a large base of Democrats, and use DEMopolis. Don’t just stop at involvement in your college,
join forces with your local and state chapters for even larger campaigns and events.

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 rem em b er to Keep it Bl ue!

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