Take Back the House Party

Host Guide

This November, a year out from the 2018 elections, Swing Left is releasing its One-Year Plan to Take Back the House. The weekend of November 10th–12th we’ll welcome people into our living rooms to review the Plan and kick off the next phase of our campaign. We’ve already done a lot of work talking to voters, building our movement, and refining our program, but now, a year out from these critical elections, we must come together again to prepare for the busy year ahead.

House parties are always a great way to expose new people to Swing Left and encourage them to get involved. During Take Back The House parties, we will watch a new Swing Left video (to be released the first week of November) and review the details of the one-year plan. This will serve as an introduction for people who are new to Swing Left, and will help to re-engage those who haven’t been as active the past few months.

Make sure that everyone at your event commits to taking a next step - whether it is raising money for the eventual Democratic nominee or signing up for an upcoming canvass. The time for sitting on the sidelines is over!

As a host, you don’t need to have a perfect grasp of our 2018 strategy as long as you are prepared to share key points and facilitate a productive discussion. This guide and our trainings give you everything you need to do this successfully.

Note: If you want to turn your party into a fundraiser, make sure to also read the guidelines for hosting fundraisers.

What's in this Guide

  1. Getting Ready for Your Party
  2. During Your Event
  3. After Your Party
  4. Resources

Getting Ready for Your Party

Start recruiting

Once you have created your event in Action Network, you can start recruiting for your event. Swing Left will send out emails to other volunteers near your event to help you, but you shouldn’t rely on us! Filling your living room is a lot easier than it may seem. Just put together a list of friends and neighbors and give them a call. Read this recruitment guide for more tips on how to get started.

Review the materials

The more comfortable you are with the materials, the more prepared you will feel on the day of your event. Review the detailed agenda below and share it with anyone helping run the party. Read carefully over the Swing Left One-Year Plan so you're familiar with all of the key components and are ready to talk about it during your event. If you have questions about the content, join one of our trainings and we will walk you through everything step by step.

Attend a training

It is a great idea to attend one of our online host trainings even if you feel comfortable with all of the materials. These trainings are an opportunity to ask questions about the host guide and hear about other best practices for organizing a successful party. Click here to sign up for an upcoming webinar and to find the recordings and slides from past webinars.

Prepare and arrange your space

You don’t need a big space to host a party. If you don’t have enough couches and chairs for people, ask one of your RSVPs who lives nearby if they can bring some extras. You can even put out some comfy pillows for the younger guests. Here are a few other things you may want to do to set up your space:

  • Buy or make snacks and beverages if you’d like to provide some (although it’s certainly not required). Feel free to ask your attendees to bring a snack to share.

  • Find some butcher paper or sticky chart paper so that you can write up the agenda and party goals for everyone to see.

  • Set up the Swing Left video on your TV or computer so that it is ready for you to just press play when you get to that part of your agenda.

Print and organize materials

You don’t need to print everything, but having a few things to hand out to your guests is always helpful. Here is a list of documents we recommend printing before your event:

During Your Event

As a host, you are an ambassador for the movement. But that’s a lot easier than it sounds. Just remember these important tips:

Be inclusive and connect with guests

Talk to each person when they arrive, and sign them in. Introduce people to each other and spend some time genuinely getting to know your guests.

Stay organized

Start on time and try to stick to your agenda. It’s fine to keep questions and answers short (or ask people to save them until the end) so that you don’t keep everyone too late - your guests will respect that you have a plan and are prepared. Consider delegating tasks to other people and dividing up the agenda so that you’re not the only one doing all the talking.

Share your story

Sharing personal stories is the best way to build connections. Each of us has a compelling story that helps others understand why we were motivated to get involved. These stories can be a powerful way to inspire others to take action. So before your house party, spend some time thinking about your story. During your event, share your story and ask others to share as well.

Be positive and constructive

There’s enough bad stuff in the news - don’t spend your whole conversation talking about how the world is coming to an end. This is an opportunity to inspire people to get involved and fight for change.

Make a strong pitch and get commitments

Asking people to do something can be tough. But remember: You are doing this because it matters. Not everyone will say yes, but you won’t know for sure until you ask. And if they say no to one thing, make sure they know there are lots of ways to pitch in, from knocking on doors to fundraising.

Detailed Party Agenda

These are example times. Please edit based on the schedule for your party.

6:00pm Arrival and Introductions

  • Give people a few minutes to mix and mingle. When you are ready to begin, start by introducing yourself and your motivation for having the party. Share your story.

    Pro tip: Try to avoid focusing too much on things in the news or how much you dislike Trump. Instead, share something personal about why you decided to get involved.

  • Spend 20–30 minutes asking others to share their stories. If you have a small group (fewer than 10), try going around the room and asking everyone to share. If you have a larger group, you can instead ask everyone to find and share with a partner (or just turn to the person next to them). Start the discussion by asking a few guiding questions:

    • What is motivating you to do this work right now?

    • Is there a policy issue that has a direct impact on your life right now? How will taking back the House affect you personally?

  • Keep track of time and try to wrap up story telling and introductions within 30 minutes. If you feel like the conversation is going really well and everyone is engaged, it is OK to run a bit long but remember that you need to make your pitch before everyone leaves!

6:30pm Campaign

  • Play Swing Left’s new Video. This should help transition everyone from the more conversational part of the evening into a strategy discussion.

  • Once the video has ended, spend a few minutes talking through Swing Left’s plan. You don’t have to have it all memorized, but you should have taken some time to read through it before your event so that you feel comfortable discussing.

  • Share some information specific to your district. You can find some on your District Primer.

6:45pm Getting Commitments & Planning Next Steps

  • Hand out the Take Action sheet (coming soon) and spend 3–5 minutes explaining to your guests how they can get involved:

    • Host a House Party: Ask your guests to step up to host their own party and recruit from their own personal networks. We are all Swing Left ambassadors, and by bringing more people together to learn about the Swing District(s) near us and opportunities to take action, we’ll exponentially grow the movement.

    • Host a Swing Left Fundraiser: Districts Funds put money aside today to give Swing District Democrats a boost the day they become the official nominee. This model is new for the 2018 midterm elections, and it holds the potential to be a game changer in swinging individual seats and the House at large. Ask your guests to donate or host a fundraiser with their friends. Read the guidelines for hosting a fundraiser to learn more.

    • Attend or Host a Voter Contact Event. Talking to voters is one of the most important things we can do to influence Swing District elections, particularly because turnout in midterm House races is traditionally so low and the margins of victory are narrow. Tell your guests to sign up for a phone bank or canvass and start talking to voters in their Swing Districts. If there are no events scheduled in your District, work together to plan one!

  • After you have outlined the ways in which your guests can take action, take 10 minutes to plan next steps using this worksheet. Set a goal for how many people you want to recruit to host their own events. If you have a large group, see if you can fill up the calendar over the next 4 months! Remember, not everyone needs to attend an event each week but more events on the calendar means more new people will have an opportunity to get involved! Here are a few ways to get more people to commit to an action:

    • Make a "Hard Ask." Making a strong pitch is one of the most important parts of the party, so be sure to read our tips for making a hard ask below and practice!

    • Share commitments out loud. Instead of asking everyone to do things as a group, go around the room and ask people one-by-one what their next action will be. Start with yourself, say what your next action will be, then turn to the person next to you and have them state their next action, and so on. Take notes so you can follow up with people and hold them accountable.

    • Write it down. Ask your guests to fill out their worksheets. Putting pen to paper is a great way to make a tentative plan feel more concrete. If there are already future events on your District calendar, make sign-up sheets for each event by writing the dates and times up on a piece of butcher paper (or a just a regular piece of paper) and make sure people sign up for a next event. Ask when they first sign in and then again before they leave!

    • Make it visual (optional). Before your event, draw out a big calendar on butcher paper (you can use a different piece of paper for each month). During your party, pass out sticky notes and tell your guests to write down their commitments. If they are going to host an event, ask them to write down the date they are considering and the type of event. Then ask everyone to put their sticky notes up on the butcher paper. This is a fun way to create a colorful calendar that demonstrates how much you can accomplish when everyone works together!

7:00pm Closing

  • Do a quick closing: Ask each person to share their biggest hope for 2018 in one sentence (and their name again, if it is a big group!).

  • Take a group picture or video that you can share on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (or all three!).

Tips for Making a "Hard Ask"

A hard ask is a way of asking for things that increases the likelihood that someone will say "YES!" As a Swing Left host you’ll ask for lots of things: attend a canvass, host an event, donate to a Swing Left District Fund, etc. With a hard ask more people will commit to taking action after your event.

A hard ask works best when paired with a personal story about why you are taking action. Before making an ask of others, briefly share why you chose to get involved with Swing Left:

"I have affordable health insurance for the first time in my life due to Obamacare. I and hundreds of people like me—probably people you know—will lose access to health care if Trump and the Republicans succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act. We need to elect more Democrats to Congress to serve as a check on Trump’s cruel agenda. That’s why I spent the summer knocking on doors talking to voters, and that’s why I need you join me as the 2018 cycle gears up."

There are three key elements of a strong "hard ask":

Deliberate. Your ask should have a purpose.

Presumably everyone at the house party is there because they want to see the House go blue in 2018, but it’s a good best practice to remind people why their actions matter.

"I’m asking you to donate because handing the Democratic candidate a check once he/she is confirmed as the nominee will give that candidate a huge advantage going into the general election"

Confident. Use direct, assertive language.

"Hosting a phone bank to collect vote pledges is easy, important, and fun! On which date can you commit to host one during the first two weeks in January?"

When possible, try to make an ask that gives people a choice instead of asking yes or no questions. Instead of asking "Can you come canvass with us this weekend?", say “We are canvassing this weekend and doing voter registration next weekend. Which event can I count on you to attend?”

Specific. Ask for something with a specific day, time, and location.

"Can I count on you to join us next Saturday at 11:00am at John’s house to knock on doors and talk to our neighbors about the importance of voting in the midterm elections?"

After Your Party

Ok, so you hosted a great event. Now what? There are a few important steps that you can take to keep the momentum going:

  • Follow up with guests. Send an email thanking everyone for coming. Share a summary of what you discussed and a list of next steps. This is an important part of how we can make sure that people follow through on their commitments.

  • Debrief. Join a Swing Left debrief call (we’ll send you the dates and times for these calls after the weekend of action).

  • Share your success. Sharing stories about your event is a great way to recruit new hosts. Post on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (or all three!). Don’t forget to include #swingleft and #takebackthehouse so that Swing Left can retweet/repost. This is a great way to show everyone what Swing Left's movement to take back the House looks like!

Most importantly, congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Email [email protected] with any questions that you can’t find answers to within these guides. Please include your Swing District in the subject line of your email.