.org Spotlight on League of Young Voters: Real-World Community Building, Online & Off

By Sam Patton, Chief of Staff, League of Young Voters

As Chief of Staff, Sam oversees all national staff to execute the League’s online programming and interfaces with state-based field staff. He has appeared on Huffington Post Live, Bay Area NPR affiliate KQED, and in numerous print publications.

This past weekend, our Texas state director traveled to Dallas for the launch of a new League of Young Voters Fellows program. In Wisconsin, our team toured the correctional facilities where staff have agreed to display our #2ndChances Reenfranchisement posters, aimed at restoring the right to vote for people with records. In D.C., our national brand manager represented the League at the White House for a convening of gun safety advocates.

From coast to coast, our activists are working on the biggest issues facing our generation. And they’re organizing the next generation of American leadership.

According to Wikipedia, .ORG is a truncation of Organization. For the League of Young Voters, no domain extension is more appropriate. At the beginning and end of each day, we organize. We organize love of people and place. We crowdsource courage so that young activists can reach further than they think possible. Our goal is social, racial and gender equality. Our strategy is youth empowerment. And the heart of every tactic is peer-to-peer organizing.

From executing the largest African American voter engagement experiment in history to online social voter technology that has reached 500,000 people in the last three elections, the League relies on real-world community building synchronized with cutting edge systems and social platforms.

We throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall: online broadcasting, Google hangouts, Twitter debates. Celebrity endorsements and peer-to-peer fundraising. To stay competitive, we can’t silo ourselves in a stuffy non-profit environment. For the young communities who are the League of Young Voters’ core constituents, we need to meet them where they live. That means Twitter and Facebook, art and culture, lifestyle and the life pursuit.

In ten years of existence, the League of Young Voters has taken on critical issues representing every facet of youth experience. Gender and equality. Gun violence and juvenile justice. Voting, to produce self and community empowerment.

Our unique model of hybrid online/offline engagement depends on robust and involved youth communities. We host backyard BBQs that produce SMS opt-ins, so that our supporters are never more than a message away from us, and each other.

After a decade of successes and failures, we’ve learned that when people combine the best toolsets with authentic networks, anything is possible. In our line of work, hiccups will happen. Adaptability is key. We have to put our whole selves into our work, and ask the same of our community.

There is a proverb that comes to mind: “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Our goal is not to make YoungVoter.org the destination for youth organizing; it is to make it the starting line.

Editor’s Note: At Public Interest Registry, we love to highlight the great work .orgs all over the world are doing to better their communities every day. We had the honor of working with the League of Young Voters for our recent .org Website Makeover Contest, but always welcome hearing from other .orgs, too! If you’d like to share an interesting story about your .org, feel free to reach out to us at media@pir.org.