Sole Strategies: People-Powered Politics For Grassroots Campaigns
By Space Coast Daily // September 15, 2022
Running for a political campaign requires a village effort, and finding the right agency to help can be almost just as challenging, especially at a local community level.
When you realize the scope of work involved in a political campaign, you quickly begin to realize why they call it “running for office,” and the team at Sole Strategies understands that better than most.
The people-powered political agency is a woman-and minority-owned organization built by a team of political experts who specialize in strengthening grassroots campaigns at the community level. Their belief that it shouldn’t cost candidates an arm and a leg to kickstart a grassroots campaign is the driving force behind what they do.
“We take pride in working on the community level because this is where we believe the real change takes place. This is where the everyday lives of individual people can be improved, so working with these candidates really holds the highest stakes,” says Amani Wells-Onyioha, the Operations Director at Sole Strategies.
The team at Sole Strategies has decades of experience working on all levels of campaigns, from national, regional, and community levels. Where they see the biggest impact of their work is at the community level because it’s much easier to get to know the communities they’re working in.
“When we’re working with folks on a city council race, or even as small as like an assembly race, most of the time when people run for that, they’re not doing it for clout. They’re doing it because they actually care about the community and, typically, they’re very involved in the community, which makes it a lot easier for us in terms of fundraising and building a digital presence,” says Zee Cohen-Sanchez, the Executive Director at Sole Strategies.
National campaigns often vary due to circumstance; if someone has already held an elected position and understands their community’s needs, for instance, their campaign won’t be as difficult compared to someone running for Congress with no local community connection.
The primary element that differentiates Sole Strategies from other agencies is how they work with candidates. “We’re not consultants, and the reason why we’re not is because we actually do the hands-on work that’s required by campaigns,” says Cohen-Sanchez.
One of the prominent ways Sole Strategies differentiates itself from other agencies is by truly doing the field work. Wells-Onyioha shares how, while this may sound quite simple, it’s something that is often missing in the campaigning industry.
“There are alot of people who go around claiming to be consultants, giving campaign “advice” and telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. But there are very few firms who are doing the tangible, hands-on campaign labor. Consultants bark orders, but fail to do the heavy lifting; we’re knocking on the doors, we’re writing the posts, and we’re calling the voters. That’s what makes us different — we’re actually there with you,” says Wells-Onyioha.
Sole Strategies not only offers campaign consulting and guidance, but also every other service a candidate may need during a campaign — from branding and graphic design, website development, and digital strategy to public relations, field operations, voter polling, and campaign fundraising.
Cohen-Sanchez explains there is definitely a place and a time for consulting, particularly the very beginning when a candidate might not have the roadmap they need to be able to execute a program. What isn’t helpful, she says, is when a candidate has a team of consultants, yet lacks the staff to do the work needed.
When the team at Sole Strategies partners with candidates, they are hiring a consulting team and a field team who will act as boots-on-the-ground doing the work. The difference between Sole Strategies and a random field vendor is their training and the type of people they hire.
“When you work with a typical field vendor, 95% of them simply post jobs on Indeed and Craigslist, then might have a 5-minute screening process with whoever applies. Within a couple minutes, the applicant has literature put in their hand and they’re on the doors knocking. I don’t find that very strategic,” says Cohen-Sanchez.
While there are some credible, reputable field vendors out there that Sole Strategies partners with, they typically hire their own seasoned organizers who have a strong skill set and a passion for the work, making them easily coachable.
One of Sole Strategies’ top priorities is being available for their clients whenever they need them. For a lot of new candidates that don’t yet have a solid campaign infrastructure, they need someone — or a team — that can serve as a campaign manager for them. Sole Strategies fills in that role without requiring their clients to spend a vast amount of money on a manager that might not have the experience to help them achieve their goals.
In addition, some candidates have never run a real campaign before. They may come in with some volunteer work for a local movement, but otherwise they have no experience in running a campaign.
“When they come to us, we have them join our kickstarter fundraising program. For one candidate like this we worked with, we were able to raise $20,000-30,000. They did end up winning, but what’s more exciting is what we get to see our clients accomplish after they win,” shares Cohen-Sanchez.
The biggest factor at play in Sole Strategies’ success is their ability to formulate strategic vision and offer ways to execute on it. At the community level, these campaigns primarily succeed based on the performance of the field team. Wells-Oniyoha shares about the importance of vision, saying, “everybody has to have a vision, otherwise they have no organization or campaign, but your vision is only as good as the executors you have on the ground.”