National Office

Proposal

Why?

Our path to winning socialism and a just world requires intentional growth. Since the last convention, our membership has doubled, and we need to restructure our national office—not just to accommodate the massive growth we've already experienced, but to intentionally build capacity for the next wave.

Like all people-powered movements preparing for a big fight, we need to put our resources toward organizing and bringing new people to the fold. We need to put real muscle into our organization. Our proposal roughly doubles the number of organizers working directly to bring people to DSA. Instead of turfing organizers to haphazardly-drawn regions, we propose that organizers focus either on establishing and strengthening new and smaller chapters, or helping with the different strategic needs of larger chapters.

But the national office does a lot more than organizing. We also need to be fully staffed, with strong teams working on communications, financial controls, technology, compliance, and member services. We need efficient and well-resourced administrative team so that chapters and regions have everything they need for success: up-to-date member lists, tools to maintain local member data, and greater contact with other chapters, regional organizations, and national staff.

FAQs

How will this be implemented or enforced?

It will be up to the National Political Committee to direct staff put this plan into action. This is also true for political resolutions passed at Convention—the power to implement rests with the NPC. Strong support from the general membership is crucial to make this happen.

How are you going to pay for it?

A wealth tax on the rich! Kidding... (that's phase 2).

But the reason why we foreground growth in this proposal and reasoning is because that's how we pay for it. A dedicated organizing staff with a coherent strategy will bring more people to DSA. Part of the reason why we have included a timeline for our proposed hiring is because we are counting on bringing new dues-paying members to our organization, and using those dues to hire more organizers, to bring more people to our organization!

Why should we have a national office anyway? How will this help my chapter?

Even from-the-bottom-up grassroots growth needs structure. Our biggest mistake right now would be to underestimate the entrenched power that stands between us and a just world. Even if we organize hundreds of thousands of socialists in America—even millions—that enough wouldn’t automatically win socialism. This is going to be a fight every step of the way, and the best thing we can do for this long-term campaign is to build capacity for growth and leadership development.

We are going to need leaders. We are going to need a plan. We are going to need structures that can connect tens of thousands of us to one another. This is the first step.

Proposal

Restructuring the National Office

The membership of the Democratic Socialists of America has doubled since the 2017 convention, and the membership is committed to further growth of our organization and the spread of democratic socialism. We have the opportunity to build a mass organization capable of both meeting the challenges of this political moment and pursuing our broader socialist project of improving the economic conditions of workers, working in pursuit of working-class political power and in the name of working-class agency.

To do so, we must strategically plan for and build the capacity for successful and sustained growth, strengthening our national office through expanding the number of staff organizers, investing in administrative staff, and dedicating national resources to developing and solidifying new chapters, particularly in rural and suburban areas. The plan presented below is just the beginning of that project, a reorganization of our national staff to meet our current needs and to support the next phase of growth.

At its core, this is a plan to fully resource the national office so that staff can focus on providing much-needed support to chapters. Initially, we could begin executing this plan in the near-term by redefining the areas of responsibility for existing staff. Following these immediate changes, we propose expanding the number of national office positions--resourced by a new focus on recruitment and fundraising campaigns--and hiring on a staggered schedule from March through January of 2021.

We believe that to build power, our organization must have a national office with the capacity to gather a great deal of input from members, locals, and regional bodies across the organization and then turn that input into action. A national office with a strong staff who are given the resources they need to develop and sustain organizational tools, communications networks, and systems of gathering and training members to exchange perspectives and share knowledge. A national office that will allow us to build real organizational unity, while offering more transparent and accountable means to enfranchise the many thousands of members who have joined our organization but have no real determination over our work.

Our chapters’ successful growth depends on resource and skill-sharing among organizers to build chapter capacity and win campaigns; on greater support in developing strong organizational structures; and on investments in leadership development. All of these must occur through clearly delineated, consistent, and accessible structures that can effectively meet the needs of a rapidly growing national organization.

Our continued growth as an organization requires strengthening the administrative capacity of the National office, to improve our ability to maintain member lists, conduct dues drives, develop and distribute tools for chapters to maintain local member data, and engage meaningfully online or remotely with national, regional and chapter decisions.

Our capacity to pursue our goals requires differentiating administrative and organizing roles, and supporting well defined job descriptions and achievable workloads. Our national priorities are poorly served by the current arrangement, with the limited organizing staff serving numerous chapters across expansive regions along with their responsibilities for supporting work on the DSA national priorities. Our campaigns suffer as well, for lack of dedicated staff to translate the lessons learned from our various successes to new fields and opportunities to build electoral power.

Our new chapters and organizing committees deserve better tools and more support for making informed decisions about organizational structures, financial controls, developing campaigns and projects, and security practices. They also deserve dedicated staff with the capacity to support them in overcoming some of the most common early hurdles to building a stable chapter by providing trainings and best practices on how to engage thoughtfully and bring in new members, while developing local structures that give ample opportunities for members with limited time to meaningfully engage in the organization.

Our more established chapters deserve better tools and practices for managing the inevitable challenges in financial management and inter-personal conflict that arise in all volunteer organizations, and too often become crises for lack of intervention. They deserve support in developing member organizing skills, identifying and developing new leaders, running meaningful and effective campaigns, and building chapter programs that make sense for their local contexts. They also deserve more coherent and consistent connection to other chapters in their regions and a greater voice in national decisions.

Our regional organizations (described in CPN’s Regional Organizations Proposal) will require dedicated support both from the national office and in short order from staff of their own. We recognize that the greatest potential for the spread of democratic socialism lies in the places where social and economic inequity are most pervasive. To that end, we ask the National Political Committee and Finance Committee to explore dues sharing from the better resourced chapters and regions to the less resourced ones, which, in keeping with our socialist values, will support the direct hire of regional organizers by and in support of regional bodies.

To those ends, we respectfully ask the Personnel Committee of the National Political Committee to restructure the National Office to include the following actions:

Strengthening the administrative capacity of the National office through making the Financial Manager position full time, shifting DSA publications out of the Internal Communications job description.

Hiring as soon as possible, an External Communications Associate to manage external facing communications and media relations.

Hiring as soon as possible, a Technology Manager to coordinate with the Database Manager with a goal of quickly establishing and maintaining improved member data at the national level, creating nationally-distributed tools for maintaining local member data, and providing resources for renewal drives. This should include a website for each chapter, along with resources or tools for members to engage meaningfully online or remotely with chapter decisions and national committees.

Hiring as soon as possible, but no later than November 2019, an experienced Organizing Director who supports organizing field staff in identifying leaders within chapters and regional orgs and coordinates the implementation of a comprehensive recruitment, retention, and leadership development strategy as part of an overall strategy to get our organization to 100,000 members by 2021. This strategy should be developed in coordination with the Growth and Development Committee and include a specific plan for recruitment and retention along with leadership development of black, brown, indigenous, women, and nonbinary members.

Shifting as soon as practicable three existing national office organizer positions to provide dedicated staff support for establishing stable new chapters where clusters of unorganized members exist, supporting organizing committees, and chapters with fewer than 25 members and/or chapters less than a year old; especially in small cities, rural areas, and the southern United States.

These staff organizers should work with the Organizing Director, Growth and Development Committee, and local chapters to develop and provide a comprehensive resource tool kit to new organizing committees and new chapters offering best practices and templates for chapter incorporation, along with multiple models for organizational structures, drafting of by-laws, financial controls, security protocols, recruiting and mobilizing members, and developing political projects and campaigns.

Hiring by no later than March 2020, three additional organizing field staff focused on supporting well established chapters in developing strong organizational structures, financial controls, security practices, sexual harassment policies, racial harassment policies, and trainings in conflict management and building a healthy organizing culture, along with supporting their efforts in developing chapter programs and troubleshooting campaigns and projects.

Shifting as soon as practicable, one national office staff member to the role of regional coordinator, supporting regional organizations as they develop and working to support state and regional convenings, organizer trainings, and conferences. This position would serve as the national point of contact for staff hired directly by the regional organizations through the redistribution of dues sharing resources, while also providing coordination and ongoing development of staff hired into those positions.

Hiring by no later than March 2020 one staff labor organizer dedicated solely to supporting the DSLC and local chapters in the crucial and urgent work of developing, within the context of chapter level DSA labor formations, the capacity for workplace organizing at all levels and whatever the current unionization status of member workplaces. This organizer will support the DSLC and regional organizations in establishing regular regional workplace organizing schools and campus labor institutes.

Hiring by no later than June 2020 one staff organizer dedicated solely to coordinating work on DSA national priorities through working groups, regional organizations and local chapters in coordination with other staff organizers.

Hiring by no later than June 2020 one staff organizer dedicated solely to coordinating and supporting YDSA chapters.

Hiring by no later than January 2021 one campaign staff dedicated to national electoral work, and one campaign staff dedicated to supporting state and municipal electoral work.

Current vs. Proposed Staff Positions

Position Added Position Shifted Position Currently Vacant

Current
  • National Director
    • Assistant to the National Director
    • Development Director
    • Operations Director
      • Financial Manager
      • Program Associate
      • Office Coordinator
      • Technology Manager
        • Database Coordinator
      • Compliance Manager
      • Conventions and Conferences Manager
      • Member Services Program Associate
  • Organizing Director
    • Internal Communications and Digital Organizing Director
    • Mid-Atlantic, Upper Midwest, YDSA Organizer
    • Southern, Mountain West Organizer
    • Pacific South, New England, Electoral Organizer
    • Southwest, Southern Midwest Organizer
    • Bernie Campaign Manager
Proposed
  • National Director
    • Assistant to the National Director
    • Development Director
    • Operations Director
      • Financial Manager
      • Program Associate
      • Office Coordinator
      • Technology Manager
        • Database Coordinator
      • Compliance Manager
      • Conventions and Conferences Manager
      • Member Services Program Associate
      • External Communications Associate
      • Internal Communications Associate
  • Organizing Director
    • New Chapter Organizer
    • New Chapter Organizer
    • New Chapter Organizer
    • Large Chapter Organizer
    • Large Chapter Organizer
    • Large Chapter Organizer
    • YDSA Organizer
    • Democrat Socialist Labor Committee Organizer
    • National Electoral Organizer
    • State/Local Electoral Organizer
    • National Priorities Coordinator
    • Bernie Campaign Manager
    • Regional Coordinator
      • Regional Organizer
      • Regional Organizer
      • Regional Organizer
      • Regional Organizer
      • Regional Organizer
Hire by March 2020
Hire by June 2020
Hire by January 2021

All other hires or shifts to be made as soon as practicable.
Based on best understanding of national office structure (as described on the DSAUSA.org website) and new national office job announcements from official DSA email correspondence.

Support This Plank

If you agree with our vision, we invite you to endorse this plank. We want to bring a strong clear voice to the 2019 Convention for the type of organization we feel we need. An organization that can realize our collective power; one that respects and integrates differing viewpoints, and that looks outward, not inward, to build a truly mass organization reaching out with our own hands towards power.

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