Following a presidential cycle that saw record spending, consultants on the left are opening their wallets to give back to their side’s political community.
From grant programs to fellowships, practitioners see these efforts as a way to live their progressive values and actively build a more diverse pipeline of talent — with the helpful side effect of generating awareness of their companies’ offerings.
“That was one of the major pillars behind the intent of creating this — we wanted to live our values,” said Shripal Shah, a partner at Left Hook, which recently teamed with ALG Research, Authentic, Blueprint Interactive, Field Strategies, Hopkins+Sachs, Mission Control, Spiros Consulting, and Wildfire Mail to create a fellowship program that aims to improve diversity in the industry.
The firms, who are working in conjunction with Progressive Pipeline, are splitting the costs to employ and train a small group of fellows who will work full time in a rotation through three of the shops.
Applicants aren’t required to submit the traditional resume-cover-letter combination to be considered, but rather answer a series of questions about themselves. The process is designed to be inclusive and not discourage applicants who might be deterred by the traditional requirements. Moreover, those selected for the eight-month program, which includes a $20-an-hour wage and health benefits and starts in October 2021, can work remotely — saving them from having to move to a high-cost metro area.
“I think that will go a long way to making sure that we can find a robust pool of diverse candidates than we would otherwise,” Shah said, noting there’s no age limitation or recent college graduate requirement on applicants. “I think a lot of people are still trying to figure out how to make change, and I think what we’re doing is just one piece of it.”
Meanwhile, grant programs from firms are increasingly popular. Last week, Movement Labs announced it was offering a dozen groups up to $25,000 in peer-to-peer texting (P2P) grants with the goal of helping the recipients identify 5,000 new supporters. In addition to the P2P services, recipients also receive training and support “to prepare the organizations to incorporate texting into future campaigns.”
DSPolitical, which offered a grant program for the first time last year, is again gifting ad funding to down-ballot candidates. The program this year is smaller, because there are fewer off-year races, and will likely take less than the 10 campaigns included in the initial grant program, according to Mark Jablonowski, managing partner and CTO at DSPolitical. In total, the program will offer $20,000 divided among the group of selected campaigns.
“I think it’s really important to be invested in the community that you serve and we’re glad to be able to do that,” said Jablonowski. “The real focus of this is to give back to the community. If we happen to meet some new clients at the same time that’s wonderful.”
What’s clear about these programs is that they’re not just a financial commitment. The fellowship program Shah detailed will require the firms to train and incorporate the fellows into their functions during a 10-week rotation — and that’s after taking the time for the hiring team to review the applications. In the case of DSPolitical and Movement Labs, both are offering an education component with their awards. Moreover, they have to deal with the compliance issue associated with an in-kind donation.
“The biggest expense and biggest challenge is really the legal and compliance side making sure we’re following all of the applicable laws,” Jablonowski said. “We definitely have legal bills and other things that add up in the background as well.”
The programs also give the firms a way to stand out among their competition and tout their progressive movement bona fides in an environment where that’s increasingly important.
“Practitioners should be willing to take more risk to pursue their mission, saying ‘here are clients or ideas with no money that we think are valuable enough to invest our own resources in,’” Movement Labs CEO Yoni Landau told C&E last week.