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August 31, 2010

Plans and Progress: Should we go for 43 small things, or one big thing?

Quote of the Day: “Little strokes fell great oaks.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) US Founding Father

In this message:

* It is finished
* My current thoughts about growing the army
* How our role model tricked us into thinking anyone could win the lottery (you would’ve been fooled too)
* The simple math of how we lose members, and gain members
* 43 new tools to grow Downsize DC at a steady but accelerating pace

One Sack is done!

It took a bit longer than we had hoped, but we’ve finally finished our big infrastructure project.

We’ve united all of our databases into one unified system — ONE SACK!

You’ll begin to notice the new things this will allow you to do very soon.

I’ll explain some of where we intend to go next, below. But before you start reading . . .

We’re now in a financial hole to the tune of about $6,400. That’s a big amount for us. Please help with a contribution if you possibly can.

Now, with One Sack done, here are my current thoughts about growing the Downsize DC Army . . .

1,000 New DC Downsizers Every Month

We’ve always had an ambitious goal — especially so for a bootstrap operation run by every-day people with no political connnections. Our primary, long-term objective was and is to . . .

  “Build an army”

* …so large, that Congress cannot afford to ignore it
* …so big, that we can communicate the virtues of small government to everyone, everywhere, every day

In other words, an overwhelming army. We thought this would be easy because of . . .

Our role model

When we first created, our role model was an organization that built themselves from one email message to 100 friends, into a national, political powerhouse of over 1.8 million subscribers in less than five years.

In other words, I bought into the notion that building a web-based following was as simple as setting up shop, and then showing up to work every day. If we regularly put out great material, like our daily Downsizer-Dispatch, and our Downsize DC Agenda bills, then the world would beat a path to our door.

We see explosive growth stories like this about one website or another EVERY SINGLE DAY. But . . . 

People win the lottery. We see these stories every day too. But . . .

When was the last time YOU won a million dollar lottery?

The fact that someone, somewhere, wins a big lottery every day, doesn’t mean that you or I are ever going to win one. In fact, the odds are that neither of us will ever win such a lottery. So . . .

The stories we costantly see about small Internet organizations become big overnight are COMPLELTELY MEANINGLESS. 

I was, for a long time, disappointed by the rate of growth we’ve experienced — VERY discouraged, and even embarrassed by it. I’ve come to realize that . . .

“It’s downright stupid to be upset about NOT winning the lottery.”

So instead, we’ve been trying to figure out a sure way forward, that doesn’t involve luck.

It’s been said that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Our elephant, since 2006 (when we realized that Downsize DC was viable), has been our operational infrastructure.

We started on a broken shoe string. Our website was built only to TRY the idea of a lobbying tool. We had almost no automation. And things broke, ALL THE TIME.

We realized that our experiment was a winner, but we had no vast capital resources, and it took time — way more time then I wanted it to take, to build a system that permitted us to focus on growth. I would have loved to swallow the elephant whole, but we just couldn’t. So it had to be done one bite at a time.

So imagine the relief I feel to finally be done with our major infrastructure projects, though the song remains the same in one sense . . .

The best way to do what comes next, is the same as the way we conquered our infrastructure problems, one bite at a time. 

Let me demonstrate, to you, what a bite looks like.

Here’s the simple math of how we lose members, and gain members . . .

At present, to end up with 1,000 net new subscribers to the Downsizer-Dispatch each month, we only need to recruit 43 more people (than we presently do) per day.

Just 43.

Now, I don’t plan to go bet on the number 43 after work tonight. And I don’t know of any SINGLE way to recruit 43 new persons each day, every day. Like I said, I don’t believe in the lottery approach. However . . .

Maybe there are 43 different bite-size things we could do that will result in one net new member each per day

Are you following my incremental, bite-sized thinking on this?

We have long stressed making it easy to fight the growth of government. For instance, we’ve talked about how our system allows you to pressure Congress with just a few keyboard strokes and mouse clicks. Well, can we make membership growth just as easy? Can we, for instance . . .

* Find 43 different small, easy ways to build and use tools, each of which would . . .
* Result in 1 net new member per day per tool, such that . . .
* We could reliably grow by 1,000 net new members per month?

I think the answer is yes, but before I can tell you how, I must again urge you to . . .

Continue to avoid the dangers of “Lottery Thinking”

I well recognize that 1,000 net new members per month doesn’t yet get us to the “promised land,” where we can overwhelm Congress, but I would urge you to avoid the dangers of “lottery thinking.”

We’re not looking for a lightening strike.

We’re looking for the sure way forward.

And if we can find that path, and follow it, then new paths, above 1k net growth per month, should become possible. But . . .

We must do first things first.

As we step on the gas we want to go from 0 to 60 mph, or in our case . . .

From 0 to 43 growth tools at a steady but  accelerating pace.

Our 43 different ideas will be revealed as rapidly we’re able to digest them. But I can tell you that they will be in six primary areas . . .

1. Social networking on the Net
2. Viral marketing instruments
3. Brand new user levers and tools
4. Innovative and dynamic content
5. New and improved relationships for our cause
6. Advertising (but with a special, strategic twist)

And how fast will we be able to serve them up to you?

We can start to answer that question today, by dispensing with the last remaining problem from our One Sack project — the $6,400 in unpaid bills we currently have. Look . . .

That amounts to just twenty one cents per member of the Downsize DC Army. Or, just one person could pay it off in one big bite by contributing $6,400. More likely, we will need something like the following . . .

* 2 people to give $1,000 = $2,000
* 4 to give $500 each = $2,000, bringing us to $4,000 total
* 4 to give $250 each = $1,000, bringing us $5,000
* 10 to give $100 each = $1,000, bringing us to $6,000
* And a few dozen 10s, 20s, and 50s to round us out at $6,400

And monthly pledgers give us the confidence to “eat faster.” That is, we have the capacity to bite off more if we know, in advance, that we can afford the staff and vendor time to get those next 43 projects done. Please consider making or increasing a monthly pledge.

Can you be one of the people who make this happen? If so, we promise to start work on the 43 new tools that you’ll be able to use to become more powerful. Thanks in advance for your confidence and support. You can contribute here.

Jim Babka
President, Inc.

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