According to the Center for American Women and Politics, women make up only 23.6% of seats in the 116th United States Congress — and it’s far past time to change that. Through its Women’s Leadership Programs, Dare to Run, a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization, provides women with the leadership skills and political training needed to run for office in the United States.
“There is a lot of information that comes along with running a campaign in general,” says Rachelle Suissa, CEO and Founder of Dare to Run. “Then, for women, the knowledge and strategies for a successful campaign shifts fundamentally. Dare to Run wants to make sure that women are prepared to run successful, strategic campaigns for office that will bring them to victory.”
Dare to Run’s main focus is on training women to run for office in its home base of New York State, but the training program accepts candidates from Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
“The Dare to Run Women’s Leadership Program is a 15-week training program that gives women all of the essential tools and skills that they need to run a successful campaign,” says Suissa. “Women should apply if they are considering running for office and want to get a much more in-depth look at how to run for office.”
Founded in Brooklyn, NY in March of 2019, Dare to Run has had an incredible first year in action.
“We have had so many victories in the last year!” says Suissa. “In March of 2019, we received our nonprofit status from the Federal Government, which was incredible. In November of 2019, we were so completely fortunate to receive a $25,000 grant from the Spark Joy Foundation to assist with our operational expenses. Most recently, we’ve added three Amazing people to our board – Shannon Fritts-Penniman, Edda Santiago and Jhoanny Perez, all of whom in a short time have fundamentally shifted the dynamics of the organization and the way in which we operate.”
Like most new nonprofits, Dare to Run has had its fair share of hurdles to jump. One of the most important lessons Suissa learned since starting Dare to Run is the necessity of surrounding oneself with team members who are fully committed to the mission.
“I had recruited some individuals who, although they were extremely passionate, did not understand the fundamental basics of running a nonprofit organization,” Suissa remembers. “They had a very partisan agenda, and unfortunately did not suit the narrative for our organization. That is okay; we live, and we learn. They are wonderful people and shaped the founding of the organization, and their contributions will not be forgotten.”
In November of 2019, the organization received a $25,000 grant from the Spark Joy Foundation to fund programming at the local level — an impressive feat for an organization’s first year in operation!
However, with the onset of COVID-19, Dare to Run has found itself with far fewer options for sourcing funding.
“We are currently still applying for grants, but funding is limited due to COVID-19 and the current situation,” says Suissa.
Despite the difficulty of the financial climate, Dare to Run is focusing on helping the community, and making their resources more readily available to women who need them. One of these programs includes fundraising to set up scholarships for the Leadership Program.
Suissa explains, “[The] scholarship fundraiser [is] for female essential workers who want to complete the training program and have served on the front lines of the COVID crisis. We love the work they are doing, and we want to support them as well.”
“Feminist funding will enable us to reach a much broader audience in the states outlined in our strategic plan,” she continues. “More funds will help us market the program and set up offices in those states so that women can come in person and take the Dare to Run Virtual Women’s Leadership Program. It will also help fund our scholarship program for women who want to complete the training as well. Ultimately, this all serves the goal of achieving gender parity in government.”
The program runs across two “semesters.” The first semester focuses on how to run a successful campaign, and the second covers what to do once you’ve earned your seat in office — or, what to do if your campaign fails.
In the first semester, courses cover the ins and outs of leading a campaign to completion, from the basics of advocacy and public policy, to more in-depth topics like digital marketing for the modern age. The training covers every aspect of a political campaign from traditional and modern approaches. For example, the course spends equal time on “big picture” items (like public speaking, branding, and messaging) as it does on the lesser-known minutiae of a campaign (like budgeting, field operations, and how to work with PACs).
The second semester of the course focuses on an important question: What comes next?
“In the second semester, we focus on what to do once you have gotten into public office,” says Suissa. “The course topics focus on How to Get on the Ballot in Your State, Serving the Needs of Your Constituents, Building Successful Constituent Relationships, How to meet the Diverse Needs of Your Constituents, and What Happens If You Don’t Win.”
Applications for the program’s Fall 2020 session are now open, closing on July 31.
2020 promises to be an electrically charged election year. COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the fight for gender equity around the world are all critical reasons to push for more women in office. Through programs like Dare to Run, we can fight for equality–and win seats in office–at a much higher rate than 23.6%.
To learn more about Dare to Run, visit their website at www.daretorun.org. To make a donation to the Dare to Run scholarship fund, click here. To apply to the Women’s Leadership Program, apply here by July 31, 2020.
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