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Politics in a Match.com World

By None:

How do you translate online activism into off-line action that actually changes the outcome of campaigns? That's the key question that every campaign is asking these days - and it's a critical one. Your blog may have lots of comments, and your petition lots of names, but unless it translates to money and bodies it won't mean a thing.

Can the internet make a difference in the "real world"? Look no further than Match.com, eHarmony, and the scores of niche dating sites all over the net.

First, a story: A friend of mine recently announced her engagement to a fellow she met through Match.com. She brought her new fiance out West to meet the old friends and neighbors. When she bumped into one family friend, she was embarassed and told her, "Um, we met in a bar." The friend, an older woman in her mid-60s, replied, "How retro! Everyone these days seems to be finding love on Match.com..."

If you're single, you know this is true. If you're not (and haven't been for a while), ask around. In particular, talk to single folks in their late 20s and 30s. There's a whole lot of serious internet dating and soul-matching going on.

What does that mean? It means that people are getting more and more comfortable searching and finding critical information online and using it to make life-changing decisions.

I often ask my clients, "Do you know who your competition is?" Invariably, they reply, "Well, duh. It's that right-wing wacko that we're running against."

Not true. Sure, you're trying to defeat that right-wing wacko, but your competition? It's all the other good progressive campaigns, causes, and other opportunities presented to your supporters, volunteers, and donors. Most everyone has a limited supply of $100 contributions - and everyone has a limited supply of volunteer evenings and weekends.

Understand this: You're competing with your progressive friends for a very scare resource - the money and time of your supporters. And your supporters are spending time online examining where they should best invest their money, time, and passion: with your organization, or that congressional campaign across town, or that beach cleanup next week, or somewhere else worthwhile.

In a Match.com world, you've got to use every tool available to you to make your best case online. Your cause is meaningful, important, fun, and populated with people worth getting to know. Isn't it?

If your website isn't communicating all that, well, you're just losing out to the taller and more good-looking campaign down the street.