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September Common Ground E-Newsletter

26 September 2014

On September 15th we opened our new website with powerful, fun, and interactive new research tools. We have no paid advertising but we have started to get great feedback: organizations like the Federal Voter’s Assistance Program, USA Today, National Journal, American Towns, Overseas Vote Foundation some state governments like Florida -- arguably the most important swing state) are all paying for our data or partnering with us to distribute our work. Usage has already climbed 20% and a number of papers like the New York Times and the Kansas City Star have been helping us spread the word.

These represent just some of the important relationships we are building. But please do not underestimate our most important partner: that would be YOU!

Without national advertising, we need every thinking American to help distribute the word: this new website and powerful new FREE tools exist. So if you have not visited yet, you need to experience it. You will love it and be excited and proud to share with all you know. You are perhaps our only possible contact with those people you know. So tell them about -- brag about it. After all you helped make it possible.

From all of us THANK YOU
Over 8,000 students, representing all 50 states, hundreds of universities (even some high schools), and 22 foreign countries have given their time and expertise to build Vote Smart. A constant stream of people through Vote Smart doors over the years had some interesting consequences.

Finding life-long friendships is a given. Acquiring a significant other is pretty common. And marriages…? Well, there have been quite a few.

Take Jessica and Josh who met the first year at our Great Divide Ranch Research Retreat: Jessica came on board as a researcher and quickly advanced to run our Political Courage Test Department. Josh, having just finished his degree in forestry, became our Maintenance Director.
Something special happened between those two. They decided they could not live apart and made themselves a home out of one of the retreat’s historic old trapper’s cabins. It had no shower, no bathroom or running water whatsoever. But love is a powerful thing and they spent those two years putting in running water, rewiring the place and building an addition that more than doubled its size.

Now we call that cabin Campo Bello, and is the most popular guest cabin at the research center. A few years later they married and had their first child. They named her Adelaide, who just happened to Jessica’s supervisor at Vote Smart and who I soon convinced to marry me.

Now my wife and I, 26 staff members, all of the interns and volunteers working at our Montana headquarters and at the University of Texas work for Jessica. Jessica is Vote Smart’s National Board Chair.

Vote Smart just had an interesting visit from the National Institute for Civil Discourse. This is the group born out of the Gabby Giffords tragedy in Tucson a few years ago.

The group is trying to persuade the nation’s politicians to be more reasoned, reasonable or could we dare hope CIVIL with one another.

They are about to launch a review of how citizens react to various political commercials. Take a look at, review a series of campaign commercials from around the country, and let them know what you think.

That lady proofing your work? Oh, she is the New York stage actress who stared in the Broadway version of the Quiet Man.

The guy stuffing envelopes? He was the flight director for NASA during the Apollo program.She was the dance partner to Fred Astaire in all those movies.

He was one of the trio who sang Puff the Magic Dragon.

Did he win the Oscar for Stand and Deliver?

Oh! She sings jazz in those Manhattan night clubs.

Yea! He played that eccentric doctor on M*A*S*H*

No, she was not the gun slinger, but the matriarch of the famous Hearst family.

Yep, that guy was the male lead on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Didn’t that other fellow win an Academy Award for Psycho?

Some volunteers and contributors to Vote Smart have been pretty famous. Well, maybe not to our young interns -- they would not recognize them when they sat next to them. But then,  it might have been the same with me as a student long ago, if I had sat next to Sarah Bernhardt.

It is fun to know some famous people help us do what we do. But they are not our most important supporters. The ones who send in $45 year, year after year, the ones who show up and contribute their skills for a few weeks each year, the ones who would never be stopped in the street or be noticed by a stranger, the ones who suddenly give far more than you imagined possible -- they are the ones who are giving this nation’s citizens the opportunity to do what we all need them to do: Vote Smart.

They are the ones that are giving us this chance to offer the nation a real taste of reality on our new website with the extraordinary tools it provides every citizen.
They are the supporters who are setting a record membership fundraising year, the ones who helped us achieve Charity Navigator’s highest rating and earned us these 5 comments I saw just today:
"Now 50 years later, with your vision, you have created a treasure trove of data that is available at the finger-tips of all, and especially to the Press.  I've already read acknowledgement of VOTE SMART research available in the Times and other regional newspapers, and in The Nation, Mother Jones, Washington Journal and other important media.  You are now the people to go to!"

"Thank you...all of you!!! To be considered a "cherished member" is an honor." 
-Randa Pearson

"It's awesome! It's what a democracy needs. Thanks!"
-John Donnelly

"I absolutely love your new website and have forwarded your message/e-mail widely to everyone I know. Thanks so much."

"Congratulations!  Job as always continues to be WELL DONE!"
-Steve Nieman

Thank you so much for all you do.  I really enjoy looking, searching and discovering new things about the politicians."
-Dr. John Neill

"I got to try it out tonight and love the new Vote Smart website.  I was able to use it at 87 just fine.  Unlike many others.   Hooray!"

Related tags: 2014, blog, e-newsletter, interns, members, partnerships, Richard-Kimball, staff-members

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