As a leader at your advocacy organization, you know the importance of running energetic, dynamic campaigns to build momentum and keep excitement high all the way until election day. Of course, you also know that your volunteers, while dedicated, are a limited resource and their door-to-door canvassing efforts can only cover so much ground during election season. But the right canvassing tips can make those limited interactions much more meaningful.
Effective canvassing has the power to sway elections, expand your organization’s support network, and earn donations that can help further your mission. Canvassing has also transformed over the years in response to new technology and the challenges of COVID-19.
While not all canvassing tips can be applied to every organization, the ones in this guide aim to equip advocacy leaders with a new, strategic approach to traditional door-to-door canvassing. By leveraging modern technology and your volunteers’ passion, you can transform your advocacy efforts for the better with these nine canvassing tips.
Sending your volunteers off to start canvassing without a clear goal will leave your organization disorganized and your volunteers confused. You can avoid this by clearly establishing attainable goals for both your individual volunteers and your advocacy association as a whole.
When you set an objective for your canvassing efforts, make sure it meets the following SMART criteria:
As this canvassing tip implies, you’ll also need tools to measure your progress towards your goal. Use your advocacy software to track incoming data, and use it to create reports that can show your progress towards your goal.
Every volunteer on your canvassing team should receive extensive onboarding before approaching potential supporters about your cause. Your onboarding materials should explain your campaign’s purpose and include training to help volunteers speak with a variety of supporters about your mission.
However, even after volunteers are fully trained and onboarded, you should continue providing them with support and supervision. Here are just a few ways you can support your volunteers:
Along with presenting a more professional front to prospective supporters, training your volunteers will improve their experience working for your advocacy organization. Then, the next time you host a campaign, you’ll likely have plenty of previous volunteers sign up who have already undergone training. This allows your organization to save time and resources.
While speaking with potential supporters during their door-to-door canvassing efforts, your volunteers will likely be asked a few recurring questions. During training, have your volunteers memorize a few key phrases and notable facts about your campaign. Then, branching scripts can help supplement other conversations that might occur.
You can’t predict every scenario that will occur when your volunteers approach someone, but you can use reports from volunteers and other data to prepare scripts that include common topics. Construct scripts that follow best practices for having open conversations with potential supporters, such as:
Of course, your volunteers shouldn’t carry around a huge script—you wouldn’t want them to get stuck flipping through pages while in the middle of a conversation with a supporter. Consider using canvassing software to go digital and make various script paths easy to access with the press of a button.
Reach even wider audiences by providing your multilingual volunteers with multilingual scripts to help guide them when sharing your campaign with non-English speakers. Determine what languages will be the most useful for each community you canvass, and translate your scripts with the help of your canvassing software into each language you need.
Additionally, consider teaching your English-only volunteers a few key phrases if they are canvassing a community that heavily uses another language. They may be limited in how much they can carry on the conversation, but a few phrases can help your volunteers direct individuals to a fellow volunteer who can speak with them or to your website to learn more.
Standard clipboards and pens might be cheap and easy to distribute, but they come with their downsides. Volunteers may struggle to decipher difficult handwriting, and canvassing campaigns that rely on clipboards force staff members to sit down and slowly enter pages worth of data into their database each day.
The right advocacy software eliminates both of these problems, allowing supporters to enter their information straight into your system. Be sure to integrate your canvassing software with your main database, so all of your data flows seamlessly from one system to another.
Investing in software saves your team time on repetitive administrative tasks like data entry, allowing you to move straight to following up with donors and analyzing data trends each day your volunteers canvass their communities.
During your campaign, your canvassers will collect a lot of data. Make sure you put the information you’re collecting to use by analyzing your reports and identifying key trends that emerge.
For example, while looking over daily reports, you might discover that some of your volunteers are more effective at gathering support from certain communities or areas than others. With this knowledge, you can reassign your volunteers to turfs that best suit their skill set, increasing your chances to attract more supporters to your cause.
Additionally, take the time to clean your database. Unclean data can build up over the course of your campaign, and implementing data hygiene measures such as deleting duplicate information, removing unnecessary or trivial information fields, and standardizing data entry practices ensures your database stays usable long-term.
In addition to spreading the word about your mission and encouraging supporters to vote a certain way, your canvassing campaign may also raise funds for your organization. Supporters will likely want to give in a variety of ways, and you should be equipped to accommodate all of them with high-security, PCI-compliant donation processors.
Providing multiple donation options increases your overall chances of receiving a gift from a supporter. Here are a few ways you can accept donations that your organization should have ready before your canvassing campaign starts:
When researching payment processors, prioritize security above all else. By keeping your donors’ financial information safe, your organization can establish trust and lay the groundwork for future monetary contributions.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced advocacy groups to find new ways to campaign. While many traditional canvassing tips couldn’t account for the necessary limitations imposed by social distancing, innovative virtual solutions rose to the challenge.
Today, advocacy groups can diversify their efforts and approach supporters on two fronts: in-person door-to-door canvassing and remote virtual canvassing. Virtual canvassing allows your team to reach supporters quickly without needing to travel to their location, set up face-to-face meetings over video conferencing tools, and conduct the same conversations you would in person.
When browsing potential virtual canvassing solutions, look for a platform that includes the following features:
Research your options and approach potential providers with questions about how virtual canvassing can help your campaign. Then, to make sure it’s a perfect fit, ask for a demo to explore each canvassing solution.
Your canvassing campaigns allow your organization to collect key data about people in your community such as their address, phone number, and email address. Your volunteers may persuade some of them to follow through on certain actions after their first interactions, but many will need additional follow-up conversations.
When you follow up with a potential supporter after your canvassing campaign, make sure to build on the groundwork laid by your canvassers by:
Additionally, don’t forget to thank your volunteers after your campaign. Showing your appreciation by saying thank you, hosting volunteer events, and giving them extra merchandise such as t-shirts, hats, and water bottles can help you retain volunteers from campaign to campaign.
By following the canvassing tips in this guide, you can elevate your entire campaign, support your volunteers, and expand your network faster with digital solutions. Take inventory of your current campaign practices to see what you can improve on, and implement the canvassing tips and best practices that address your needs. Then, adjust them based on the specifics of your team, community, and campaign.
Broaden your knowledge of canvassing and advocacy campaigns even further by reviewing additional resources on topics such as fundraising, peer-to-peer campaigns, and modern software trends. Here are a few articles advocacy leaders might find especially useful for their next canvassing campaign: