9 Canvassing Tips to Energize Your Political Campaigns

ByGrassroots Unwired

9 Canvassing Tips to Energize Your Political Campaigns

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. 

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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.

Improve your campaigns with this first canvassing tip: setting attainable goals.

Canvassing Tip 1: Set a clear, attainable objective.

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: 

  • Specific. While your campaign likely has an overarching goal of reaching out to more voters or earning donations, don’t hesitate to choose a specific quantitative goal. For example, you might base your goals on a community’s past participation in your campaigns and determine that you want to see a 15% increase in donations over last year.
  • Measurable. Some goals, such as “spreading awareness,” are difficult to measure. Without quantitative data, it can be difficult to know whether you have achieved your goal. Ensure your goals are quantifiable so you can assess your progress as you go.
  • Attainable. Ideally, you could ask your volunteers to earn donations from 100% of supporters they speak with. But logically, this goal is impossible for even the most passionate volunteers. Look at your past averages and set attainable goals related to prior data that aim for incremental, realistic improvements.
  • Relevant. The goals you give your volunteers should align with your canvassing campaign’s overall goal, which should also align with your organization’s mission. Consider what your organization needs most right now. Is it to earn donations, attract supporters, confirm voters, or something else? Determine what that objective is and make sure it trickles down to your volunteers’ day-to-day goals.
  • Timely. Most canvassing campaigns already have a built-in deadline, but you should still set additional review deadlines to evaluate your progress. Doing so allows you to stay updated on your overall progress and determine if your initial goals are still appropriate for your campaign.

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. 

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: providing your volunteers with support.

Canvassing Tip 2: Provide extensive volunteer support. 

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:

  • Train them how to use new software. Advocacy software can transform your campaign and, with dozens of top providers, is constantly evolving and improving. Whenever your preferred advocacy or canvassing software goes through a major update, take the time to walk volunteers through any changes to get ahead of technical errors that might occur in the field.  
  • Provide an easy way to get in contact with a manager. Even the most well trained volunteers will sometimes encounter issues that can be better solved by a supervisor stepping in. Ensure you have someone on staff who your volunteers can contact for help when they’re canvassing.
  • Have them canvas in their home communities. Door-to-door canvassing tends to be more effective if locals know the person knocking on their door. Be mindful of volunteers’ travel limitations and assign them to cover their own communities when possible. 

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. 

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: use branching scripts.

Canvassing Tip 3: Use branching scripts. 

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:

  • Avoid yes or no questions. Yes or no questions can lead to a stilted conversation dominated by your volunteers. By contrast, asking open-ended questions encourages individuals to start talking about their personal experiences and how they relate to your cause.
  • Work in convincing arguments. Ultimately, your volunteers are attempting to persuade each person they talk to into taking a certain action. Natural conversations that encourage engagement help meet this end, but also ensure that your script leads back to your strongest arguments in favor of your campaign to help persuade your audience.
  • Encourage volunteers to step away from the script when appropriate. While your branching scripts can carry your volunteers through many conversations, they might still get thrown a curveball or carried to a topic your scripts don’t account for. Provide your volunteers with a few strategies for getting back to the matter at hand, your campaign, and encourage them to improvise within reason when the situation calls for. 

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. 

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: provide multilingual scripts. .

Canvassing Tip 4: Provide multilingual scripts. 

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. 

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: use software to reduce data entry.

Canvassing Tip 5: Use software to reduce data entry. 

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.  

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: monitor your data to adjust your plans accordingly.

Canvassing Tip 6: Monitor your data and adjust your plans accordingly.

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.

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: invest in a PCI-compliant donation processor.

Canvassing Tip 7: Have PCI-compliant donation processors. 

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:

  • Your website. Make sure your website supports all the hard work your volunteers put in encouraging people to get involved with your organization. Create a clear navigation system complete with a large, brightly colored donation button so there’s no mistake about how to donate once visitors reach your website.
  • A text-to-give number or donation app. It’s likely most people your volunteers talk to will have a cell phone on hand. When your volunteers request a donation, have them mention your text-to-give number or donation app to let supporters know they can give right then and there.
  • Your canvassing platform. Volunteers with a pen and clipboard may be limited in how they can collect donations, but virtual canvassing software arms them with the ability to walk donors through every step of their canvassing process and process a donation at the end, all through the same platform. 

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. 

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: invest in a virtual canvassing solution.

Canvassing Tip 8: Invest in virtual canvassing solutions. 

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:

Make the most of this canvassing tip and invest in a virtual software solution with these features.

  • Email and SMS follow-up. Use your canvassing software’s communication tools to stay in touch with supporters after your canvassing campaign and grow your network. 
  • Turf-cutting and canvasser management. Manage all of your volunteers remotely by dividing responsibilities evenly among your digital canvassers and supervising them virtually. 
  • Real-time reporting. Stay on top of your campaign by monitoring your volunteers’ progress in real-time. This allows you to adjust your tactics throughout your campaign to take advantage of new opportunities or prepare for future challenges.
  • Script branching. Give your digital canvassers the tools they need with a virtual canvassing script that accommodates their unique, online approach.
  • Donation processing. Ask for, accept, and process donations with one software solution by finding a virtual canvassing platform with a donation processor. 
  • Multilingual scripts. Reach out to more supporters by creating a more inclusive campaign with multilingual script functionality. 
  • Integration with VAN. Integrate your canvassing software with top advocacy platforms like VAN to keep all of your data organized in one place.
  • Scalability. Ensure your canvassing software can grow with your organization, whether you’re a local grassroots group or an enterprise-sized organization operating across multiple states. 

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. 

Improve your campaigns with this canvassing tip: follow up with supporters.

Canvassing Tip 9: Follow-up with prospective supporters.

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:

  • Personalizing the conversation. Put the data your volunteers collected to use by addressing each prospect by name, referencing their past conversations with your volunteers, and following up on courses of action discussed during your canvassing campaign.
  • Making an ask based on their previous feedback. Your volunteers should take notes about what kind of support each person they spoke with seemed most open to. For example, if someone seemed open to donating but unsure about the amounts suggested by the volunteer, consider asking for a slightly lower donation.
  • Saying thank you. Whether someone is able to give or not, make sure to thank them for speaking with you. Each interaction helps build relationships, and someone who isn’t ready to give the first time you call them may change their mind later on after learning more about your organization. 

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. 

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Conclusion

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:

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