In 1840, one Illinois state representative wrote a letter to his party outlining a plan to increase voter turnout for their candidate, William Henry Harrison. He suggested the party should form subcommittees for each district. “It will be the duty of said subcommittee,” he wrote, “to keep a constant watch on the doubtful voters, and from time to time have them talked to by those in whom they have the most confidence, and also to place in their hands such documents as will enlighten and influence them.”
That state representative was named Abraham Lincoln, and these instructions were some of the first canvassing tips in American politics.
Today, one-on-one interactions remain an essential ingredient in getting your supporters to the polls on Election Day. A recent study of the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race showed face-to-face contact with a volunteer raised a voter’s likelihood to cast a ballot by over ten percent — more than any other form of contact.
New tactics and technology have changed the way political parties reach out to and activate supporters since President Lincoln’s time, but one fact remains the same: Getting Out the Vote is hard work! Recruiting a network of volunteers takes time, resources, and know-how. So does keeping them inspired through Election Day. Here are six tried-and-true tips you can put into practice right now to engage your volunteers and maximize turnout in November.
Crowdskout brings everything you know about your supporters and volunteers together in one place. Easily build custom audiences to organize your data and create visualizations to spot trends. Then run all of your outreach and organizing efforts right from the platform.
1) Learn the Hard Ask.
People may not do everything you ask, but they won’t do anything at all unless you ask them. Direct asks are the best asks — don’t be afraid to use them.
Ask attendees at events to provide their contact information. See if donors would be willing to receive information on volunteer opportunities. Ask current volunteers if they’d be willing to come back again. And do what you can to keep asks relevant to the people you’re reaching out to act on your behalf.
Whether you use our native solutions or integrated third-party software, Crowdskout allows you to track your volunteers’ efforts at a granular level. You can see every interaction your volunteers take with and for your campaign, from the time they sign up as a supporter right down to each door they knock. You can target volunteers based on any number of criteria, like zip code or past event attendance. Then you can strategically focus your asks on the volunteers most likely to respond positively to them.
2) Stay Connected.
Your campaign’s relationship with volunteers is like any other relationship: Regular communication is key. Volunteers need to hear from you on a regular basis.
Be sure to send reminders to your volunteers before and day of their event, and send them a thank you message afterward. Even send them periodic updates on similar events, campaign developments, or low-bar asks like sharing information on social media. That’s not to say you should barrage volunteers constantly — you shouldn’t. However, you want to make sure your campaign remains top-of-mind for your volunteers.
Send an email. Tap out a text. Dial the phone. Knock on a door. Crowdskout can integrate with the tools you already use, or you can use ours, to reach your volunteers whatever platforms they use most. You can use Crowdskout to send reminders and automated thank you messages.
We make it easy for you to manage communication and analyze key data points like open rates, click rates, responses, and more. Those actions are displayed on your contact timeline, so you get a 360-degree view of your volunteers’ behavior.
3) Stay Organized.
Volunteers are giving you one of the most valuable things they have: their free time. They deserve to be treated with care and attention.
When you’re building a large community of volunteers, it may be tempting to lump them all into one large group and communicate in bulk. Do not give in to that temptation. Keep your volunteers in organized groups. Try as best you can to keep your touch points relevant to their experience and interests.
Crowdskout aggregates data on your volunteers from multiple sources in real time. This allows you to drill down into behavior, search based on a variety of criteria, and create custom groups to receive your asks. Need volunteers to drive voters to the polls? Search for previous volunteers, with drivers licenses, who’ve worked or live in specific precincts, and send your ask to them.
4) Empower Your Volunteers.
While volunteers show up because they want to help, it’s up to you to give them the tools they need to be successful.
Setting your volunteers up to succeed starts before they show up for their shift. Make sure they know where they’re going, what they’re doing, and if they’ll need to bring anything with them. Once they arrive, be personable. A simple greeting and handshake can go a long way. Remember, not all volunteers will be activism veterans. Provide training for more complicated tasks and always make sure expectations are clear. And be patient with any questions that come your way.
Technology can make a volunteer’s experience a lot smoother. Crowdskout has two native solutions to make the whole process easier and integrated. Daytripper is custom built for canvassing. It allows you to organize call sheets, simplify walk sheets, and enter response information seamlessly. Operator facilitates virtual phone banks to connect volunteers with voters. Crowdskout can also help create easy-to-use online forms customized for your campaign.
5) Be the Expert.
Your volunteers will look to you for leadership. You must be ready to provide clear instructions, answer questions, and give them the proper tools to get the job done.
Organization is key here. When it comes to phone banking and canvassing, make sure you have your targets set. Have your call and walk sheets ready. Have an idea of how you want to organize your volunteers, and have the equipment they’ll need ready to go.
6) Say ‘Thank You.’
These are two little words that go a long way in keeping volunteers coming back again and again.
Volunteers aren’t numbers in a spreadsheet. They’re real people with busy lives who choose to give some of that to your campaign. When their shift is through, say thanks in person when possible. Make sure every volunteer receives a ‘Thank You’ message that doesn’t look or feel like a generic email blast. Maybe give them something to thank them for their time — a special-edition button, pin, or bumper sticker. A volunteer who feels her time was well-spent is more likely to return to help again.
Crowdskout makes it simple to segment out specific volunteers and send them targeted, specialized correspondence.