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Canvassing is changing but it remains one of the most effective ways for campaigns and groups to do voter outreach. That doesn’t mean every canvass is as effective as it could be.
Here are four ways campaigns can make sure every knock counts:
1. Plan canvasser progress and training.
Roughly two third of organizations send their canvassers out with no clear plan regarding where to go or who to talk to. This is a smart campaign’s opportunity to beat the competition. At the beginning of a campaign and about once a week from then on, staffers need to hold canvass trainings and group door knocking opportunities.
These activities give volunteers confidence and make them feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Running a successful training involves giving out scripts and then taking them away to encourage canvassers to speak from their own experiences. It also involves role-playing easy and difficult door knocks, getting people used to software and data collection methods, and explaining the incentive structure. Always reward successful canvassers by giving out prizes (think campaign swag). It always gets people to go the extra mile.
2. Pick the right software.
There are a few different canvassing software out there, so it’s important to choose the software that works best for your organization. It’s critical for the sake of data collection and campaign success that you use something to track your results so you can retarget voters and get-out-the-vote. But what you should choose depends on the style of your campaign.
Most canvassing software involves managers building routes for individual canvassers and then those canvassers coming into the office to get instructions on where to go and what to do. My company’s software lets managers assign canvassers to different areas, but generally the canvassers then choose their own routes and locations based on their availability. It’s a different methodology than the old “turf cutting” method used in the past. Whatever you choose, be clear with your canvassers on exactly what you want them to do so they can focus on measuring impact.
3. Monitor canvassers in their regions
After you have trained and equipped your canvassers, you send them out into the field. Traditionally you wouldn’t get any information back until the end of the day, but modern canvassing necessitates immediate feedback to guarantee success.
When your canvassers are out in the field, watch their results to understand if you’re getting the outcomes you expected. If you are not, there may be a question in your survey that is throwing people off or maybe your canvassers aren’t expressing themselves as you were hoping they would.
Standard results, from our experience, include most people saying that they will support your candidate, 90-percent-plus saying that they’ll vote in the upcoming election (you still need to remind them) and less than 5 percent of people refusing to talk to your canvassers. If these aren’t the results you’re seeing, hop on the phone with your canvassers or better yet, check their last location and hop in the car to meet them.
Unfortunately, politics has a canvassing fraud problem. Be sure that the software you choose has the capability to monitor for fraud and then use those capabilities to monitor your canvassers so you can block bad data as it’s entering your system.
It’s not only paid canvassers who commit fraud. Canvassers have all sorts of reasons for inputting false results and for most of our first-time organizations we see about 10 percent of the data being entered fraudulently. The best way to monitor for fraud is to check canvassers’ average distance from the doors they’re knocking, their pace of door knocks and their door knocking results. If there’s anything out of the ordinary, call the canvasser and approach the problem head on. Trust me, your data integrity is worth it.
4. Analyze results and retarget voters
Outreach should be tested, counted and monitored to ensure that a campaign is making the most of its outreach efforts. Campaigns that are doing their job right have invaluable data coming into their systems that tells them what people care about and how best to turn them out to vote.
After every canvassing effort, campaigns should then turn and use this data to call voters, target them on social media, and talk to them about topics they really care about.
People who are contacted 9 times become 7-8 percent more likely to vote in an election. People who are contacted twice become 2 percent more likely to vote in an election.
Fewer quality touches are more valuable than more low quality touches. Voters who are contacted more than once, though, expect the campaign to remember information about them and to serve them messages that pertain to the conversations that they’ve had.
Kendall Tucker is the CEO and Founder of Polis, a startup working to revolutionize mobile canvassing and improve in-person analytics.