It’s officially 2020 and for campaign staffers across the country it means one thing: election season! It’s a time when people from all different walks of life come together in the interest of one common goal: their democracy. No matter what level of campaign experience you have you can (and absolutely should!) get involved.
Mostly anyone who has volunteered or worked on a campaign could tell you that the rush of campaign season is unmatched. It’s true -- but that rush doesn’t have to be nerve wracking if you know what you’ll need to be successful. Here, you’ll learn some quick tips of the industry to set your campaign office up for smooth sailing:
Set up your campaign office for efficient canvassers
Canvassing (also known as door-knocking) will likely be the core of your program for volunteers and staff working out of campaign offices. Typically, canvassers come into the office, prep and train for the “turf” they will be canvassing, then head out with a partner to the area they’re assigned to. In and out! This is because the majority of time should be spent out in the field talking to actual voters.
The set-up of the office is key to setting the expectations for volunteers and staffers. Depending on how large your operation is, a campaign office might be a garage and for others it could be a large union hall. No matter the case, the same holds true for any field office: your goal is to get volunteers and staffers in and out, in a quick and efficient flow. To do this, you will want to set up different stations in your office to guide your team back out the door when they walk in.
Setting up Stations
You’ll need a few tables to set this up -- plastic, fold-out portable tables work great. Set up your tables in a way where the first and last table they encounter is near the entrance and exit respectively, and leave plenty of open room for foot traffic. In some cases, the entrance and exit may be the same door, so you’ll need to guide people from the first to the last station with as little confusion as possible. To do that, I’d recommend using tape to outline a series of arrows on the floor so folks know what station they’re hitting next. (You might want your tables to line the walls of the office so as to leave a big open space in the center of the office.) Usually you’ll have about 4 stations: sign-in, turf assignments, training “bullpen”, and maybe a to-go supplies station.
Typically, you’ll want your first station to double as a sign-in area and a station to welcome back volunteers after they’ve been out talking to voters in their communities. Use paper sign-in sheets to keep track of them.
Many volunteers may be new to campaigning, so it’s up to you to make sure that they are greeted with a welcoming and tight knit system. The more you are able to achieve this, the more likely your volunteers are to come back.
Turf and Training
Once your volunteers sign in (or come back from a canvass shift to begin a new shift), the next table they should head to should be where they are assigned a “turf” to canvass.
Some campaigns have switched to paperless options but for the most part you’ll prepare printed “walk lists” so canvassers know which voters they’ll be talking to at each block. For this, you’ll need plenty of paper, at least one working printer (I’d suggest having multiple printers for larger operations) and at least one computer with internet access. Even if your campaign is employing phone apps or other paperless options, you should still have this section to make sure canvassers have what they need to go to turf and collect data.
After this, they should head to the “training bullpen” which should be a small presenting area where they should be quickly trained on best practices and have the opportunity to ask any questions they have before heading out.
My recommendation is to set up fold out chairs in a small circle facing the trainer, and use poster paper and markers to take notes large enough for canvassers to read.
Another important recommendation is having this area be the only place with chairs available for volunteers. Having chairs available at any other station will invite folks to sit, rather than moving quickly and heading back out to turf.
Once your canvassing for the day is done, all of the information compiled from voter contacts should be uploaded to whatever database your campaign is using. For this, you’ll need at least one computer with internet to whomever is assigned to data entry. Your campaign lead should explain which database is being used and how.
Phone Banking & Text Blasting
While phone banking has slowed down over the years (as home phones have been phased out), most campaigns will still devote a section of their campaign office to reach voters over the phone - whether through a call or text.
Typically, this is reserved for volunteers who can’t (or won’t) canvass. You’ll want to make sure that it is separated from the canvasser stations so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of foot traffic, so mark that area separately.
For this, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of phone chargers, and back-up phones for folks who don’t have a personal cell to use. Also, here is a place besides your training bullpen where you can let your volunteers sit, so set up foldable tables and chairs accordingly.
Track your Progress!
Decorate your office with plenty of posters around the room to track the progress of how many voters your team has talked to, how many volunteer shifts have been completed, etc. Use colorful posters, or use illustrations to show volunteers how much their efforts have paid off and how much more work needs to be done to bring it home!
Campaigning can be as much fun as you make it. Make your life easier with these tips whether you’re working Super Tuesday, the general election in November or any other campaign you’re on. Once you set your team up for success, the rest is all about having fun and engaging voters - which is what’s most important.