Friend to friend canvassing: more fun, and 50% more effective

Posted: November 8th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Phone banks | No Comments »

12/11/2006 update
The Grassroots Champions Coalition has used Advokit to organize precincts throughout California.

Bruce Daniels describes their implementation approach here.

What if you had tools that allowed participants to share their networks with your effort, in addition to their time, thoughtfulness, and energy?

Robo-calling: tempting for campaigns, annoying for voters, ten times the expense

In the election just concluded, I received countless robocalls, mass mailings, and email messages from candidates and elected officials. I voted, of course, but the only thing that moved me to action was a friend’s emailed account of his own door to door efforts in the Virginia Senatorial campaign.

I’m not alone. The news is filled with stories of voters in Arizona, New York and other states who are tired of getting calls.

It’s some comfort to know that robo-calling, at $275 per new vote generated, is 10 to 20 times more expensive than canvassing or phone banks.

Friend to friend

Pat Dunlavey has found a way that’s more humane and more effective.

In 1998, 1999, and 2003, Dunlavey organized ballot measure campaigns in Massachusetts to allow local governments to increase taxes to fund needed local services.

1998: Ten supporters identified per canvassser via cold-calls

In his first effort, call lists were assigned by the campaign based on geography. 85 volunteers each made 30 contacts per person, and identified only one third of the contacts as ballot measure supporters. Volunteers generally completed only 60% of their assigned contacts and found the cold calling an unpleasant experience.

Although the ballot measure passed, Dunlavey was disappointed with the results, and sought ways to avoid cold-calling.

2003: Fifteen supporters identified per canvasser via friend-to-friend

In 2003, his volunteers used a custom web application (reborn in 2004 as Advokit) to scan the town’s voter database and “tag” or claim voters that they felt, based on personal knowledge, would be supporters of the ballot measure. The 55 initial canvassers recruited an additional 40, and then each canvasser contacted more than 26 people on average and identified 15 supporters. The 2003 group was both happier — completing 85% of the calls assigned — and more effective — they converted almost twice as many of of their contacts to supporters (57% in 2003 vs. 31%in 1998)

Netalyst worked with Advokit (and CivicActions) during the fall of 2004 to support the VoteAllYourValues effort , to design an easier to use “lite” interface and to develop strategies that would allow the campaign’s ambitious targets for calls generated to be reached.

Advokit was also used with good results in that year’s New York State senate races.

The Advokit website provides an online demo and free download of this open source software.