Organising for change, is a nonpartisan strategic initiative of environmental groups representing hundreds of thousands of British Columbians. OFC works at the local and provincial levels to advance these win-win policies. For the recent British Columbia provincial elections, OFC, along with 24 of their partner groups, like Dogwood initiative and STAND, pooled resources so that they could call out to their members and make sure that they showed up to the poll. This collaborative GOTV effort was possible with the help of CallHub’s distributed phone banking service.
We talked to Celine Trojand, the Lead Organizer at Organising for change, about her experience during this campaign. Celine grew up on a farm in Northern BC and hearing her talk about her home tugs at some serious heart strings.
Celine: “I grew up in a place that was abundant. With wheat and canola and big rolling hills and prairies. They call where I come from the breadbasket of British Columbia, it is where a lot of our food is grown. Everybody partakes in the landscape. And it feeds us, we eat salmon, we fish and we hunt and it is a really critical part of who we are is the land that we live on. I kept hearing stories about how agriculture was declining and farmers were going out of business, and mostly because oil and gas was ramping up in that area. So there is shale gas in that area in the country, there were also fracking rigs popping up everywhere. And I heard stories from friends about how it was changing the landscape. There are so many flare stacks there now that you can barely see the stars, and I grew up just like drinking in these gorgeous night skies, so it has changed.”
Celine moved back to BC from her time overseas so that she could be more involved in helping maintain BC’s environment.
Celine: “I decided to come back to Canada because I felt I didn’t have any power overseas, I could mail in my vote but I didn’t really feel empowered. And I guess I just realized how much I love BC, it’s a place where there is so much food in abundance and it’s so special. I started working with Dogwood Initiative right away and stayed for seven years. We really hustled, we built probably the largest and strongest network of organizers in BC around conservation issues. I don’t know of another group in BC that has the same reach and the same grassroots foundation.”
Organizing for change is a nonpartisan organisation and Celine talks about why this is important to her.
Celine: “I came over to OFC because their mission is to ensure that no matter who is in power, that they know in order to govern here you need to have good environmental policies in place. The real strength of OFC is that it’s not partisan, we are not supporting any particular party. We help communities represent the interests of our land, our air and our water. And making sure that we support the systems that sustain us over the long term regardless of however the political wind is blowing.”
Why was OFC running calling campaigns?
Celine: “I work with a whole bunch of different conservation groups across BC. We got together 24 different groups and pooled resources so that we could call out our members and make sure that they showed up to the polls.”
Their campaign wasn’t your standard calling campaign, OFC had a clear goal to achieve and they also wanted to measure the effectiveness of these calls and understand what messages worked in driving actual change in people’s perceptions.
Celine: “We partnered with researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara, and did some experiments on get out the vote effectiveness.”
The experiments they ran were on scripts used during the calls measuring the qualitative impact of the script on people’s connection to the issues they talked about.
Theory of change
If our people visibly mobilize pro-environment voters on election day then government and opposition will act to strengthen environmental protection because they will believe that those who share our values can be decisive in elections.
As mentioned earlier, this wasn’t a solo campaign. 24 groups came together to make these calls. Instead of having data spread across different systems, they used CallHub’s volunteer team management and distributed campaign setup to make it easy for groups across cities and organisations to collaborate in their calling efforts yet give the contacts they were calling a more personalised experience. The data collected from these calls were all in a single source.
Celine: “What was kind of cool about working with CallHub was we had all sorts of different organizations calling in on the same account so we had unique scripts for everybody. People got to answer a survey from OFC but got a call from Watershed Watch or Dogwood Initiative or whoever they actually were a member of.”
Why were the experiments important?
Celine: “In Canada we can’t access voter lists, so we don’t have any data about who voted or not, which is one of the reasons our experiment is so important, it is some of the only work that is happening around that from third-party groups.”
What they achieved
Goal: In 20 strategic geographic areas, mobilizing a constituency larger than the margin of victory.
Their goal wasn’t a small one. To be able to mobilize voters in such large numbers takes a considerable amount of convincing. The OFC and their partner groups were able to meet these goals in some ridings increasing voter turnout by 7%!
Celine: “It was the collaboration, that helped us win. We made it really easy for groups who didn’t have the kind of infrastructure, skills or experience to be able to do a really effective tactic in an electoral context. A lot of the groups that we helped with our GOTV didn’t have any experience at all doing this kind of work. So we were able to really increase the volume and effectiveness, the volume of calls and effectiveness of the movement as a whole.”
OFC and their partners had a great campaign. They were able to meet their goals and understand the impact of their efforts too. The success of their campaigns goes beyond that though. The relationship they built with their community, through these conversations, is the best outcome of the campaign.
Celine: “One of the most valuable things about this particular campaign was actually about culture. In BC, the environmental movement got to engage with their people in a really deep way. It got groups going beyond their desks and getting out of press releases. Staff were having really meaningful conversations with their membership and their people. And that’s more valuable than even the results because it made our group want to do more, and it helped them see the power of real conversation with other people.”
Why phone banking and texting was the chosen channel
The OFC campaign was primarily calling and texting voters. Celine tells us why they chose telephoning over other GOTV channels.
Celine: “Where we live in BC the density is really mixed, so some places might have been great for door-to-door GOTV, but it’s really resource-intensive to pinpoint our supporters. Phoning is the next most effective tactic for this, as well as text broadcasting. We texted about 7,000 people on CallHub. We had to segment the mobile numbers that we had versus numbers that we didn’t know. So we texted when we could, when we knew we had a mobile number. Our data is all over the place because it is a whole bunch of different organizations of varying sizes and sophistication, so some of them didn’t have mobile numbers marked so we opted to call them, because other than face-to-face, GOTV, it’s the most effective and the most cost-effective for us, for sure.”
CallHub was a good fit for this campaign because it seemed to suit the needs of their varied group of volunteers.
Celine: “A lot of our folks are volunteers, a lot of them are retired, they are often anxious with technology and they were able to use CallHub easily. The feedback on the user interface was really good. People felt like the tool was easy to use and volunteers had a great time. It’s empowering for volunteers who don’t see themselves as very tech-savvy to be able to pick up a new piece of software and a new program and just use it, so that was great.”
Bring data together
OFC uses Salesforce as their CRM but not every partner group does. But before they did that, they had to combine data from a vast number of sources.
Celine: “All the different groups use vastly different tools and databases. Some organizations keep their contacts in MailChimp, and some of them keep their contacts in Excel spreadsheets, so we have all the way from Excel to Salesforce. We had to export and import a lot of data into our Salesforce and then do a whole bunch of reporting and duplication and stuff to clean out all of the information and all of the contacts.”
Support your voters and volunteers
The OFC isn’t a very large group, Celine tells us that it’s usually just the two of them during larger campaigns. They had to find a good way of managing incoming calls.
Celine: “The other thing that we set up for this project was a couple of phone lines. The call display number that showed up went to a voicemail with my voice on it, it was a really nice happy message. I didn’t get anybody telling me to fuck off, so that was great. We also had a support line so when our people were calling they had a number they could call.”
“We had a team of four or five people who were on support all the time who could go into the back end of CallHub and change people from browser to phone, or give them updates on their stats or help them figure out problems or whatever. So we kind of had our own tech as well. Most of the time it’s just that volunteers need a human to talk to, so we had a support line that people could call as well throughout the calling period.”
Encourage your volunteers with a leaderboard
They found our analytics and leaderboard plugin to be quite helpful, not just in measuring their campaign but also in getting their teams motivated to do better.
Celine: “One of the reflections for us in the debrief was that we had a lot of fun getting competitive. We have one group, the Dogwood Initiative, that is a lot more experienced. So they are known as the big group who can do electoral organizing. But the other ones, they would call me in the morning and ask for the leader board and make goals. So they are like, ‘Okay, we want to be second by Friday.’ So they got really competitive.”
Celine: “In terms of next step we are exploring doing live connects to legislators. I think people will be more comfortable talking on the phone now and be more comfortable having two-way meaningful iterative discussions with their supporters. People will be more eager to reach out to their membership at key moments for mobilization, but also for volunteer recruitment, for surveys, for any sort of engagement. Now these groups have another tool of engagement that is cost-effective and reasonably effective. So I think we will see them using it a lot.”