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Phone Canvassing: The Future of Campaign Canvassing Is Here

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Published: Oct 1, 2020

Outside door knocking, phone canvassing is the most effective way to get out the vote. In the current election, when the pandemic has restricted social contact, phone canvassing becomes more critical.

But that’s not all. 

Even without the threat of COVID-19, phone canvassing lets you get in touch with many people with fewer resources than door-to-door canvassing. While both require you to have some intel on your voters, phone canvassing can be your first point of contact to gather adequate information for door knocking.

What is phone canvassing?

By definition, canvassing is the initiation of conversations between political campaigns and individuals to spread their reach to the grassroots. The objectives are:

  1. Gauging the support a candidate has.
  2. Discussing issues and the candidate’s stand on them.
  3. Persuading people to register as voters, vote on election day, and vote for said candidate.
phone canvassing steps

Traditionally, this is done by visiting potential voters’ houses. Phone canvassing is the same practice of persuading voters but undertaken via phone calls or texts.

To know why phone canvassing is necessary before campaigning door-to-door, read this article: Phone banking and Canvassing – Your tools to win an election.

Phone canvassing can include:

  1. Telephone canvassing: Candidate, staffers, and campaign volunteers call voters to have detailed discussions and with the motive of persuasion
  2. Text canvassing: Volunteers send text blasts to numbers who have opted in or engage in personal peer-to-peer messaging with people who respond. 

Difference between telephone canvassing and text canvassing

Telephone canvassingText canvassing
Helps you engage in deep conversations. A 3-10 minute conversation is likely to persuade voters.Conversations in text canvassing are less detailed than phone calls.. Although P2P texts allow you to have a full conversation, it is rarely as detailed as a phone call.
Phone calls made by humans (not robocalls) have fewer restrictions by TCPA regulations.Depending on the text messaging software you use, text canvassing can be obstructed by TCPA rules. The rule limits the use of automated text messages.
Phone canvassing calls have a 5% answer rate on cell phones and about 10% on landline phones. So, calling more people is the only way to canvass more voters.Although text messages have a 98% open-rate, about 69% of texters say they face problems with spam messages. This means, if you don’t have a reliable text canvassing script, you risk getting marked spam.
Telephone canvassing is an excellent way to 
– Identify supporters
– Collect information for deep canvassing
– Persuade them to vote for you
– GOTV efforts
Text message canvassing allows you to
– Send links/digital details for voter registration
– Logistical information for election day Collect information of voters for further canvassing

In this article, we are focusing on telephone canvassing (also called phone canvassing).

Is phone canvassing effective?

In 2015, Les Republicains Party– one of France’s major political parties, set up a campaign to recruit more volunteers to their team. The newly recruited and old volunteers, in turn, had to set up campaigns in their respective cities and reach out to thousands of supporters.

Using phone banking, the party was able to: 

  • Recruit 800 volunteers.
  • Set up phone banking campaigns from their individual systems.
  • Make about 900,000 calls to supporters.
  • Spend about 1,000,000 minutes (roughly 22 months!) on phone calls.

Before 2015, this exercise of election canvassing was done using ordinary telephone lines. Thus, it was:

  1. Tedious: Volunteers had to record data manually.
  2. Time-consuming: Volunteers checked numbers on one system and entered them in another. Bad numbers or unanswered calls only added to the total time.
  3. Complicated: Teams had to decide on calling lists every day, coordinate with volunteers about progress, and undertake preparatory work before every call.

Such issues can outweigh the advantages and effectiveness of phone canvassing. The Les Republicains Party used CallHub’s phone banking software, and just like that, all these challenges vanished.

This is one example of how phone banking can result in a satisfactory impact. Historically, phone canvassing was the second-best way for voter outreach after door-to-door canvassing.

However, it would be a grave miscalculation to undermine its potential. Why? Here’s what studies say about GOTV using door Vs. phone canvassing:

Door canvassingPhone canvassing
A study showed that contact with MoveOn volunteers increased voter turnout by about 9%. Volunteer-led phone banking efforts can increase voter turnout by 3.8%.
A volunteer can knock on an average of 20 doors per hour (persuasion and voter registration may take longer than GOTV efforts, thus decreasing the number of houses the volunteer visits per hour).Manual dialing can ring about 30 numbers every hour. Using a Predictive Dialer can increase this to 110 numbers per hour.

Requires more volunteers and time to canvass x voters.Requires fewer volunteers and time to canvass x voters.
Say your canvas chart has 3600 houses. You have 10 volunteers (or 10 teams of x volunteers each). 
So one volunteer (or team) will target 360 houses.
Divide that by the number of doors knocked every hour (~20). That’s 18 hours- the total time required for every volunteer to complete their target number.
If the volunteers have a 3 hour shift, they will take 6 days to complete the target.  
If you are calling the same 3600 voters with phone banking, with a team of 10 volunteers.
One volunteer will target 360 numbers.
Divide that by the average numbers dialed every hour (~110). That’s 3.27 hours. Just a half an hour overtime would let the team reach their goal of 3600 voters in one shift!

In the current times, when the risk of COVID-19 infection is high, door knocking may not always be appreciated. Thus, phone canvassing assumes the primary position. Once you understand which of your supporters prefer door canvassing, you can shortlist them and send volunteers to have a conversation.

To make phone canvassing effective,

  • Conversations must be long-lasting and meaningful.
  • Volunteers must have some intel about the people they are calling, so interactions are more organic.
  • Callers must have a clear understanding of objectives (collecting information, GOTV, or persuasion.)

Shifting from door-knocking to phone canvassing

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to beware of all precautionary measures and minimize social contact. Door-knocking requires hundreds of volunteers to knock on thousands of doors (it is estimated that a single volunteer knocks on 20 doors per hour).

Political campaigns can shift their base to phone canvassing entirely or majorly to keep up with the safety measure. But how do you make this shift?

Step 1: Collate data from your door-canvassing apps, software, and databases. This information includes

  • Names, addresses, and contact details of supporters
  • Their voting preferences
  • Issues that they feel strongly about
  • Voter registration status
  • If they are willing to volunteer for your campaign.

Step 2: Filter in the phone numbers to add to your new database. Maintain addresses of supporters who haven’t provided numbers.

Step 3: Invest in a phone banking software that integrates with CRMs and allows import of contact lists (like CallHub). You can skip Step 2 entirely if the software can import data from your door canvassing apps or databases.

If you are an Ecanvasser user, here’s how you can import your data into CallHub.

1. Go to the AppStore page from your Ecanvasser dashboard. Click on the CallHub app and install it.
2. Sign in to your CallHub account and get your API key. (Account – Settings – API Key)
3. Use your primary email connected with CallHub and the API key on the Ecanvasser App Store page.
4. Log in. Select the contacts [All voters/ particular list(s)] you want to sync with your CallHub account. (Audience – select lists – save).
phone canvassing callhub ecanvasser contacts
Image Source: Ecanvasser.
NGPVan users can export their saved turfs, walk lists, or contact numbers as CSV sheets into CallHub.

[Log in to your CallHub account – Select ‘Create’ under the Call Center tool – Add details on the “Script” page – Click Next – Choose Phonebook(s)]

Step 4: Train campaign volunteers to use the new tools.

Step 5: Get your election canvassing team to start phone calls well before election day. How soon before the election you canvass depends on your campaign’s objectives, how many people you want to reach, and the number of available volunteers.

Along with the main objectives, your phone banking script must also ask:

  • What channels they want follow up communication to occur on
  • Whether the voter prefers in-person conversation
  • If they have a preferred time for the visit

Step 6: Follow up with P2P text messages, phone calls, or emails periodically so your campaign remains fresh and relevant in your supporters’ minds. 

Only plan volunteer and staff visits to the houses of supporters who prefer it. Also include the addresses of people who haven’t provided contact details and are not yet canvassed.

How does phone banking work?

Phone banking is a dynamic process undertaken by hundreds of volunteers and over a few weeks.

This process can be long and tedious. After all, you call up thousands of people and ideally have at least a 3-minute conversation with each.

While the time volunteers spend on phone calls is worth the effort, phone banking software can reduce the time spent in dialing numbers and help you centralize all your data in one easy-to-access place.

Phone banking software like CallHub offers the following features:

  • Easy automatic dialing that makes at least 3X more calls per minute than manual dialing
  • A choice of outbound dialers (predictive dialer, preview dialer and power dialer)
  • Integration with CRMs
  • Unlimited volunteer accounts
  • Enables callers to record contact history and survey responses on the tool and have it sync back to a CRM
  • Rent local numbers for canvassing campaigns

CallHub offers three varieties of dialers to choose from. Depending on the number of people you are calling and the objective of your campaign, choose from:

  • Predictive Dialer
  • Power Dialer
  • Preview Dialer

Predictive DialerPower DialerPreview Dialer
How it worksA predictive dialer dials numbers ahead of time, and connects only answered calls to agents.

With agents being connected to the next call as soon as they are done with one, you can ensure that most of their time is spent talking to voters rather than waiting for them to pick up.
A power dialer dials the next number in the queue only when the caller indicates that they are done with the current call.

This allows volunteers time to fill surveys and read up on the next caller before dialing the number.
When your campaign is about registering or persuading voters, volunteers must research them thoroughly.

A preview dialer lets you search for such contacts, review their choices and causes before dialing the number.
Rate of callingThe predictive dialer makes 3x more calls per hour than a manual dialer.
One caller can dial 45 numbers in an hour and make 25 calls.
One agent can dial up to 70 calls every hour and expect to have 35 livel calls.The rate of dialing in a preview dialer varies according to the time taken for research before every call. 
Unique featuresAutomatically adjusts the dialing ratio. Since calls are dialed before an agent becomes free so that they can immediately move on to the next call. Busy, unanswered and bad numbers are automatically skipped.

You can adjust the dial rate according to your average answer rates. 

For instance, if your average answer rate is 40%, set the dial rate to 2:1. The power dialer will call two numbers at a time and connect the answered call with your agent. If both numbers are answered, one will receive a recorded message.
Gives agents access to the entire contact list. They can view information on the contact, swap to someone else in the household, see the history of calls made to the contact, as well as notes associated with the calls.

Use casesA predictive dialer will come handy for:
– Voter canvassing
– GOTV campaigns
– Persuasion efforts
Power dialers can help with:
– Persuasion efforts
– Voter canvassing
– Voter registration
A preview dialer is an excellent tool for:
– Voter ID campaigns
– Voter registration
– Persuasion efforts
Features common to all dialers– Volunteers have the script as a guide on their screen at all times.
– Create unlimited volunteer accounts that can be accessed from several locations. Maintain social distancing even among your team members.
– Track call metrics, daily call reports, and agent performance. 
– The campaign creator (manager) can monitor live calls. Stay on mute on the call while the volunteer speaks with your supporters.
Add surveys to the script and record answers directly into your CRM.
– CallHub’s advanced analytics tool will evaluate your phone canvassing campaign and give you crucial information for the next one.

Additionally, CallHub also offers volunteer management systems, phone number verification systems, and patch-through calls to make your phone canvassing campaign successful. Check out all the tools here

Related Reading: Create the Perfect Phone Banking Script for Your Calling Campaign

Sample phone canvassing scripts:

A good phone canvassing script:

  • Guides first time or new volunteers
  • Ensures that all vital points are in place
  • Eliminates potential glitches (like a volunteer having stage fright or not knowing the answer to a question, etc.)

Here are three sample scripts with three goals:

  • Collecting voter information
  • Persuasion
  • GOTV efforts. 

Sample script to collect information before volunteers go door-knocking

Questions to ask during voter ID:

For supporters:

Hello [name], this is [agent name] calling from Senator Jon’s campaign. Is this a good time to talk?

Can Senator Jon count on your support?

Response: Strong support/leaning support

That’s awesome! Can you tell us about the issues you particularly care about at present?

Noted. We are collecting information from supporters to better understand what we’re doing right and what can be improved. Do you mind answering a few questions for this survey? [Ask relevant questions, note answers]

Thank you. That was super helpful. While we’re at it, would you like to help up with [phone banking/text banking/canvassing/data entry/fundraising/others]? We are always happy to have strong supporters like you further our cause.

Great! We will share the [donation link/sign-up form] soon. Thank you very much for your time.
For non-supporters/undecided voters:

Hello [name], this is [agent name] calling from Senator Jon’s campaign. Is this a good time to talk?

Can Senator Jon count on your support?

Response: Undecided/supports another candidate

Can you tell me who your number one choice is at the moment?[Add opposition’s name]

May I ask you what causes or issues you particularly care about? [List the causes]

Senator Jon has taken up the [mention relevant issues] cause in his last term. Would you like to know about the reforms he brought about and the developments he is proposing?

Answer: Not interested.

No problem. Thank you for your time!

Answer: YES.

Great. Do you prefer our volunteer calling you later, or would you like to meet one of us in person?[Note answer]

Can you share your address? [Add the address to your database].

Lovely. See you soon. Thank you very much for your time!

Sample script for persuasion

phone canvassing persuasion script

Sample script for GOTV 

When the person is willing to vote:

Hi, am I speaking with [name]? I am [agent name] calling from Senator Jon’s 2020 campaign. May I have a moment of your time?

We aren’t asking about your voting preferences. We are only concerned about voters registering themselves for this election campaign. This election promises to bring much-needed reforms and conversations about [list latest issues]. By voting for your preferred party, you participate in this historic election. 

Do you plan to cast your vote on [date of the election]?

Answer: YES

That’s great! Do you require any information about your polling station or time?

Answer: YES [mentions required details]

No problem. We will get back to you with [details] by [mention timeframe]

Answer: NO

Great! See you at the polling station on [election day]. Thank you for your time.
When the person is not willing/undecided:

Hi, am I speaking with [name]? I am [agent name] calling from Senator Jon’s 2020 campaign. May I have a moment of your time?

We aren’t asking about your voting preferences. We are only concerned about voters registering themselves for this election campaign. This election promises to bring much-needed reforms and conversations about [list latest issues]. By voting for your preferred party, you participate in this historic election. 

Do you plan to cast your vote on [date of the election]?

Answer: NO

We would like to remind you that this election is significant for [mention location]. [Mention demographics/professions/neighborhoods/income groups closest to the voter] will be most impacted by this race outcome. Your voice can determine the future of [said category]. Please do consider voting.

Changed answer to YES.

That’s great! Do you have information on your polling station and time? If not, we can look it up and get back to you with the details shortly.

Still undecided/unwilling.

In case you change your mind, do you have information on your polling station and time? We can get back to you with the details shortly.
Thank you for your time. We do hope to see you at the polling station on [election date].

Related Reading: 10 tips to win at political phone banking

Phone canvassing is about securing support, but at the same time, it is about building relationships with the masses. A good script, efficient software, and competent volunteers can create strong grassroots support for your campaign.

Thus, the time and effort spent in calling thousands of people are ultimately worth it.

Do check out our phone banking software for a time-saving and obstacle-free election canvassing campaign.

Feature Image Source: DAILY KOS

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