The Only Guide You Need to Get Started with Political Phone Banking

September 10, 2019 - 27 minutes read

By the time you reach political phone banking on the checklist of things that your political campaign needs to do, you’re probably already stretched thin. So, let’s make this quick and easy:

If you need answers to questions such as,

  • “Where do I get a list of people to call?”
  • “How do I recruit volunteers?”
  • “What should my phone banking script look like?”
  • “How do I make calls, and what dialer should I use?” or
  • “How do I measure the results of a phone banking campaign?”

This will be your guide.

This post will take you through:

What is political phone banking?

Phone banking is a form of outreach by political campaigns where volunteers call potential voters to identify supporters, raise funds, get people to attend events and persuade them to vote for a candidate or a cause.

political-phone-banking-steps

Phone banking involves everything from recruiting and training volunteers, creating targeted lists of people to be called, preparing call scripts, deciding on calling tools and tracking all calling activity to make sure outreach efforts are adding up to the final goal of getting every supporter out to vote.

Does phone banking work?

It’s no coincidence that political campaigns all over the world use phone banking as a way to reach out to constituents. It works.

Take a look at Les Republicains, one of the two major political parties in France.

Using phone banking for volunteer recruitment, they managed to make over 900,000 calls and recruit 800 volunteers in four months.

Integrations made sure that data from their phone banking campaigns in CallHub flowed into their CRM, NationBuilder, so new information that was collected through phone banks immediately reflected in their database.

Jagmeet Singh, who ran for the leadership of the NDP in Canada.

ndp-voter-turnout-callhub

His campaign used phone banking extensively for GOTV efforts among identified supporters and party members.

With an impressive turnout of 70% among segments of Jagmeet’s supporters, he went on to win the election, becoming the youngest leader in the parties history.

Australia’s Greens Party MP Jamie Parker decided to run a hyperlocal campaign combining door-to-door canvassing and phone banking.

green-party-phonebanking-followup

They followed up each face-to-face interaction with a phone call and then continued calling voters throughout the campaign.

In Canada, Organizing for Change, an environmental coalition group used phone banking to drive calls to British Columbia voters to get them out to vote in their recent provincial elections, increasing voter turnout by 7%.

organizing-for-change-phonebanking-conversion-boost

LGBT advocacy group, NEAT, uses phone calls to connect voters to their elected officials. 

How to organize a phone banking campaign

So what makes a phone banking campaign successful? Here’s a step by step process you can follow:

building-phonebanking-list

1. Building a list of people you want to call

It all starts with the list of contacts you need to call. Depending on where you are from, and the data you require, there are three main ways to get lists:

Local election office

Your state or county election official will be able to provide the latest list available from the state. Contact your Secretary of State’s office or the local election bureau for the voter file. This will likely be a very basic list. NationBuilder provides similar voter files as a free resource on their website.

Your political party

The major political parties maintain their own voter data on top of the public lists. So if you are contesting as a party candidate, you would be allowed to use the party voter file. These files would contain additional information on potential voters, such as past candidates supported and donor tags.

Data vendors

Some voter data vendors like L2 or Aristotle provide lists they have built or collected from past campaigns. The information in those lists is more comprehensive than a state-provided list. It also comes at a higher cost so it might not be viable for small campaigns.

If you just have a basic voter list, these services can also append missing data, helping with list cleaning.

Note: Another option is to buy or rent lists from other candidates who previously ran in the same area.

Further Reading: Building your voter contact list

deciding-calling-tools-phonebanking

2. Deciding how you want to make calls

Once you have your list, you need to determine how you want your volunteers to make calls.

Manual Calling

In a manual calling campaign volunteers manually dial the numbers for the contacts assigned to them.

There are two ways to do this:

With printed call lists, scripts, and surveys

Provide volunteers with a printed list of people they have to call along with printed surveys and call scripts.

Pros:

  • Can call cell phones
  • Handling printed material may be more comfortable for older volunteers

Cons:

  • Slow phone banking process with 10 – 15 conversations per hour
  • The hassle of data entry and chance of data loss when dealing with printed material
  • The annoyance of splitting contacts among volunteers
With a virtual phone bank—like Callective Calling

Virtual phone banks let you upload the list of voters you want to contact and assign them to volunteers who’ll be making calls. Volunteers manually dial voters from their phones while entering data back on-screen.

Pros:

  • Directly import your calling data from your CRM
  • Survey answers filled in by volunteers are synced with CRM or can be exported via CSV without the need for manual data entry.

Cons:

  • Since the calls themselves are not automated, the phone banking process is still slow
  • Costs for the virtual phone banking software. (CallHub offers 5000 free calls on its Collective Calling tool. If you’re running a local campaign, that might be sufficient for your calls.)
Automated Calling

An automated dialer dials through a contact list and when a call is answered connects it to a live volunteer. Campaigns have the flexibility to choose between multiple dialer types depending on availability of volunteers and the number of calls they need to make (Eg. While a Power Dialer lets you make around 35 calls an hour, a Predictive Dialer takes that up to around 110.

Pros:

  • Campaigns can establish a local presence by choosing a caller ID that matches the location of the person they’re calling
  • Volunteers can join the campaign and automatically get connected to voters without having to manually dial through a list
  • A large number of calls per hour
  • No data entry since the data is filled directly into the calling tool. With integrations – directly to CRM.
  • Volunteers can call on behalf of the campaign from the comfort of their homes.

Cons:

  • Cannot call cell phones
  • Costlier than having volunteers dial from their own phones

Consider reading our guide comparing manual and automated calling to decide which calling mode works best for your campaign.

Patch-through Calling
patch-through-calling-steps

Useful for connecting voters to officials, patch-through calling lets volunteers call supporters, tutor them about issues and take them through exactly how to carry out a conversation with their representative before patching the call to the right representative.

political-phone-banking-script

3. Preparing a phone banking script

A phone banking script lets volunteers structure the conversation around the right talking points without deviating into long-winded debates, and for nervous, first-time phone banking volunteers who don’t have experience cold calling strangers, a script is a godsend.

Volunteers should be able to use the phone banking script to collect the right data points while coming across as polite and helpful.

For example, the goal of a Voter ID script is to identify the level of support for your candidate, issues the voter cares about and potential volunteers or yard sign hosts.

You can do that by posing potential voters direct questions that will reveal their voting preferences.

The questions on a voter ID script should look something like this:

voter-id-script

A Persuasion script is for recontacting undecided voters who have already been ID’d.

These scripts are usually longer, with the volunteers engaging the voter in a conversation on the issues they identify with.

A GOTV script is aimed at getting the supporters you’ve identified out to vote.

During the initial stage of GOTV, it is crucial for the script to engage the voters in creating a plan for how and when they vote. Right before the election, you scripts should be tailored towards getting out the vote.

Take a look at our article on writing an excellent phone banking script.

Your script is essential in making sure all your volunteers are on the same page when it comes to talking to potential voters or volunteers.

recruiting-volunteers-political-phone-banking

4. Recruiting volunteers for phone banking

How do you get people to donate their time?

Volunteers are likely to step forward if they feel that the work they do is going to make a difference or if they are deeply aligned with your campaigns agenda.

Talk about how phone banking impacts your campaign efforts and how it can be the difference between winning a losing your election.

Recruiting volunteers is all about having a compelling objective and story for your campaign.

Another option is looking within your organization. Assuming you are not taking their time away from more crucial tasks, asking in-house for volunteers can bypass the need to promote your phone banking event.

If you’re considering distributed campaigning with phone banks, a phone banking software like CallHub can make it easy for you to add volunteers to your campaign through a sign-up form.

Here are some ways your campaign can start recruiting volunteers:

  • Put your phone banking dates on the website and let people sign up to phone bank right from there.
  • Make the ask to people who are identified as supporters during the voter ID stage.
  • Put the call out on social media
  • Assign volunteers responsibility of local recruiting efforts They’ll be able to connect better with peers in the area.
training-volunteers-for-phonebanking

5. Training volunteers and encouraging collaboration

There’s no getting around the fact that most of your phone banking volunteers are going to be inexperienced. Which is why easing the learning curve and making your volunteers comfortable is an important part of setting up a phone banking campaign.

Some steps you can take for a more efficient phone bank are:

Getting volunteers used to the interface

If you’re using a phone banking software to run your campaign, take some time initially to make sure your volunteers can comfortably navigate the interface.

Make it a collaborative process

If your volunteer has a question or a suggestion that they think will improve your phone banking efforts, set aside the time to hear them out.

Providing distractions every now and then

There’s no doubt making calls for hours on end can get dull. Re-energize your volunteers with the occasional distraction. Don’t forget to keep your stores of snacks, water, and coffee stocked throughout the day.

Use a centralized communication tool

Using Slack or WhatsApp to centralize your communication has two clear advantages:

  1. It makes it a lot easier to coordinate phone banking efforts and share important updates.
  2. It gives volunteers the space to interact with each other and form a sense of community and shared purpose.
importing-contact-lists-phonebanking

6. Importing lists and assigning contacts to volunteers

You can connect your CRM or database directly to the phone banking tool and import contact lists. If you don’t use a CRM and simply have your lists as spreadsheets, you can import them as well.

You can then select the group of volunteers for your campaign and your software will automatically split up the list and assigns it to them. You can even let new volunteers join the campaign while a phone bank is going on and a tool like CallHub will start assigning them contacts too.

Some of the most popular integrations available for phone banking tools like CallHub are NGP VANs VoteBuilder, Action Network, NationBuilder or BSD Tools.

See the full list of integrations with CallHub.

analyzing-political-phone-banking-data

7. Analyzing data and making improvements

After running a successful phone banking campaign, it’s finally time to measure your results.

Analyze your conversions at the end of your campaign, did you reach out to the people you wanted to? Did they turn up to vote?

There are some key metrics you can measure that are specific to phone banking campaigns:

  • Agent occupancy rates – Percentage of time volunteers spend on calls against idle time
  • Call drop rates – Calls that got disconnected before they were connected to a volunteer / Total number of calls dialed
  • Reach rates – Percentage of calls that were picked up
  • Number of call attempts – Per agent and total

Here’s a more detailed article on turning political and advocacy phone banking results into Action.

Political Phone Banking – Use Cases

Previously explored briefly, the main use cases of phone banking for political campaigns are:

  1. Identifying voters and Cleaning lists
    Categorizing supporters in order to target them for different calling campaigns. Filling in crucial data that can help you identify your supporters.
  2. GOTV or Get out the vote
    Mobilizing supporters to vote at the end stages of your political campaign.

There are other ways to identify voters and GOTV, like social media and going door to door, but phone banking edges them out, simply because—social media isn’t as personal, and door-to-door canvassing isn’t as scalable.

Cleaning Lists and Identifying Voters

In the early stages of your campaign, you need to be aware of who still lives in the area you are campaigning in and how likely they are to support you. Depending on where and how you are getting your contact lists, you may be missing crucial information, such as party affiliation, email address, history of voting or voter stance on specific issues.

Cleaning your lists by filling these knowledge gaps is a significant step in the campaign process. This lets you identify voters based on who you want to target for future efforts. With every phone call, volunteers fill these gaps in the database to make sure future outreach efforts can be tailored to individual voter preferences.

For example, you can call people to determine which voters will probably vote for your campaign and separate them from those who need to be persuaded to vote for you, letting you target the former category with a GOTV campaign.

Another way to ID Voters is to rate them on a scale, e.g. 1-5 where 1 is highly likely to vote and 5 is highly unlikely.

supporter-level

The main goal of a voter identification campaign is to create a target universe of supporters who’ll form the crux of your campaign messaging across the persuasion and Get Out The Vote stage. 

Get out the vote

GOTV or Get Out The Vote efforts are the vital last stage of your campaign, aimed towards mobilizing your entire GOTV universe–people that you already know are supporting your campaign–and getting them out to vote.

GOTV campaigns are most effective right before voting begins. The message should be simple and to the point – conveying the urgency of voting and getting your candidate the win.

Irrespective of how many volunteers you have, it can be very daunting to reach every supporter on your GOTV list by manually dialing their numbers. While a single volunteer hand dialing contacts from a physical list may talk to about 10 – 15 people in the span of an hour, an automated dialer can bring up that number up to 45 to 50 conversations in the span of an hour, and are commonly used at this stage for their capacity to handle higher volumes.

The above are just a few ways political phone calls can help your campaigns.

Also read: Phone Calls for GOTV: 8 Solid Strategies for your Campaign!

A Final Rundown – What You Need To Phone Bank for Political Campaigns

There are a few more questions you need to ask yourself before getting started with a phone banking campaign.

What is the scale and budget?

Before you start planning your overall political banking campaign, you need to be aware of how many people you want to reach and your budget estimate for making calls.

Some key figures you need to determine are:

  • Your win number
    The number of votes you need in order to get your candidate elected. This will give you the number of people you need to contact for your phone banking
  • Voter contact estimate
    This is the estimated cost of contacting all the voters you are planning to reach during your phone banking campaign
  • Vote Deficit
    This is the number of extra votes you need in order to win an election.
  • How many volunteers?
    Make sure you plan for enough volunteers to comfortably reach your calling goal.

Assuming you have these numbers at hand:

  • Total contacts on your contact list
  • No. of days you plan to run the campaign
  • No. of hours per day
  • No. of calls a single volunteer can make per hour (varies depending on your dialer, and how much time volunteers spend on each call)

You can calculate your total volunteers with this formula:

calculate-volunteer-required

For example, with 10,000 contacts, 14 days, and 2 hours per day to spend on phone banking, with your volunteers making 15 calls an hour, you would need approximately 24 volunteers to comfortably call everyone in your contact list.

What are the laws for political phone banking?

Different countries have different regulations when it comes to political phone calls. For example, in the US, you cannot make calls to cellphones using an automated dialer. Make sure your campaign is operating within compliance.

What type of dialer should you use?

If you are using a phone banking software, the dialer you choose can have a considerable impact on your campaign.

CallHub lets you choose between three dialers for your campaigns.

Predictive Dialer

A Predictive Dialer will constantly estimate the number of volunteers that are free, the number of calls getting dropped, and the average ring and talk time. With this data, it can adjust the number of dials being made, and screen unanswered calls to maximize the time your volunteers spend talking, letting you make calls in large volumes.

You’ll need at least six volunteers making calls at a time to make the most of a Predictive Dialer.

Campaigns usually use predictive dialers for GOTV campaigns to quickly mobilize contacts and get them to vote.

Power Dialer

The Power Dialer does the dialing for you, letting your volunteers focus on the call. The volunteer has time to then fill in a survey or make notes before indicating they are ready for them to call the next person on the list with a click of a button. On average, the power dialer can make about 50-70 calls per hour(slower than Predictive Dialer), depending on how long your volunteers spend on a call.

Preview Dialer

This dialer gives agency to your volunteers to decide who they call, giving them time to learn basic details about the contact.

More resources for phone banking

There you have it. You’re equipped with almost everything you need to get started with your phone banking campaign.

But you might still have some questions. We’re happy to answer them, so just schedule a call with us here. Or take a look at some more posts from our blog that might help you:

If you want to try out CallHub for phone banking, take a test run by signing up.

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