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Everything You Need to Know to Conduct Street Canvassing: What, Why, and How

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Published: Apr 5, 2022

What is street canvassing?

You may have seen a team of canvassers outside coffee shops, libraries, malls, and supermarkets, asking for people’s support for a particular cause. This activity of a team of people standing on the streets to gather support on behalf of your organization is what we call street canvassing. 

Street canvassing for political campaigns works best when used to 

However, there are a few things to consider in terms of the benefits and challenges of knowing if street canvassing is for you. Let’s see what they are.

Street canvassing: Benefits and challenges

The benefits of street canvassing include

  1. Talking face to face with your potential supporters helps your canvassers build a rapport with them.
  2. Street canvassing allows you to assign volunteers areas they are interested in and familiarize with. This helps you get more supporters from these communities and increases interest in your volunteers in working for your organization.

Some challenges of street canvassing include

  1. Traveling physically from one place to another takes time and effort which could easily be avoided with phone canvassing
  2. Not all volunteers would have the privilege to travel to places to contribute their effort.
  3. Street canvassing can result in increased burnout among volunteers leading to a reduction in volunteer retention.

One ideal way to deal with this challenge is to ask your volunteers their preference between physical and virtual canvassing when they sign up. Now, divide your volunteers into teams and assign contacts and locations respectively.

6 tips for effective street canvassing

In this section, let’s see 6 best practices for conducting street canvassing effectively.

1. Set goals

Set a goal for the number of people you want to reach, the number of areas to cover, etc. Break this down into daily goals to keep you motivated. 

It’s also a good practice to finetune your campaign details. For instance, the number of new supporters you want to acquire who are between the ages of 18 and 24, the number of supporters each volunteer will bring in, etc.

2. Choose a high-traffic area

Choose a high-traffic area for your street canvassing campaign to increase your volunteers’ productivity. However, finding the right high-traffic area may need meticulous research. For instance, bus and metro stations, coffee shops, etc.

The timing matters big time too.

Go for a time when people are likely to be outside their workplaces or homes. For instance, lunch hours and evenings are great options. Similarly, a street filled with restaurants, bars, pubs, etc. is a good area to cover during weekends.

3. Use attitude and eye-tracking to predict behavior

In this method of using attitude and eye-tracking, people fill out a questionnaire that helps the canvassers understand the voter’s attitude towards the issue and the canvassers. 

Next, the voter is asked to put on a pair of eye-tracking glasses and is directed to navigate the campus through certain paths. These paths each have a street canvasser soliciting donations. 

It’s hypothesized that people with strong attitudes towards street canvassers find canvassers on their paths more easily. Among them, the ones with a positive attitude are expected to pass more closely by the political canvasser than the ones with a negative attitude. 

This kind of attitude-guided method helps find and gather supporters just through eye-tracking and behavior prediction.

Source: The Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research

4. Engage people with a question

It’s quite challenging to get people to talk to you in the first place. So, it’s ideal and effective to engage people with a question than a statement. A question is more likely to instill some thinking in your voter.

For example, “What do you think about the new law being passed in support of reducing prejudice?” works better than “Please support this petition in support of reducing prejudice”.

Standing out in the crowd with a quirky outfit or an extraordinary prop, etc. also helps draw people’s attention.

Best practice: Collect data on each prospect after your conversation. Here are a few ways to do that:
– Conduct a short survey in exchange for a takeaway.
– Get your supporters to register for an upcoming event.
– Conduct a small on-the-spot contest.

5. Look fun and approachable

When street canvassing, people will create an image and draw conclusions about your issue on the basis of their interaction with you. Looking dull or uninterested can cost you hundreds of potential supporters and thereby your campaign dollars. 

Looking approachable and fun helps your potential supporters ask you questions and involve themselves. Also, you need to patiently listen to your voters’ views too. Not being heard can put them off and lose interest in your campaign.

6. Have something to hand out to people

Have a flyer or a brochure to hand out to people after your conversation with them so they can refer to it to learn more about your campaign. Additionally, even if your voters aren’t interested in talking to you, you can hand out these leaflets for them to learn about your campaign on their own.

Ideally, this flyer should clearly mention the problem your campaign is solving and your contact details.

What tool can you use to ease your efforts?

MiniVAN is a street canvassing software that helps you recruit supporters and collect data during your street canvassing campaign. 

Here are some notable features of the software:

  • Add contacts and data into your VAN or EveryAction database in real-time.
  • View and track information collected by your canvassing team in real-time.
  • Monitor their progress by tracking their location and activity.
  • Change tactics on the go as you see room for improvement.

Putting it all together

Now that you have a good idea of what street canvassing is, go ahead and purchase the software you need to start your campaign. Set your goals and hire a team of volunteers depending on your needs. 

Next, choose the areas you want to canvass in and share these best practices with your canvassing team along with the access to your canvassing software. 

Here’s a guide on the most effective volunteer recruitment methods to help you with your hiring efforts.

Featured image: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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