Today was an exciting day for me because today we got a visit from a former field organizer for the Ohio Democratic Party. He previously was stationed here at the Lucas County Democratic Party during the 2018 midterms, where he campaigned for statewide candidates like Sherrod Brown and Connie Pillich (who ran for treasurer). He also recently campaigned in Pennsylvania for a Democrat in a special election (in a very Red district). Unfortunately, the lost the election.
This field organizer basically taught us everything there is to know about being a field organizer. This training wasn’t to teach us to volunteer, but to teach us how to organize volunteering events. The main subjects we covered were event planning, volunteer recruitment, canvassing, phone banking, and data management.
With event planning, there are a few questions that we should ask ourselves: Why are we here? What is the intended goal? and most importantly, which voters are you targeting and why?
There are multiple objectives when you are planning on organizing a volunteering event. You could target voters that are likely Democratic, but haven’t voted recently. These Democrats (secretly nicknamed “Lazy Dems”) are commonly targeted because getting their turnout to increase can really help Democratic candidates. It is more common to target certain demographics than to just go for everybody. (all of this data gathering is done through VoteBuilder, by the way)
What the field organizer recommended is to publicize fixed dates and times, like Tuesdays at 5:00 (rather than one Tuesday at 4:00 and another Wednesday at 6:00). If you do this, you are likely to have a dependable group of volunteers that will continue to return. Most of the time, the LCDP headquarters are used to coordinate these events.
When it comes to actually recruiting the volunteers, you must go to VoteBuilder’s database of potential volunteers (there is a database for all voters and a database for people that have volunteered in the past). Once you search for volunteers in a certain area, you can narrow it down by selecting activist codes like HFA 10 shift, or 2018 3 shift. If you choose HFA 10 shift, it just means they worked 10 shifts for Hillary For America (and the same with the other activist codes).
Once you choose your activist codes, you can click “run search” and VoteBuilder will give you a list of names to contact (usually by phone). It’s important to convey a sense of urgency and emphasize the importance of volunteers by saying something like “we need your help to flip Ohio blue this election”. Also, it’s important to not ask whether or not they can volunteer, but which date works best for them. Instead of saying “are you willing to volunteer sometime soon?”, say “what works better for you, Tuesday or Thursday at 6:00?”
It’s also important to write a script for volunteers to have when they phonebank or canvass. Although most volunteers probably have phone banked or canvassed before, it’s important to make sure that if they haven’t, they have an idea of what to say.
If you have a group of people that want to canvass, you have to cut certain precincts into walkable turfs so one person can take each turf for themselves. To cut the turf, you just pull up a map of the precinct on VoteBuilder, and the doors of your targeted voters will show up as dots. You can then proceed to divide the precinct into turfs that can be easily walkable so you don’t have to walk a mile to get from door to door. It’s important that the doors on the turfs are condensed and not spread out.
Once all your volunteers show up the day of the event, it’s important to be hospitable so they feel like they aren’t dismissed or unappreciated. Then, you can begin to train them (even if they have done it before) and go through a list of dos and don’ts (like don’t be rude to any voters, etc.) Also provide them with the policy positions of your candidate and information on the election days (primary and general).
Finally, distribute their packets which will have all the above information and the information of the voters they will reach out to (phone numbers if they are phone banking, and addresses with a map if they are canvassing). It would also be a good idea to give them your contact information if they have any questions.
When they finish canvassing and/or phone banking, quickly debrief and ask them how it all went. It is also absolutely necessary that all the data is collected and entered the day of the event so it doesn’t get misplaced or mixed up.