We are Lison Laissus and Oliver Wells, NationBuilder Account Managers based in London. Having worked with many political parties and campaigns, we want to share what we’ve learned for people new to the process. This series is a step-by-step journey of a fictional candidate running for office, informed by our shared experience.
Time flies! We are now just 90 days ahead of the election, and it’s the perfect time to focus on persuasion conversations, where my team and I will convince undecided voters to vote for me and understand who our supporters are for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts to come. It’s also a great opportunity to recruit new volunteers who are ready to get involved for the last part of my campaign. The best way to reach as many people as possible this close to election day is to set up a phone bank. Luckily, thanks to my volunteer program, I know I can rely on many volunteers to help. But before that, I need to set up a goal.
Setting up my phone bank goal
First, I’m going to look up how many people in my database are currently callable, and have one of the following support levels listed: ‘weak support’, ‘undecided’ or ‘weak oppose’. That’s around 2,000 people in my constituency. I’m also going to look up how many people are listed as volunteers: there’s 150 of them. That means—if every volunteer participates—that each volunteer would have to call 13 to 14 people. I think this is reasonable, over the course of two weekends. So my goal is now set!
Since I want my volunteers to phone bank in groups, and we can host no more than 20 people in our campaign’s office, I’ll also set up a goal to find volunteers willing to host phone banks. I’ll be looking for 20 hosts within my volunteers. Now, I’m ready to send an email to all my volunteers and ask for their help and availability.
First, I need to set up some basic infrastructure:
1- Create a path: I’m going to create my phone banking path and need to think about the various steps the process will take. I will start with the first step, ‘not yet called’, and consider intermediate next steps—which should be anything aside from completing or abandoning the path (e.g. ‘called once, not picked up’, ‘called twice, not picked up’, ‘call back at another time’, ‘update contact info’, ‘asked for follow up/more information’). I’m also going to set up reasons for path completion (e.g. supporter, opposer, undecided, update contact info) or path abandonment (failed to speak to, asked not to call back, etc).
3- Create a permission set: Next, I need to give access to the volunteers. I’m going to add a permission set called ‘volunteer caller’ that just gives callers access to assigned people. Then I’ll add control panel users for all the volunteers who are taking part in the phone bank.
4- Create and share call lists: I’m then going to return to the list I made above, split it accordingly based on how many volunteers are taking part, and batch update each list to make a caller the 'point person' for each person on that list, and finally share a link to that list with the relevant caller. We are going to be using ‘call view’ in the NationBuilder control panel so volunteers can immediately input the data they collect. But it is also possible to print out scannable call sheets for volunteers to use.
Each of the volunteers will receive an email including how to access the control panel and a link to their list, they’re ready to go!
Side Note: There are also a number of 3rd party apps that can assist with phone banking efforts. For example, Call Hub offers some cool solutions for manual virtual phone banking and it all syncs directly with NationBuilder.
Make it easy for my volunteers
Now that the infrastructure is ready, it’s time to make sure your volunteers can leverage it. First, I’m going to clarify expectations about the phone blank operation and provide some framing to make it easier for the callers. My communication director has drafted a script—I don’t expect everyone to follow it exactly, but it contains important talking points and answers to common questions or blockers that may prevent voters from voting for me. I will also outline rules that need to be respected by my callers in terms of politeness, respect, and confidentiality.
Then, I’m going to outline the process callers will need to follow, which consists of the following steps:
Step 1 - Log in to NationBuilder and access their individual list in ‘call view’(1), which allows them to see the number of contacts on their list (2), as well as the contact details and important information (3) about the existing relationship between my campaign and each person.
Step 2 - Make the call and log their notes (4) along with any information shared by the person they called that can be useful in the future, including any needs to recontact them, update their support level (5) if necessary and move on to the next person (6).
Finally, I’m going to leverage the super volunteers I’ve spotted thanks to the path created for my volunteer program, and train them so that they can support the other volunteers. I’ll make sure they are able to ensure my campaign standards are respected by all, troubleshoot small tech issues, and train volunteers on tools and processes. I will need one super volunteer present at each phone banking event.
I’m going to keep an eye on how things are going as each phone bank proceeds. By going into my path and looking at the path view (see below), I will be able to see who's on what step within the path.
I can also set up a filter to see all the people who have completed or abandoned the path, and for what reason (see the filter below as an example). From here I will be able to run detailed reports about who has responded and/or who has abandoned the path.
There may also be instances where people have asked for more information and are sitting on the ‘asked for follow up’ step, so I’ll make sure to review those and if we’ve identified any really keen supporters, I will follow up with them as well to see if they want to become volunteers themselves.
And finally, as ever, I’m going to make sure to say a huge thank you to my volunteers by providing them with pizza throughout the calling, and at the end I’ll be letting them know about the next phone banking session!
For more on how NationBuilder can help emerging candidates and parties, learn how Emmanuel Macron’s party En Marche used it to get 359 candidates elected in 2017.