I Want to Volunteer for Canvassing, but I Have Questions…

FAQs for Canvassers

Research shows that canvassing – door knocking – is THE most effective way to get out the vote. First, you’re meeting people where they’re at, and second, there is nothing more powerful than a face-to-face conversation. When a voter recognizes that a regular person is taking their time to share information about a candidate or issue that they care about, it becomes harder to ignore than the usual onslaught of electronic or mediated communications. In those few minutes, the 1-1 conversation you have at the door may help change the outcome of an election. 

If you’ve never canvassed before, you may have several questions you’d like answered to give you the level of comfort and courage to take the first step. Check out the FAQs we’ve put together to help. 

Q: How do I sign up to canvass?

  1. Go to a political party’s or candidate’s website or Facebook page and click on the ‘Volunteer’ link. It will give you a list of options for how you can volunteer. Once you do that, you’ll get regular emails or messages for opportunities to get out the vote. You can also sign up with Mobilize which coordinates multiple opportunities for candidates and issues. It will then send you emails about upcoming events for which you can register. 

Q: How will I know where to go? 

  1. Once you register for an event, you will get a message about the time and place for the staging area. The staging area is often someone’s house, but could be a public site like a coffee shop or park. There will be other volunteers like you, and an organizer from the campaign who will answer your questions, give you handouts, and pair up folks who need partners. This is where you’ll pick up your “turf” – the territory that you’ll cover, and the list of names you’ll be attempting to reach. The ‘turf’ may be provided in hard copy with the list of names and a map, or in a downloadable APP called MiniVAN. 

Q: What is MiniVAN?

  1. MiniVAN is a downloadable APP that stands for Voter Access Network. It will provide all the elements that you would get in the paper lists, and allows you to input information while out in the field. It’s handier and more efficient to use than the paper lists and gives the organizers direct information such as whether you reached the voter, whether they committed to vote for your candidate or issue and to what extent and if follow-up is needed rather than requiring campaign supporters to transfer the information from paper copies. Here’s a video tutorial on how to use MiniVAN

Q: How do I know what to say? 

  1. A script is included in MiniVAN and in the turf packets you’ll receive at the staging area. Often, there will be a brief training at the staging site before folks head to the field, or there may be a separate training altogether. Do your best to familiarize yourself with the script and also personalize it so you don’t read it to the voter at the door. 

Q: Do I knock on every door in a neighborhood? What if I get someone who’s on the opposing side?

  1. Typically, you do not cover every door in a neighborhood. Your turf will most likely be voters who have previously voted for candidates in the party you’re supporting but may be infrequent or swing voters. This reduces the possibility that you’ll have someone completely opposed to your candidate or issue. 

Q: Do I walk or drive the turf?

  1. The answer is, it depends. In urban areas and towns you’ll probably walk. In suburban areas you may drive to the turf and then walk to cover several homes, then drive to get closer to the next set of voters on your list. In rural areas, you’ll drive. 

Q: Do I need a partner? How do I get one? 

  1. ILNH encourages you to plan ahead and get a partner before going to the canvass. We are making a list of experienced volunteers/mentors who are willing to pair with new canvassers. If you don’t have a partner and want one, YOU MUST ASK the organizers for someone at the staging location.

Q: Who do I typically speak to when door knocking? 

  1. Your turf will have a list of names, addresses, party registration identifier (D for Democrat or I for Independent), and the age of the voter with whom you should speak. 

Q: What if I get the wrong person answering the door? 

  1. Sometimes, you get a partner or parent who answers the door that is not on your list. Ask for the person who is. If they’re not at home, you can simply say thank you and move on, and/or leave campaign material. If the person at the door seems friendly, you can speak with them and add them in a note in MiniVAN. If not, DO NOT TRY TO CONVINCE THEM – you’re wasting your time and theirs. 

Q: What if I have a problem? 

  1. Always get the organizers phone number before you leave the staging location. 

Q: What if I can’t cover all the names on my list with the time I have available? 

  1. Most canvassing events are roughly two hours. That said, if you only have an hour to devote to it, let the organizers know at the start and they’ll give you a shorter list. It often happens that a person doesn’t get to all the voters in the time allotted, and that’s OK, the untouched voters will remain on the list for the next canvass event. 

Q: What should I bring and wear?  

  1. Always wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing. For one, you’re representing the campaign and for two, many canvass events go on despite weather conditions unless it’s too dangerous for the volunteers. A sunny day could turn to rain, temperatures could go up or down. You don’t need to stay out if you’re uncomfortable, but do be prepared. In addition, bring a fully charged phone and perhaps a charger, snacks and a drink. 

Q: I’m disabled but would like to help. Is there something I can do? 

A: Yes you may be able to help with data entry or updates, or perhaps you can be a driver. Some turfs, especially in PA or rural NJ require driving between stops. Having a driver to assist the canvasses can save a little shoe leather for all and be a more efficient way to reach all the doors.

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