Four Canvassing Musts
Canvassing operations create opportunities for personal interactions between an organization and its constituency. But how do you know if canvassing is right for your organization?
Laurie Moskowitz, one of the founders of FieldWorks, a firm that specializes in grassroots organizing, says an organization should do a strategic assessment in which it considers the issue it would be discussing at the door — Are you trying to get new people to give? Are you trying to raise, in addition to money, public awareness of an issue? — how people would respond, and what kind of resources it has and would need.
“Canvass operations are highly labor intensive and expensive, so you’d need to understand what your goal is and if running a door-to-door canvass program actually can achieve that for you,” Moskowitz says.
It generally costs more to run a canvassing program than the program will earn, initially. Moskowitz says organizations should know this going in and consider canvassing an investment that will end up making money down the road by adding new donors and getting current donors to give more.
The key things an organization must have to run a successful canvass operation are:
1. A program to train staff and volunteers to be effective at the door. “You need to have them understand all the issues so that when they get asked questions they can answer effectively,” Moskowitz says.
2. An issue with wide appeal. The issue should have local implications and be meaningful to the people you approach. It also needs to be an issue that will be easy to recruit canvassers to work for. Environmental, civil rights and political campaigns tend to be issues that college students on break or activists will be interested in working on.
“You want people who are going to be enthusiastic and good representatives of the issue at the door. … If you have an issue that’s not really a highly popular, sexy issue, you have to think about recruitment. Can you find enough people to do it?” Moskowitz says.