Things to Know Before Going Door to Door
Whether going door-to-door or standing on the street, canvassing is a one-on-one, face-to-face interaction with potential donors/constituents that’s unattainable through direct mail, e-mail and the Internet.
In her book “Fundraising for Social Change,” author Kim Klein devotes a whole chapter to door-to-door and canvassing strategies. She says canvassing in general is used by local groups and works best for campaigns or programs that directly affect the people being approached. And while fundraising should not be its sole purpose — she recommends using it, first, as an organizing strategy — door-to-door canvassing especially can be very effective for acquiring new donors who later can be renewed and upgraded.
A full-time, door-to-door canvassing operation is labor-intensive and requires salaried, full-time employees. But before hiring staff to canvass your community, Klein recommends checking state and local laws and ordinances concerning canvassing to see if it’s allowed and how it’s regulated.
“If canvassing is heavily regulated in your community, it may not be worth the time involved to comply with the regulations,” she writes.
Next, you need to determine if a canvass will work in your community. To do this, she recommends gathering demographic data on the area you want to canvass. Use census studies, the local newspaper, the chamber of commerce, and board members’, staff and volunteer knowledge of the area to determine things like population density, neighborhood terrain, property values, how many of the people are homeowners, their careers and income levels, and the crime rate.
Population-density information will help organizations decide whether it’s worth it to canvass a given neighborhood. Klein advises canvassers should be able to reach 80 to 100 homes per night.
“This means that there must be enough people in the area and that the terrain must be flat enough to allow canvassers to walk quickly from house to house,” she writes. The more rural the area, the more difficult it is to run a canvassing operation.
Klein also advises organizations keep canvassing operations in middle- to lower-income neighborhoods, where they do best. Canvassing tends to do poorly in affluent neighborhoods, as wealthy people usually are more apt to give in response to personal, major-gift solicitations, or through direct-mail or special events. Just be sure you’re not sending canvassers into unsafe neighborhoods.
“A good canvasser may be carrying $500 or more by the end of the evening, much of that in cash,” she writes. To minimize danger, she recommends sending pairs when canvassing high-crime areas or having a “roving car” that periodically checks in on canvassers and collects money from them.
Read the complete chapter on canvassing in “Fundraising for Social Change,” by Kim Klein. Chardon Press, 2007. $38. www.josseybass.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0787988200.html