Measuring the Real Cost of Volunteer Calling Programs by Brad Chism

By at October 22, 2012 | 1:30 pm | Print

Measuring the Real Cost of Volunteer Calling Programs by Brad Chism
Brad Chism Zata 3

No phone consultant will claim that even his best paid callers are more convincing than energized volunteers.We can’t compete with the candidate’s uncle or third grade teacher. Paid callers are trained to be perky on the phone, but it’s difficult to replicate the enthusiasm of someone who knows the candidate—at any price.

We advise our clients with throngs of volunteer who are willing to make calls to use them on persuasion targets. Match them up demographically, give them some talking points and a simple tracking system, and start the dialing!!

We often find that as the campaign progresses volunteer fatigue sets in. Cold pizza and conversations with strangers lose their appeal after awhile, no matter how much you love the candidate. Here’s our recommended checklist for utilizing volunteer callers.

  • Do we have enough space? Volunteer callers need a dedicated room with a white board to tally progress. There should be room enough for at least eight callers—no one wants to slog through calls to a tough audience by themselves.


  • Do we have a dependable supervisor? This can be a paid staffer or an uber volunteer. It’s essential that someone reporting to the campaign eavesdrop on these conversations.


  • Can we easily track results? A simple excel spread sheet of the yes, no’s and maybes with the phone number or VAN ID will suffice.


  • Use volunteers to push the undecideds. Pay a phone firm for your blind ID calls and have your undecideds call back the fence sitters. Don’t underestimate the power of a personal anecdote.


  • Use volunteers to push the lazy supporters. Pay a phone bank to remind frequent voters to get to the polls. Use your volunteers to nudge those who are for you but always seem to have an excuse on Election Day.


  • Do the math on the real costs. Figure the tab for paid staff supervision, office space, food, drink and data collection when calculating the cost benefits of “free” callers.


  • Be realistic about results. The chart below is a helpful guide for calling productivity of volunteers vs. paid phones. We use the measure of contacts per calling hour.
  Contact per Hour
Simple GOTV “Make a Plan To Vote” GOTV Persuasion ID
Volunteer Calls 28 20 14
Paid Calls 60 38 35



Brad Chism, Partner and Senior Strategist of Zata|3 Consulting. Zata|3 helps elect Democrats and advance progressive causes by integrating telephone voter contact programs with a campaign’s other messaging. Zata|3 offers a full range of automated and live calling programs, from the initial ID call to the final GOTV message. Other services to reach your targeted voters include: SMS (text) messaging, Zata|Forum™ Telephone Town Halls, Zata|Pulse® Interactive Automated Surveys, and, coming soon, web-based Zata|Live™ Video Forum Town Halls.

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