Use the Buddy System for Canvassing by Tom Lotito

By at September 16, 2012 | 3:44 pm | Print

Use the Buddy System for Canvassing by Tom Lotito

Tom Lotito
As campaigns heat up, you’ll have more and more volunteers coming in to canvass. There’s a lot that goes into a successful canvass, from cutting good turf to training volunteers on the script. I’ve been in a lot of offices where I’ve seen people sending 16 volunteers out to canvass, and they leave in 16 separate cars. That’s an opportunity wasted. Don’t send canvassers out solo! Instead, when you launch a canvass, use the buddy system. Here are some suggestions of how/why:

  • It’s more efficient: Having a partner to tackle the other side of the street will help people move more quickly through a neighborhood.


  • It’s safer: You never know how or when someone might get hurt. While a dog-bite or a twisted ankle are unlikely, having a partner along can make a big difference if something does happen. And incident or no, it’ll help people feel safer to know someone else is with them.


  • It builds new relationships: When two people tag-team a turf, they’ll get a chance to chat, compare their great (and not so great) stories, and make a new friend. The more they bond with other volunteers, the more likely they are to come back, too.


  • You can pair non-drivers with drivers: Especially in urban areas, some of your volunteers probably don’t have a car. If the turf is more than a short distance from your office or staging location, pair folks who don’t have a car with those who do.


  • Finally, use mentors: Before a canvass, look over your roster and make teams of 2-3. Pair newer volunteers with seasoned veterans. The vets will help make the new people feel comfortable and provide great tips, and the old hands will appreciate being recognized for their knowledge and contribution.

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Tom Lotito is an alumnus of New Organizing Institute’s (NOI)  New Media #BootCamp6, and a veteran canvasser. NOI trains organizers to build and manage effective movements by integrating tried-and-true community organizing, cutting-edge digital strategy, and data-driven decision making. NOI provide free access to revolutionary tools, technologies, and research to help campaigns reach the next level.

New Organizing Institute Education Fund          1850 M St. NW, Suite 1100            Washington, D.C. 20036    @tmlotito on Twitter

Management & Strategy

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