Volunteer Call Center: How to Impact Voters & Delight Volunteers by Ron Turner

By at February 1, 2012 | 12:00 pm | Print

Volunteer Call Center: How to Impact Voters & Delight Volunteers by Ron Turner

What I advocate is an organized group, a program and a team that can have pride in what they do.  I say at the start of the season to find leadership and ideally somebody who has this professional experience. Treat them with the utmost respect. Have people who are trained in this.  Allow for a four hour training program, because there will be some social time.  Include role playing, breakout groups and practicing.  Yes, people will come and go over the course of the campaign season, but treat this as a profession. It’s not effective for people to walk in randomly and they don’t have a good experience. It’s way better to create a team and have them trained to do quality work.

Some people say because they’re volunteers you can’t set high expectations.  I disagree.  I think you want to set high expectations.  Good people will have pride in what they’re doing and don’t like it if somebody next to them is not doing good work.  It creates a positive cycle when you’re bringing the best people together for the project.

A lot of research has been done lately, group A vs. group B, with a lot of testing.  What was the turnout; what was the measurement these are five message points that have been tested to work.  Some of them are the opposite of what we used to think.

One of them is to remind voters that their records are public. On way to do this is to say “We appreciate your voting last year. Thank you for doing that.” The psychology kicks in that somebody knows whether I’m voting or not.

The second interesting one is to help them visualize voting as you talk to them.  “Oh, we can count on your vote for Democrats?  Were you planning on early voting or Election Day?  Do you drive? Where’s your polling place?”  It gets them through the practical steps and obstacles that maybe they didn’t think about.  It’s also visualization–new age stuff.  They visualize voting and they’re more likely to do it.

Remind them of their previous commitment, assuming this is GOTV and you already made a voter ID call.  Thanks for your commitment and we want to remind you of what you already promised to do.

Now this is one counter to what I had been taught before. Emphasize high expected turnout. I had been told before you want to say “Oh the election is close. There aren’t a lot of people coming out. We need to get our side going.”  But people don’t like supporting a loser. If you’re going there and projecting weakness, it backfires.  So, what you want to do is not to say we’re going to win or to lie.   But that there’s a high turnout. There’s a social psychology that kicks in, “Well if everybody else is doing it…”  You don’t want to be out there broadcasting turnout is going to be 5% or something. Its “Everybody’s voting. Everybody’s out there. You’re going to be the only one if you don’t vote.

And finally your message is “I’m local here. I’m not calling from some call center in Minnesota.”

Once you have the script, you demand script adherence.  People always kick back, but no I’m not telling you to read it like a robot.  That’s not what I mean.  You follow the script because it was written for a certain reason. When you get beginners in, they’ll all have the same resistance to it.  We tell them politely, yeah we thought of that and here’s why we wrote it this way.

Here’s the other thing:  dialing pace.  With all the best intentions, if there’s not a structure they make a call and if its good they want to tell everybody about it.  So everybody else is stopped.  At the end of the night, “How many calls did you all make?”  Nobody was counting, but not a lot of calls got made.  So that’s where to have the pride in accomplishment you have to act like a manager.  Say here’s how many dials everybody needs to make every hour.

To make it fun, have a little bit of a contest.  Keep a tally.  How many positive outcomes? Yard signs?  Oh Betty got three yard signs; she wins. So measure all that.

And another reason to measure is for the campaign–to have some accountability and goals,  How many people do we want to call?  What are our goals for this week?  If we’re running behind we need to change something.  Don’t just randomly set up phones and desks and whoever comes in over the course of the next six months will be ok.

Make sure the data doesn’t just go into a black hole and never get used. The whole point of it is to have this feedback loop of using what you’re getting from canvassing and phone calls and making decisions on it.  Whatever system you’re using, make sure somebody in your organization can step up and make pie charts out of it, so that you can use it to get your high level understanding.  And the individual level of who’s getting follow up, who’s getting a yard sign, who needs more information sent out.  Have a system for that.

Be professional and have professional standards in what you do with volunteers.  Pay attention to the script.  In both of these areas, draw in other expertise among the people who may do this for their day job.  Set high expectations of the volunteers and don’t be afraid to reassign somebody if it’s not a good fit.  I promise you in the projects I’ve worked, we more than make up for that from the positive energy in the high performers who are part of this group.  And track the performance, the measurements.  And choose the technology that fits your budget.

Condensed from a webinar on Frontrunner 2020.

Ron Turner is Founder and CEO of People Calling People; a state-of-the-art telecommunications practices in the political and non-profit arena.  Ron provides strategic advice, project management, and telecom services for clients to communicate with their constituencies.  In 2011, Ron launched frontrunner2020; to support and encourage those on the journey towards elected office.

People Calling People   3948 Legacy Drive, Ste 106   Plano TX  75023       214 295 9553 www.peoplecallingpeople.com  www.frontrunner2020.com


Management & Strategy

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  • Ben Allen

    I agreed with the article especially staying with the script. The leader needs to provide to the vols the why’s behind the script sentence by sentence. This will increase the possibility the words and phases will be used. Finally do not be afraid to reward your vols for a job well done.
    Ben Allen

  • Ben – thanks for your comments. Any manager should explain WHY they are asking for anything. And you’re also right about rewarding good performance.