Canvassing & Phonebanking

On the declining relevance of digital petitions

Digital petitions are a mostly-outdated tactic now. Both our politics and our media environment have moved in directions that render them less useful. Where petitioning used to be the central tactic in a digital campaigner’s toolbox, the Trump years saw a rebirth of collective, place-based mobilization. They were years of record-setting marches and participatory local-level civic engagement. Plus we’ve seen a renaissance in union organizing these past few years. But still, the relevance of petitions has diminished—related to the pervasive sense that government officials no longer behave as though listening to and representing citizens is a core part of the job. And it’s a reminder that most of our digital behavior is downstream of a small handful of quasi-monopolistic companies. If American Democracy is going to make it through the next decade, we are going to need better elites. I suspect, if that happens, we will happen to see digital petitions make a comeback. In the meantime, campaigners will do the best with the tools they have available—they’ll develop tactical repertoires that fit the changing media environment and respond to the political opportunity structure.

Deep Canvassing Lessons Learned with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Join Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to learn more about their deep canvassing efforts, lessons learned, and best practices from their on-the-ground experience. During this webinar, participants will hear from the folks involved about how deep canvassing can be a powerful tool for bringing new people into the climate justice movement as well as how learnings might be applied to other climate deep canvass and relational conversation programs across the country. 

Deep Canvassing Lessons Learned with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) is a statewide membership organization working to dismantle racism, build a robust democracy, and transform the future of Kentucky. For more than forty years KFTC members have engaged in the essential work of bringing people together, organizing across lines of race, class, geography, and often political ideologies, to demand justice and shape a Just Transition to healthy, sustainable, and equitable local communities.

In the fall of 2021, KFTC launched a Deep Canvassing Project where teams of paid canvassers in Louisville, Bowling Green, and Hazard canvassed three to four days a week and had hundreds of conversations using an approach known as Deep Canvassing, which employs radical empathy and non-judgmental curiosity. This strategy invites the sharing of emotionally significant stories and encourages people to process their experiences and perspectives, including uncertain or contradictory views.

Join KTFC to learn more about their deep canvassing efforts, lessons learned, and best practices from their on-the-ground experience. During this webinar, participants will hear from the folks involved on how deep canvassing can be a powerful tool for bringing people into the climate justice movement, how learnings from this work can inform climate deep canvassing programs, and reflections applicable for advocates holding impactful climate conversations across the country.

This webinar will hold roughly 20 minutes at the end for Q&A!

Climate Deep Canvassing Report

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth ran a Climate Crisis Deep Canvassing Project in Louisville, Bowling Green, and Hazard, Kentucky where they knocked on thousands of doors and had more than 600 conversations with low-income communities and communities of color. They developed a written report that synthesizes the lessons, themes, and best practices from their on-the-ground experience to inform future canvassing trainings and program design.

Supported by the Climate Advocacy Lab's Climate Justice Microgrant Program.

What I learned building self-managing teams of volunteers at Sunrise Movement

Here are some tactics to use to successfully build a distributed voter contact program. In this resource, the Sunrise Movement’s former distributed director shares their lessons learned. Lesson one: Make time for a team launch, which is critically important for setting up a team that will work together effectively, improve over time, and contribute to the members' growth and learning. Lesson two: Create a team charter to serve as a reference during team calls, when orienting a new member, at a relaunch event, or whenever it's helpful to review the team's purpose and norms. Lesson three: Make norms explicit in order to protect against the assumption that everyone on the team enters with the same background, culture, and experiences and should be able to "read our minds" and guess our preferred ways of working together. The team launch and building the charter together creates commitment to the team and work outcomes, motivation for the work ahead, a sense of belonging, and shared ownership over team processes and outcomes.

Deep Canvassing to Shift Hearts, Mind and Votes

Deep canvass conversations can shift hearts, minds, and votes around divisive issues. Deep canvassing is a voter contact model where canvassers prioritize two things: 1) non-judgmentally inviting a voter to open up about their real, conflicted feelings on an issue and 2) sharing vulnerably about their own life, and asking curious questions about the voter’s life (especially the experiences that have shaped how they each feel about the issue). We the People Michigan ran successful deep canvassing campaigns in in 2019 on rights for undocumented migrants and Medicare for All. This resource describes the steps of those campaigns in detail, including designing canvassing scripts, successes and failures along the way, and more.

Guide to Campaign and Movement Building

This resource is a curated a guide on Campaign and Movement Building. In this topic you’ll find handpicked resources related to current issues, different regions, and innovations. This resource includes links to guides on how to plan campaigns (by highlighting case studies) and how-to trainings to prepare campaigners. Links for case studies from regions such as Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, North America, Latin America, and Oceania are also included.

Guide to Organizing

There are a variety of components to successful community or political organizing. This webpage resource provides guidance on organizing skills such as building relationships and one-on-ones, house meetings, team building, developing leadership, creating strategy, structure and capacity, and public narrative. This resource also includes a list of overall organizing guides and manuals, tips on tools and graphics, links to online organizing courses, other training resources, and relevant videos and podcasts.             

“Nobody's coming to save any of us”: Lessons from grassroots power building in West Virginia

Building long-lasting grassroots power requires centering concrete issues and the humanity of individuals you’re organizing. Many organizations in West Virginia are cultivating organizers, building organizations that can sustainably organize local communities according to their needs for years to come, incorporating mutual aid, and more, in an effort to win and wield political power. In this article, The Forge contributor Mat Hanson discussed organizational strategies with multiple people involved in grassroots power building in West Virginia: Katey Lauer, co-chair of West Virginia Can’t Wait; Nicole McCormick, a founding member of the West Virginia United caucus and rank-and-file leader in the successful teacher’s strike; Dr. Shanequa Smith of Restorative Actions and the Black Voters Impact Initiative; and Joe Solomon, the co-founder and co-director of Solutions Oriented Addiction Response (SOAR), a volunteer-based organization that advocates for harm-reduction strategies to the opioid crisis.

Changing the Conversation Together: Evaluating Impact, 2020

Changing the Conversation Together (CTC) is working to create a network of deep canvassers to grow the American electorate into a more inclusive and compassionate one. Deep canvassing is a method of voter engagement that draws on respect and shared experiences to encourage voter turnout. In this report, CTC examines the impact that their deep canvassing had both on turnout and vote choice. They find that CTC canvassing increased the likelihood of turnout by approximately 14%. For low propensity voters, those least likely to turnout, CTC finds that their efforts increased the likelihood that they voted by 25%. They also find that deep canvassing cannot wait until the last minute. These conversations need to be happening often and well-before election day. Advocates interested in making an impact at the polls should consider diverting even modest resources to deep canvassing, particularly for less likely voters.