How to Organize a Door-to-Door Canvass

The Basics of Canvassing

Canvassing is going door to door to talk with your neighbors about an important issue or candidate. You can do this by yourself or with a couple friends. Or, better yet, get a larger group together and cover a whole neighborhood in one day.

Usually canvassing has one of two main goals:Identify community members who already support Democrats for Change candidates or issues and invite them to take an action like signing a petition, making a phone call, or contributing financially.Identify people who are undecided on our Democrats for Change candidates or issues and try to persuade them to become a supporter.


Step-by-Step: How to Organize a Door-to-Door Canvass

1. Pick an area and time to canvassIf you’re trying to affect your representatives’ votes, it’s a good idea to figure out where they live and canvass that neighborhood. Just think of the representative coming home to find all his/her neighbors saying that they were canvassed to support an issue! Another good spot to canvass is your own neighborhood – where you’ll be talking to your own neighbors.Canvassing typically works best between 5 and 8 pm on weekdays or during the day on weekends when more people are home.Pick a meeting spot where everyone can gather before setting off to go door-to-door. This could be a coffee shop, a parking lot, or just a convenient corner.
2. Recruit a team of canvassersIt’s more fun and effective when you can get a team of canvassers to go at one time. You’ll be able to cover more turf (knock on more doors) and have fun doing it all together. So ask council members or supporters to commit to a 2 or 3-hour block of time to canvass – and let them know you’ll provide a quick training and all the materials they’ll need.
3. Make scripts, walk sheets and flyers to pass outFigure out what you want to say at the door and write out a quick script. Remember these are personal conversations so you don’t have to memorize numbers or facts, just a 30-second “rap” about why you’re there, why this election is so important, and what you’d like them to do.One goal of your canvassing is to identify and mobilize supporters, you’ll want to bring a clip board so that voters can instantly sign up to endorse our candidates. Another goal is to persuade people to support our candidates, so you will want to have one or two key points prepared to emphasize as well as a flyer or factsheet to leave behind.And, because some folks won’t be home, be sure to download and copy a flyer so you can leave some information they can read after they get home. Write ‘Sorry I missed you” on the leaflet and provide a phone number in case someone wants to contact you.If you are interested organizing a local canvas, please contact George Suares at (732)340-1980 or can help get you a “walk-sheet,” or a simple list of addresses to help you keep track of all the doors you knock on. Not only will it make you feel good to know how many people you’ve talked to and what they said, but keeping track is important so you can let our headquarters know about your success.Print out copies of each of the materials for all the people who agree to join you. Don’t forget to supply pens and clipboards!
4. Arrive early and get readyGather everyone at your meeting spot about 30 minutes before your canvass start time to do a quick training.Thank everyone for coming and explain how important neighbor-to-neighbor communication is to winning on the issue. Then, go over the script, flyers and any materials people are bringing door to door. (If it’s hot outside, be sure to provide folks with plenty of water!)Then have people pair up and spend ten minutes practicing canvassing each other; this will get everyone energized and prepared to go door to door.
5. Canvass!Everyone should have his or her own sheet of addresses to knock on so that only one person is knocking at a door at a time.Stay aware of your surroundings and be safe. Don’t knock on a house if there are dangerous pets or other obstacles in your way. And never go inside a house or do anything that may endanger your safety.Plan to meet back at the starting spot at a set time.
6. Report back and debriefGather everyone up for a quick five-minute debrief. Go over how your team did and how many doors you knocked on. Have people share one or two good stories about their experiences.Pat yourselves on the back –you’ve just canvassed! Be sure to let our headquarters know about your success, so we can stay in touch with every supporter you identify and contact those who require more persuasion.

Tips for great canvassing:

Wear comfortable shoes.Smile and make eye contact while you’re speaking.Introduce yourself and your organization at the beginning. If the person you’re speaking to is very busy or is strongly not with us, it’s best to move on quickly.Move quickly between houses and cover as much ground as you can.If there’s a doorbell, push hard and listen for the sound of the bell. If there isn’t a doorbell or you don’t hear it ringing, don’t be afraid to knock. And be sure you knock loudly enough so that they can hear you!
Canvassing can be pretty scary for people who haven’t done it before. So if you’re leading a group, be sure to give everyone lots of encouragement and support. Make sure that brand new canvassers canvass with a “buddy” for at least the first 20-30 minutes to get them off on the right foot.Always end the conversation on a positive note.

Hi! My name is ____________ and I am a volunteer with Democrats for Change, the reform group that is trying to remove political insiders who betray our progressive principles by making deals with Republicans, caring more for corporations than the people or simply engaging in corruption. Today, we are canvassing to identify supporters, potential volunteers and donors who will help us clean up the Democratic Party.
Can we count on you to support Democrats for Change in the June 7 Democratic primary election?(Ask supporters for email & cell phone information and update your contact list)(Alternatively, supporters may print their name, email & cell phone on your petition)
IF SUPPORTER ASK: Would you prefer to volunteer a few hours, make a $36 donation or both?
IF DECLINED ASK:  Would you make a $20 donation instead? Can you help in some other way?
Thanks for helping Democrats for Change. Look for our email and please make sure to vote in the June 7 Democratic Primary Election.

IF UNDECIDED ASK:Which issue do you believe is most important: Creating good jobs, Stopping government corruption, Making taxes more fair, Protecting senior citizens, Crime & public safety, Energy & the environment, Extending health care for all or Investing in education?

  • Creating good jobs
  • Stopping government corruption
  • Making taxes more fair
  • Protecting senior citizens
  • Investing in education
  • Crime & public safety
  • Energy & the environment
  • Extending health care for all

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