As campaigns ramp up for voter contact, it's important to build a strong base of volunteers. There are lots of great resources available for building volunteer programs that I will share at the end of this blog post, but I wanted to spend some time outlining some simple steps to use Deck’s organizing universe to start recruiting volunteers today.

In this article, I’ll cover what to do when you’ve already contacted people in you and your candidate's personal networks to recruit volunteers. I’ll cover how Deck builds organizing lists to find volunteer prospecting targets, what to ask of your targets, and how to contact them. This article comes out of a training which you can view in full here. In this training, I talked more in-depth about these topics and about volunteer retention.


How Deck builds organizing lists

Deck builds candidate and district-specific scores that predict how likely voters are to support your candidate, turnout to vote in a specific election, be partisan elastic, and finally make a contribution to your campaign. We do this by taking the information your campaign has in VoteBuilder: name, address, vote and contact history, and DNC partisanship score, and enhancing it with campaign-specific context. We do this because Democratic voters look really different on the federal, state, and local levels.

We make models with more demographic information about voters, state and local campaign contributions, media coverage, twelve years of precinct-level election results, and candidate-specific information. All of these data points help Deck get a better picture of your district and your campaign. You can learn more about how we build models here and read our full technical documentation.

Deck’s organizing lists contain voters who are really likely to support your campaign and really likely to vote. These are strong Democratic supporters who are already engaged. To pull a list from Deck, you can select your contact method: do you want to text, call, or send these contacts a digital ad?

Then select the size of your list based on your budget and time constraints. Deck sorts your organizing list by support automatically so when you select Medium or Small you will get a list of people who are your strongest supporters.

Then you can send this list to VoteBuilder to send texts or make phone calls or create a Facebook ad. Learn more about creating Facebook ads here.
You can always double-check the list you pull from Deck by selecting “Show detailed filters.” There you can see the score ranges Deck has automatically selected to create your list.

In this case, Deck has selected people who are 82% or more likely to support this campaign and 90% or higher likely to turnout. Remember, ranges will vary between campaigns!

After you’ve pulled your list from Deck for volunteer contact, you’ll need to figure out how to contact these people and what to say to them!


Contacting your Volunteers

There are three main ways to contact your volunteers through Deck: texting, Facebook or Instagram ads, and phone calls. In each of these methods, though, it is important to develop a low-effort specific ask for your volunteer prospects. This could look like asking people to come to an event or join an email list. Especially for smaller campaigns, many people won’t  know who your candidate is yet, especially earlier in the cycle. So introduce your candidate and create an easy way for volunteer prospects to learn more.

When recruiting volunteers, you’ll want to move people up the ladder of engagement. This is the idea as an organizer, you’ll need to develop relationships with your volunteers and give them more responsibility over time. Most people, when asked to knock doors, especially for a candidate they don’t know much about, will say no. The volunteer ladder of engagement is all about creating low-effort entry points to your campaign that gradually scale up. This could look like first asking a volunteer to come to an event or make a Facebook post, moving to texting their friends or doing some relational organizing, then knocking doors, and finally elevating people to a town captain. In each of these steps, you're providing accessible next steps to getting involved with a campaign.

One great idea is to invite volunteer prospects to an event. An event creates a low effort first, ask for a volunteer to meet your candidate and campaign staff. Events are also a great way to ask for donations, tap into existing relational networks, and have one-on-one conversations with potential volunteers about their experiences and interests.  You can find Arena’s full guide to hosting an event here, you’ll need to enter your email to get access.  

When creating a meeting, you’ll want to find another draw to the event besides your candidate. Here are some ideas about how to draw people to your event.

  • Social: have a specific person host the event and invite their friends and neighbors! People attend the event to learn more about your candidate but also to see their friends and community.
  • Issue focused: have a meeting focused on a specific issue or group like a young person’s meeting or a meeting focused on reproductive justice.
  • Local leader: have a local leader or compelling storyteller come to speak about a specific issue. This can also help potential volunteers make the connection between your candidate and issues they care about.
  • Involvement: have an opportunity for people to get involved in their community like collecting or passing out donations or checking in on community members. These types of events became much more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic and are a great way to build a volunteer network and give people an opportunity to help out their neighbors.

After you’ve selected your event type, set your time and location and start contacting Deck’s Organizing list! Make sure you set a goal for your meeting and create specific opportunities to take action for your potential volunteers.

So far, I’ve talked about who to contact and what to ask them; now let's look at how to contact them and what to say.

Text

Texting is a great tool for volunteer recruitment because you usually don’t have to have long persuasive conversations with your volunteer recruits. Again Deck’s organizing lists find already engaged Democrats. Peer-to-peer texting, in particular, is best here because it allows you to have conversations with your volunteer prospects like you would a regular text conversation. Peer-to-peer texting is when you mass text a group by pressing the send button a bunch of times. This allows you to text people who haven’t specifically opted in to receive your text messages. It also allows you to answer questions and provide alternatives. Most people use Scale to Win, Politics Rewired, Spoke, Hustle, or Switchboard. Also, make sure you integrate your text program with VoteBuilder so you can keep track of who responds.

To get a texting list from Deck to your texting provider, you’ll need to set up your Votebuilder integration, export your Organizing audience to VoteBuilder, and then export that list to your texting vendor of choice. Different vendors will have different methods for exporting.

Sample Script:

When writing a script, you’ll have a few key elements. You’ll need to introduce yourself, your candidate, and why they are running. You can then provide your specific ask or opportunity to get involved and then an option to opt-out of receiving texts. You’ll want to keep this ask short so you only have to pay for one SMS segment, and so someone can read most of the information in one message.

Event invite:

Hi NAME, this is YOUR NAME from the CANDIDATE NAME campaign! CANDIDATE NAME is REASON FOR RUNNING. Can you join us EVENT TIME AND LOCATION to learn more about EVENT APPEAL? Reply Stop to Opt-out.

Email list build:

Hi NAME, this is CG with the CG for state rep campaign! CANDIDATE NAME is REASON FOR RUNNING. Sign up here to learn more about how CANDIDATE NAME can help with TOPICAL REASON. Reply Stop to Opt-out.

Let's also look at a specific example. Many states right now are passing restrictive abortion bills. To recruit volunteers, I could have an event about my candidate's reproductive rights ideas and invite a local leader or knowledgeable person to speak on the issue. This makes the connection for potential volunteers between their needs and worries, their community, and your candidate. A sample script could look like:

Hi NAME, this is CG from the CG for state rep campaign. CG is running to protect our reproductive rights. Can you join us this Thursday to hear from Liz at Motherwoman about what we can do? Reply Stop to Opt-out.

Facebook ads

Texting is a great place to start but it's important to contact audiences through multiple platforms. Getting a message from a candidate on multiple platforms helps overcome some of the gaps in name recognition many smaller campaigns face.

Creating a Facebook ad follows many of the same principles of sending a text. You’ll want to introduce your candidate and provide a low-effort ask. You’ll also want all your Facebook ads to be personal, ideally a selfie-style video from your candidate inviting people to the event. Most people scroll Facebook on their phone so recording your video in vertical and providing captions are the best way to increase engagement and views. Also, make sure to caption the video so people who don’t have their sound on can still understand what your candidate is saying.

Here are two good examples of Facebook ads. In both examples, the candidate has recorded a video of themselves talking directly to the camera inviting them to take a specific action. These videos are personal, engaging, and specific, and help the voter feel more connected to your candidate and thus more likely to Volunteer.

Facebook ads are also a super simple way to segment people by demographics to show different people ads about different issues. You can always take a look at the demographic makeup of your Deck lists by visiting the “Understand your targets” tab next to exports. There you can break down your Deck list by gender, race, age, and education. In this candidate’s example, her volunteer targets are significantly more women than men.

This candidate could then filter her list by Gender under “Show detailed filters” to target women with a specific Facebook ad.

Phone Calls

You can also call through your organizing list by exporting the list to Votebuilder and then creating an Open VBP. You can call through your list if you have an older volunteer recruitment list or if you don’t have very many texting numbers available. Remember to select a smaller list by choosing “Small” under your list size to filter to people who are your strongest supporters.


Additional Resources

In this article, I talked about how Deck builds Organizing lists and how to contact those voters. In my full training, I also talked about volunteer retention and engagement which you can find here.

I also wanted to share some resources from our friends in the space:

Arena Toolbox

NDTC

Deck access is free for all general election campaigns from local to federal with VoteBuilder! You can sign up for Deck access on our website at deck.tools. Email us at help@deck.tools with any questions or book a demo here.