Phone Banking Best Practices: Recruitment and Retention
Without the option to canvas door-to-door this campaign season, phone banking is currently the best technique available for mobilizing voters. The Institution for Social and Policy Studies summarizes recent studies of the effectiveness of get-out-the-vote campaigns and confirms that personalized phone communication with voters has the highest potential to increase voter turnout. These studies also make it clear that phone interactions must feel conversational and authentic to have the desired impact.
To promote high-quality, dynamic conversations, phone banking coordinators can use the strategies in this guide recommended by experienced get-out-the vote (GOTV) leaders, and which have proven useful in recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers. Right now we need to amp up our efforts to maximize the number of trained volunteers who are comfortable making calls, and who can eventually take on leadership roles of their own. We offer strategies for increasing volunteer turnout and keeping the volunteers you have through reminders, follow-ups, and encouragement. While other guides focus on technical aspects of phone banking, these best practices will help you to keep up communication with your volunteers and encourage them to keep showing up so that we can:
Flip the Senate
Hold the House
Win the White House
Restore our Democracy
- Finding volunteers: Several days before your campaign starts, reach out to 20-30 people who might be interested; the more personal your invitation, the more likely they are to come. Use your group’s social media accounts and email to spread the word.
- Set Clear Goals: Volunteers are most willing to help when they feel that their work makes a difference. Be sure to communicate your campaign’s objective clearly and get volunteers excited by explaining how helpful their efforts are in not only getting out the vote — the ultimate goal — but also doing more mundane things like cleaning voter lists and identifying voters and their preferences.
- Discuss privacy: Volunteers may assume that they will be making calls with their own phones and that voters will be able to see their numbers. Provide information to volunteers about the phone banking system they will be using and what technology (such as Google Voice) is used to ensure their privacy.
- Explain the setup: First-time phone bankers don’t always have a good sense of how phone banking systems are set up, and they may assume that they will just be using their personal phones. Be sure to provide information about:
- what device(s) and programs are required
- the setup, including information the script and its location as well as any other details about how to store the information being recorded.
If phone banking in Wisconsin, you can also share this video Why Wisconsin?
If you’re looking for ways to recruit new volunteers from scratch, this handy guide from CallHub has lots of helpful recruiting tips.
2. Further Setup and Training
Good training can make a huge difference in keeping volunteers interested and making every call count. Make sure your volunteers have enough information about:
- the specific goal of the campaign
- which voters they will be calling
- the candidate (if applicable) and relevant information about local elections
Provide enough technical training via video demonstrations and/or written guidelines. Make sure volunteers know exactly what technology is required and that they are comfortable using it even as first-time volunteers.
- Two days before the phone banking session, run a test yourself the script and dialer. Read the script. Make sure it’s clear who volunteers can contact for support.
- Think about making the phone bank happen on the same evening each week.
- One day before, get or write a short description (1 page) of the candidate, their opponents, and the district. Email the 1-pager and the script to the callers with a reminder about the phone bank day, time and address. Provide your phone number.
- Provide a way for volunteers to practice calls on their own or in a training session.
- Role play if possible until the conversation feels as natural as possible. Remember that phone banking is effective when volunteers can have a dynamic, natural conversation.
- Offer suggestions for every possible scenario, depending on how a voter responds in a call.
- Make it clear how many calls you expect volunteers to complete.
- Let volunteers know that they will get better at these calls after the first couple of tries.
- Thank volunteers often and make them (your most valuable asset) feel appreciated!
3. Setting Up Email Reminders
Even for experienced groups with regularly scheduled phone banks, an email containing the Mobilize registration link should be sent at least once a week. We have found that twice a week works best.
Outreach emails should be personalized for your group and audience. However, the most effective emails generally contain the following:
- Registration link in some combination or color, bold font, and large letters.
- Who volunteers will be calling and why.
- Details about breakout rooms or other ways that your group is accomodating volunteers of all experience levels and offering comprehensive training for those who need it.
- A combination of gratitude and friendly pressure (e.g. “If ever there were a time to overcome your fear of phone banking, that time is now. Our climate cannot endure another four years of Republican inaction and obstructionism”).
- A request for volunteers to invite two friends (and a sign-up link for them to share, if possible).
4. Reminders by Phone
The day before the event—but less than 24 hours before it—your team should call every volunteer who is marked as being registered. Topics to cover on each phone call:
- Confirmation that the volunteer will be able to attend.
- Reminder to download browsers and check invitations to be sure their equipment and accounts are ready.
- Ask them if they have any family or friends who might like to do this with them. Request that they recruit contacts, or ask them if they can commit to recruiting a specific number.
- Express appreciation and gratitude for their important work.
5. Text Reminders
Reminder texts are best sent 1-2 hours before the event. Example:
Hi [name]. Just wanted to remind you that [group name]’s virtual phone bank will be starting at [time & time zone] today. The Zoom link was provided in a confirmation email from email@example.com. See you soon!
Recruitment During Phonebanking
1. Recruitment Calls
We suggest either soliciting a volunteer during each phone bank to make recruitment calls rather than conduct voter outreach, or soliciting volunteers to make recruitment calls on their own schedules. During a phone bank, the volunteer can stay in the main room with the tech host.
Recruitment calls can be made to members of your group, or to outsiders. You might need to get creative when putting together a calling list for each event’s recruitment volunteer. For large organizations, we recommend curating a list based on email click rates, if possible.
There are two good options for personalizing a recruitment phone calls script:
- Make a copy of and edit this Google Docs template. In this case, the recruitment volunteer should use Mobilize to input information and register each new recruit while they speak on the phone.
- Make a copy of and edit this Google Forms template. The recruitment volunteer can enter each new recruit’s information and chosen phone banking date(s) in the form. This option requires that a member of the Recruitment and Retention Team later register all new recruits (indicated by the Google Form) on Mobilize.
2. Recruiting enthusiastic voters
Another possible method for recruiting voters is to build questions into your script that encourage voters who show enthusiasm for your campaign to sign up to do phone banking themselves! For example:
Would you be interested in reaching out to other like-minded people to win the Presidency and achieve xyz?
Build this into your script: If someone says “yes,” have a response and follow-up steps prepared so you don’t lose these potential volunteers. For example, you can start by asking them the best way to reach out (by phone or email).
First time phonebankers need as much support as they can get, as they may be experiencing a variety of emotions. They may have had technical difficulties, feel frustrated by not being able to reach as many people as expected, not know how to handle surprising turns in the conversation, etc. It’s important to offer an opportunity for new phonebankers to debrief after their first session.
In a debriefing session, you can address areas of concern, answer questions, offer support, and remind them of the (sometimes surprising) ways that they have been sucessful. See more ideas from the Sister District). Remind first-time volunteers that others have been through the same process of learning, making mistakes, and improving. Just giving volunteers a chance to discuss what they’ve experienced and figure out what went well and how to improve might bring them back for the next round.
- Set up a time to have experienced phonebankers share tips and experiences in a call.
- Instead of one long post-session debrief, try 30 minutes calling/5 minutes debrief, repeat. This way, lessons learned during the debrief can be used right away.
2. Follow-Up Emails and Texts
Thank-you emails with “Volunteer Tripling”:
After each event, a thank-you email should be sent to everyone who attended. We recommend expressing gratitude and sending the registration link(s) for future events. You should also include “volunteer tripling,” whereby every volunteer is asked to invite three friends or family members to the next week’s event. We suggest sending the text and email templates below for volunteers to do this.
Email template for volunteers to invite friends and family:
I just attended a virtual phone bank with [group name] and had a really great experience. Would you be interested in joining me next week? Phone banking is the most effective way to reach voters [and elect Joe Biden]. Here’s the link to learn more and register: [link to Mobilize event page]. Let me know!
Text Template for volunteers to invite friends and family:
Hi ____. I just attended a virtual phone bank with [group name] and had a really great experience! Would you be interested in joining me next week? Phone banking is the most effective way to reach voters [and elect Joe Biden]. Here’s the link to learn more and register: [link to Mobilize event page].
After each event, a “sorry we missed you” email should be sent to everyone who could not attend.
“Sorry We Missed You” Email Template:
We’re sorry that you missed the [name] phone banking event and hope that you will join us next time for the [registration link with name of event] and help us reach as many voters as possible. It is only with volunteers like you that we can win this election. If you are a first-time volunteer and have concerns about phone banking, please reach out with your questions. Comprehensive training is available for those who need it at every event.