Simplifying Your Campaign Calling with a Virtual Phone Bank

The old fashioned way

A key part to winning an election is to get your message out to as many voters as possible, as early as possible, and reinforcing that message through as many channels as possible.  A voter is much more likely to vote for you if they received a phone call or a door knock after reading your social media post versus one who just saw the social media post.  This is why it’s important that the telephone is part of your campaign arsenal.  The problem is, it can be challenging and expensive to manage a telephone campaign, so many candidates don’t bother.

Some of the challenges of running a telephone campaign:

  1. Who do you call?  Do you tell your volunteers to just call their friends and family?
  2. Volunteers who are willing, but unable.  With more people ditching landlines and switching to mobile phones, your volunteers might be reluctant to use up their minutes making campaign phone calls.  You may also have people from out of town who are willing to help, but don’t want to incur long distance charges.
  3. Tracking progress is difficult!  It can be frustrating sending out lists to your volunteers and not knowing what’s going on.  Are they even calling anyone?  Did they forget?
  4. Getting all of the data you need is hit or miss.  Some volunteers will take the marks you have asked for, some will just cross them off the list and not write anything down.  Others will give you a handwritten collection of notes that need to be deciphered and translated to data points in your CRM.  When you’re counting on that data to make campaign decisions, having as much data as you can, and having it neatly organized is very important.
  5. Distributing and organizing lists is time consuming.  How do you get the phone lists out to your volunteers?  On paper?  By Email?  How are you collecting and compiling that data?  What if a volunteer drops out partway through their list?  Are you dividing the lists up fairly based on how much time each volunteer can commit?

With all of the frustration involved, it’s easy to see why lots of campaigns write it off as a waste of time.  This is where technology can help.  It’s easy to set up your own “virtual” phone bank using CallHub or Popvox, making telephone outreach a viable option for even the smallest campaigns.  Best of all, it doesn’t require the purchase of any hardware, besides a cheap headset.  Your volunteers can use their own computers in the comfort of their home.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Set up an account:  You set up an account with the phone bank provider, typically pre-loading it with some money from a credit card (or in the case of CallHub, you can use it for free up to 5,000 contacts if your volunteers are making calls on their own telephone).
  2. Load your contacts:  You load in your list of contacts with phone numbers – if you don’t have a pre-existing list, you can buy phone lists online for an entire province for $100-300.  With a little slicing and dicing by postal code you can narrow it down to your target area.
  3. Set up a campaign/survey:  This will define who is being called and will be the script that your volunteers use.  Ideally it should drive people up the engagement pyramid, starting with basic questions like “are you voting in the municipal election this year”, and progressing to “would you take a sign”, “would you consider making a donation”, or “would you be able to volunteer”, depending on the answers to the previous questions.  By combining fundraising calls, soliciting for signs and volunteers, and canvassing together this way, you can save time and raise more donations.
  4. Set up and train your volunteers:  Each volunteer will require a login.  You’ll want to get them a headset that they can plug into their computer – basic ones run $15-30 at any major electronics store.  From there, you just need to get the user logged in and they are good to go.
  5. Volunteers make calls:  When the volunteers log in, they can click to receive their next call.  The phone system will grab the next person from the shared pool of contacts.  They can do as many or as few calls as they wish, at whatever times they want.  Since they are drawing from a shared pool a contact at a time, you don’t have to worry about giving another list to a volunteer who finished their list early and is eager to do more, nor do you have to worry about redistributing uncalled contacts from the list of a person who was unable to finish theirs.
  6. CallHub’s Dashboard

    Track the progress:  As your volunteers are making calls, you can watch the dashboard and see what percentage of contacts have been called, so you can easily see if you need to recruit more people to for the phones, or know well in advance if you’re not going to meet your targets.

  7. Keep your prepaid time topped up:  As they are making calls, each minute of calling will deduct time from your prepaid minutes, so keep an eye on how much money you have left.  Thankfully though, this is the only expense.  If your volunteers are making the calls on their computer, you’re not using the minutes on their cell phones, and people from anywhere in the world can help out without incurring long distance charges.
  8. Download the data:  If your phone bank is integrated with your CRM (such as how CallHub integrates with NationBuilder), this part is easy.  Just wait and watch the data roll in to your CRM in real time.  If not, just wait until your campaign is complete and download the data.  You can then look at it in a spreadsheet application like Excel, or import it into your CRM.

Considering how easy it is, there’s no reason not to make a telephone bank part of your campaign plan.  The municipal election campaign period is coming up, don’t hesitate to contact Jamie at Praxica – (226) 456-0741 or jamie@praxica.ca – for a free initial consultation if you need help going “virtual” with your call banking for this year’s election.