Firstly and most importantly canvassers should have clear written instructions about what they are being asked to say/do and they should all read it before starting canvassing.
If you are expecting a large number of canvassers to come in from outside (e.g. you are mounting a serious challenge in a by-election) then many people find it helpful to have a briefing sheet saying who the candidate is, where the polling stations are etc.
It is very important that canvassers feel that their time is well spent and do not spend a long while standing around waiting for people to arrive/come back. When organising a canvassing programme for a campaign it is a good idea to set a meeting and finishing point and make it clear which roads are being canvassed so that someone arriving late can catch up with the rest of the team.
Some areas are best canvassed at particular times of day and only experience will tell you what is the best time for particular areas. Old people’s housing such as sheltered accommodation should be done in the daylight as many old people are reluctant to open their doors in the dark. Blocks of flats should be kept aside as they are the ideal places to canvass on a rainy evening.
Several places set up “text groups” with the mobile phone numbers of canvassers which allows them to text potential helpers an hour or so beforehand as a reminder and telling them of the meeting place. Such a system also means that if it pours down just before you set off you can change plans without having a lengthy process of notifiying everyone of the changed plans.
Canvassers, particularly new ones will have their confidence boosted if there is an air of efficiency given out so bring spare pens, rosettes, clipboards, maps etc. for people who have forgotten them (usually from experience these are the people who are experienced canvassers!)
Make sure everyone has a contact mobile phone number if they finish and can’t find the other team members.When?
Try to canvassing at times when you are likely to get the most people at home. The best times to catch people are weekday evenings, 5.30 – 9pm and at the weekends 12-9pm.
There is always a football match, Coronation Street or some other excuse not to go out. Whenever you go you will always find some voters in to add to your shuttleworth.
If you are canvassing in the morning, go to areas with old peoples houses and sheltered accommodation.
As students tend to go home over university holidays make sure you canvass student areas during term time. If the election is in a student holiday, try to sign them up in advance for postal or proxy votes. Canvassing can let them now which of their two registered addresses their vote will have most impact in . They’re probably one of the groups least likely to know its “neck and neck” unless you tell them.
In an ideal world we’d all like to canvass everyone twice and call back on the outs but it’s unlikely that that will be possible. If you are short of people then you will need to priorities.
Deciding on what the priorities are for your campaign is both essential and often ignored
Whatever sort of “cut down” canvassing schedule you operate you will still need to plan to canvass in all parts of the ward if your canvass statistics are to make sense and be representative. Remember this needs to be done together with your EARS officer, as she/he will have to print the canvass card that you need.
1. Sample canvass data – this will need to be done particularly in the first week to provide yourselves and the district wide team data for overall trends and district wide targeting.
2. New estates/areas –virgin territory
3. Major roads and near polling stations for posters
4. Repeat areas for people who we have previous canvass data on – EARS will allow you do a “switch” analysis to see how people who were canvassed as voting Lib Dem/Tory/Labour in the past are voting the same way this time. It should, for instance (see the separate article on canvass data analysis). This time round (2011) it will probably be necessary to recanvass all of our old shuttleworth.
6. Good areas last in the campaign to boost shuttleworth
7. Using Ears just existing supporters -firming up existing shuttleworth
8. Asian voters
9. Non-phone, voters
9. Areas where we will be running a full polling day operation – so that we have as many people identified as possible to go and knock up on the day
10. Our weaker areas – to get a feel for how the campaign is progressing and how our opponents are doing.
11. Areas of third party strength – to identify people for the tactical squeeze.
Let people who have offered to help canvassing join you on the street. Don’t wait for them before starting. It’s what mobile phones are for.
Don’t wait for everything
to be ready – get out there!
Candidates should be expected to be out for 90% of all canvass sessions – leading the team. Why should anybody else bother if they wont? The public expect to meet them as well but candidates are easily bogged down on doorsteps– if you’re the agent or just out with them keep them moving! Try phoning them on their mobile – rescue them. A lot of people want to meet them – but they need to get round.
Some campaigns teams favour team canvassing. Usually done in groups of four or more A central person holds the clipboard with the canvass cards sending canvassers door to door and then “marking up” their feedback.
1. Creates a positive impression of the campaign – numbers and business
2. Helps morale and keeps everybody together.
3. the team doesn’t get seperated and if one canvasser gets “stuck” then this can be spotted and another person sent to rescue them
1. The “board holder” is a wasted canvasser.
2. Difficult to provide canvasser with full canvas card information – usually just “the 2 Smiths at Number 23” and hence a more informed response.
3. Can delay start of canvassing whilst people gather – though it should not – see belowGetting NEW helpers started
One of the best ways of starting new canvassers off is to pair them up with an experienced canvasser so that they can be with someone else for the first few doors. Try to follow this pattern
1) You canvass they listen – this will help them pick up the patter and realise that not everyone behind the door is a three headed ogre waiting to ask them what we intend to do about the decline of Britain’s Merchant Navy.
2) They canvass you listen – when they have picked up the idea and the patter then you can let them have a go. Having an experienced canvasser with them can boost their confidence and there is someone there to cover if they make a mistake.
3) They canvass on their own – but the experienced canvasser should check with them after a few houses that they are coping OK and keep a close eye on them.
One final point – do make sure that the person you put the new canvasser with knows what they are doing – bad habits picked up on the first night can stay with you for a lifetime.