An Objective Look At Issues Without Idol-Worship

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beginner's Guide to Door-to-Door Fundraising

What You Need

> Nice clothing  - look presentable!
> a pen
> a clipboard
> a petition

The Numbers Game

Half of the doors you knock will open. These become "contacts."
Half of the contacts will sign.
Half of the signers will contribute.

The Presentation

1) Introduction
a) I AM: introduce yourself
b) WE ARE: introduce organization
c) WE DO: introduce the issue
d) WE WANT: let them know you are gathering signatures
- hand over the clipboard vertically so they grab it. let them read it. be the person to speak next. -

2) Body
a) PROBLEM: state the problem
b) SOLUTION: define the solution
c) CONFIRMATION: does your contact agree?
- once you have identified their support, use a brief sentence to clarify why the issue is important to them. -
- while they're signing explain how fundraising helps the campaign. "Great, your name shows you agree and the contributions get the work done. I'll let you know how folks are giving while you put down your name." -

3) Fundraising
a) No set amounts
b) Encourage checks or credit
c) Set a goal - start high!
d) Confirmation - ask if they can give that amount


1) Hi! I'm Alex from the Campaign for Liberty, which is a nonprofit working to educate elected officials and the general public on economic and Constitutional issues. Currently we're working on a petition to repeal Obamacare. Could you check it out?
- hand over the clipboard vertically so that they grab it and read it -

2) Obamacare raises taxes by over $600 billion, increases government spending, increases the national debt, and doesn't even accomplish its stated goal of providing health insurance coverage for all. That's why we want to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market solution that increases consumer choice and doesn't worsen our economic situation. Is this something you agree with?
- hand them the pen so they can sign. when they begin signing, launch into your fundraising rap. -

3) Great, your name shows you agree and the contributions get the work done. I'll let you know how folks are giving while you put down your name. There are no set amounts and we do encourage checks or credit for our safety. Right now, we're setting a goal of $36 per household; that'll give us $3 per month for the next year to run this campaign. Is that an amount you can give?
- you should be able to fundraise enough this way to give back to the organization AND keep yourself employed. -

What You Accomplish

Now you have a list of people who agree with you on this issue. Hopefully, you get their name, e-mail, phone number, and address. You can use this information to contact them regarding important legislation or local events they're invited to. Remember - always ask for contributions at your local events!

The list will make you a political force in your local community, since now you have a number of voters you can influence to vote the way you want them to. The money you fundraise keeps you employed but also gives the organization enough money to hold educational events and engage in direct mailings, etc.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fundraising for Social Change: Canvassing

Note: This post is an outline of Chapter 19 in Kim Klein's "Fundraising for Social Change" (Fourth Edition).

Canvassing is a technique that involves a team of people from your organization going door-to-door requesting contributions for your group's work. This is primarily an organizing strategy; no organization should undertake a canvass simply to raise money. That said, a well-run canvass can generate a lot of gross income.

Though part-time canvasses can be run with volunteers, most canvasses are full-time operations involving salaried or commissioned employees who work 40 hours a week and solicit in neighborhoods on a regular, revolving basis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Canvassing

There are three main advantages to canvassing as a fundraising strategy:
1. An established, well-run canvass can provide a reliable and substantial source of income for your organization.
2. The volume of personal interaction from face-to-face contact with dozens of people can bring in more new members than any other strategy.
3. Canvassers bring back to the organization the public's opinions and perceptions of what your organization is doing.
The disadvantages to a canvass:
1. If done full-time with paid canvassers, they are labor-intensive, generating high overhead that absorb 60%-80% of the gross earnings of most canvasses.
2. It requires separate staff and office space as well as extensive bookkeeping and supervision.
3. Canvass income can be unreliable if the top canvass staff is disorganized or incompetent or if too many canvasses are operating in an area.
4. The canvassers themselves can give the organization a bad reputation if they are unkempt or rude.
5. Donors do not like giving to organizations that use canvassing because of high overhead costs.

Elements Needed to Run a Canvass

Four elements must be present for an organization to operate an effective canvass:
1. The organization must work on local issues: people give when they perceive that an issue affects them and their neighborhood. Your work can have a national impact, but in canvassing you must explain how this issue affects the resident directly.
2. People must feel that even a small donation will make a difference. Donations made to canvassers rarely exceed $50. People must feel that their small donation is needed and will be well used.
3. People must feel confident about your organization. Their confidence will be inspired by your organization's accomplishments. A specific plan of action that can be explained simply and quickly and that sounds effective is essential. Media coverage of your work is a major boon to canvassing.
4. You must be able to distinguish your organization from any other organization doing similar work without implying any disrespect for the other organization.

Setting Up a Canvass

First, check state and local laws and ordinances concerning canvassing. You can find out about state laws governing canvassing from the attorney general's office, which generally monitors all rules related to charitable solicitation. Many states publish handbooks on canvassing regulations. Local ordinances are sometimes more difficult to discover, since several city departments may have jurisdiction over different parts of the canvassing operation. Contact the police department and ask for notification and application procedures for a canvass. Be sure to write down whatever the person tells you, and get his or her name so that if you get a different story from another police official you can refer to this phone call. Contact the city attorney's office for information regarding solicitation of money for charity. Sometimes the mayor's office has some jurisdiction over these matters. In general, informing as many people as possible about your canvassing operation will ensure the least amount of interference later.

Study the Demographics
Gather demographic data on the area you plan to canvass: population density, property values, how many of the people are homeowners, what type of work most people do, what the income levels are, etc. This information is available from various sources, including local people, items in the newspaper, volunteers and board members who have lived in the area, the Chamber of Commerce, and from developing your own sense from driving around the neighborhoods.

Remember one important point in assessing demographic data: A canvass rarely does well in an affluent neighborhood. In fact, affluent people generally do not make contributions at the door. Their charitable giving is usually done through major gift solicitation, personal mail appeals, or special events. Canvassing operations do best in middle and lower-income neighborhoods, where giving at the door is more common.

Another demographic item you need to evaluate is whether the population is dense enough to make it worthwhile to canvass. Canvassers need to be able to reach 80 to 100 homes per night.
Finally, you need to evaluate whether the area is safe for canvassers. A good canvasser may be carrying $500 or more by the end of the evening, much of that in cash. Canvasses in high-crime areas (which can still be successful) sometimes send their canvassers in pairs, but this doubles the labor cost. Others have a roving car to check in on canvassers and to pick up their cash.

Hire Staff
The staff of a canvass varies from place to place but generally includes several individuals with the following roles:
  • Canvass Director: This person supervises the entire canvass operation, including hiring and firing canvassers, researching areas to be canvassed and mapping out the revolving canvass for the area over the course of a year, keeping the organization in compliance with the law, keeping up-to-date on new laws, and planning and updating materials.
  • Field Manager(s): Each of these staff transports and supervises a team of five to seven canvassers. Each field manager assigns their team to various parts of the neighborhood, collects the money at the end of the evening, and trains new canvassers on the team. This person also participates as a canvasser.
  • Office Manager: This support person manages the office, including keeping records of money earned by each canvasser, replacing canvass materials as needed, scheduling interviews with prospective canvassers for the canvass director, answering the phone, and generally acting as a back-up person for the canvass operation. This person does not canvass.
  • Canvassers: These are the people who actually carry out the canvass. They usually have a quota - an amount of money they must raise every day or every week. Their pay is either a commission, a straight salary, or, most commonly, a base salary plus commission.
Canvassers must be equipped with various materials, including any identification badges or licenses required by the city or state, newspaper clippings about the work of the group, a receipt book, and clipboards to carry the materials to be given away which include brochures about the organization and return envelopes.
Many canvassers use a petition to get the attention of the person being canvassed. The canvasser will ask, "Would you sign a petition for..." and briefly explain the cause. While the person is signing, the canvasser will ask for a donation as well.

Canvassers should try to get the gift right at the door. However, for people who need to think or discuss it with a roommate or spouse, the canvasser can leave a brochure and a return envelope. A brochure should also be given to people making a donation, because on reading it, some of them will send an additional donation. Do not assume when people say they need to think about your request that they mean they are not going to give - leave the materials and act as if you believe the person. Most people do not give money on the spur of the moment, and people who need to think about what their gift will be to your group may well become major donors.

All of the information is carried on a clipboard, which makes it easy to display and lends a degree of authority to the canvasser.

The Canvasser's Workday
At the beginning of the canvasser's workday, the field manager describes the neighborhood they will be canvassing and relates any information or special emphasis on issues that they should present to this neighborhood. The crew begins canvassing around 4PM and ends at 9PM, when they are picked up by their field manager and taken back to the office. They turn in their money, make their reports, and finish around 10PM.

Second only to quality of canvass staff in ensuring the success of a canvass is an efficient recordkeeping system. After each neighborhood is canvassed, an evaluation of the neighborhood should be filed along with the demographic data on that neighborhood that led to its being chosen as a canvass site. These data can then be reevaluated in light of the canvassers' experience. Any special considerations, such as "no street lights," can also be noted in the evaluation.

Many people worry that theft by canvassers will be a problem. Theft occurs no more often by canvass workers than by any others. Careless bookkeeping, however, can cost money and can give the impression that money has disappeared. At the end of the evening, both the canvasser and the field manager should count each canvasser's money brought in. The field manager enters the amounts under each canvasser's name on a "Daily Summary Sheet." The money and the summary sheet are then placed in a locked safe, and the office manager will count the total again in the morning and make a daily deposit to the bank. At the end of the week the office manager tallies the total receipt of each canvasser and prepares the payroll sheet.
Canvassers who fail to bring in their quota for more than a week must be retrained or fired. Strict discipline is important in a successful canvass, and keeping performance records will help to maintain a good canvass team.