Compiled Volunteer and Voter Engagement Results

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Since 2018, researchers at Sister District Action Network (SDAN) have conducted numerous studies that yielded insightful results, thanks to many of you! We have designed, administered, analyzed, and reported the results of experimental and observational research projects about voter participation, voter registration, and volunteer engagement. Read on to learn more about our work!


Friendraising Pilot

We ran a pilot study in early August to determine if sending fundraising emails for SDP candidates to friends and family is an effective fundraising strategy. Because the sample was small, results in the pilot did not always rise to statistical significance, but it appears that sending emails to friends and contacts with specific fundraising goals, asks, and deadlines generated more money from more people than emails with non-specific goals, asks, and deadlines. Friendraising works! We’ll be running a larger-scale study to get firmer conclusions soon. Read more here.

Recruitment and Confirmation Study

We ran a study to see if personally contacting volunteers could boost attendance rates at team events. In short, yes! Personally contacting volunteers to recruit them for events resulted in 168% more RSVPs and 177% more event attendees than just sending emails. Similarly, personally contacting volunteers to confirm their plans to attend an event they had previously RSVP’d for resulted in a 51% increase in attendance. So, don’t just send emails! Read more here.

Volunteer Participation Survey

We conducted a survey of our members in January 2019, which yielded valuable insights about our community. We found that personal factors like gender, age, race, and partisanship are not significantly related to volunteering with Sister District, but social factors like closeness with one’s team and personal investment in the social aspects of Sister District are significantly related to engagement. This suggests that the social bonds of team membership are really important in keeping folks connected to Sister District! Read more here.


Values-Matched Messaging Postcard Study

In 2022, voters in GA and PA for whom reproductive rights is a high-priority issue received postcards—handwritten and sent by Sister District volunteers!—informing them that their state representative had voted in favor of anti-choice bills. Compared with voters who received a generic social pressure mailer, or no message at all, voters who received the postcards turned out to vote at a higher rate in the general election. The difference in turnout was not significant, but these results suggest that connecting voters with messaging that speaks to them and their values is a promising mobilization strategy. Read more here.

Three Rings Phonebanking Study

We conducted a phonebanking study in 2022 to test the trade-offs between contact rate and the number of conversations using two different approaches: letting the phone ring through to voicemail or hanging up if the call hasn’t been answered after 3 rings. As expected, volunteers who let the phone ring through to voicemail talked to a larger proportion of the voters they called, while volunteers who hung up after 3 rings called a larger number of voters; interestingly, the number of answered calls was almost identical between these two approaches. Read more here.

Voter Registration Postcarding Replication

You might remember that we ran a large study with the Voter Participation Center (VPC) in March 2018 to see if sending personal postcards to voter registration targets would increase the odds of folks completing their registration. We ran a replication study in September 2018, resulting in marginally significant results. This suggests that chaser postcards did increase the chances of returning the registration form, but that the magnitude of the effect is likely small. The results of the studies suggest that voter registration postcarding shortly after a voter registration effort does provide a reliable, small boost to registration rate. Read more here.

Voter Pipeline Analysis

We took a look at who voted in 2018, to see how many of the voter registration targets from our March and September VR postcarding studies voted. We found that people who received our chaser postcards and returned the VPC voter registration form were more likely to vote than people who returned the VPC voter registration form but didn’t receive our chaser postcard earlier in the year (though this effect was not statistically significant). Read more here.

GOTV Postcards

In fall 2018, we sent 7,700 postcards to voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan, to see if receiving a handwritten postcard encouraging the voter to vote might boost turnout. We found that neither GOTV postcarding experiment yielded significant results. However, there were several reasons this may have been the case, including issues with the representativeness of the sample and a very high rate of voter turnout overall, so this research should be replicated to draw firmer conclusions about the value of postcarding as a GOTV tactic. Read more here.

Relational Voter Turnout

In fall 2018, we ran a study in partnership with Dr. Katherine Haenschen at Virginia Tech to see if tagging friends on Facebook could boost voter turnout. Based on a simple analysis, we found that people tagged in a status that was supposed to elicit pride did result in a larger amount of voters than not being tagged, but the effect was not statistically significant. Read more here.


We are so proud of this informed and engaged community of volunteers and we cannot thank you enough for all of your help in furthering SDAN’s work. Please reach out if you have questions about our past studies or want to discuss research ideas.