During my fifth week as an Organizing Fellow at Sister District Project, I called through a list of almost 100 volunteers in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Early on, I noticed a particularly high contact rate: overall, I spoke with 33% of the volunteers I called. Many of these conversations were extremely productive, with more than half saying “Yes” or “Maybe” to at least one of my asks.
Although many people are staying home due to social distancing measures, that doesn’t mean they are always available. Many volunteers are still working full-time, with some also taking on additional childcare responsibilities due to school closures. Plus, adjusting to working from home does take time, causing life to generally seem more chaotic.
While finding the perfect time to call can be challenging, the best contact rates have consistently been on weekends and on weekday evenings. Volunteers I contacted on the weekend generally had more time to engage, allowing me to give more details about what their team would be working on this election cycle and how they can easily get involved. Calling on the weekend also allows for more time to follow-up with volunteers who may be busy at the moment of the initial call. This especially helps when leaving simple voicemail messages sharing “what our San Fernando Valley team will be working on during this election cycle, and we’re hoping you can get involved!”
When contact is made, most calls lasted approximately five minutes. For volunteers who have been actively involved in previous cycles, these conversations were more concise – we mostly discussed what the team is planning and the 2020 State Targets. For volunteers new to Sister District Project, we discussed Our Political Strategy and What Our Volunteers Do.
Weekday evening calls had similar contact rates, but the window to make these calls is considerably smaller. Weekday conversations were generally shorter, as volunteers dealt with dinner, getting children to bed, or just unwinding from a stressful day.
From my experience calling volunteers in Georgia and now San Fernando Valley, Sister District Project volunteers want to make an impact, and that desire feels even more urgent now for many. During my conversations with San Fernando Valley volunteers, most were excited to hear that our teams are organizing and fundraising using tools like Zoom. They expressed interest in phone banking, text messaging, and sending postcards, knowing they could connect with voters without leaving the safety and comfort of their homes.
Our San Fernando Valley team will be supporting candidates in Arizona this year. Having this information ready to share during my initial calls helped to motivate these volunteers. Sister District Project volunteers already know how important it is to take power back in state legislatures, so giving these volunteers a clear target increased the effectiveness of each call.
When talking with volunteers, it’s always important to ask what other volunteer experience they have had, whether with Sister District or with other organizations or campaigns. One new volunteer, Emily, had limited experience with groups but mentioned being a go-to resource for her friends and family when it comes to causes and organizations to support. A couple of more seasoned volunteers, Marcia and Michelle, both work with other organizations that have partnered with Sister District in the past. They were thrilled to have the chance to do so again this year.
When I started calling volunteers, I worried the current crisis would cause many to simply say, “I don’t have time for this right now.” And, while this was the case for a small number of people, most were very relieved that they could focus energy on making a positive change during this extremely troubling time. And after all, we are all facing this situation together. The work I am doing with Sister District gives me an opportunity to engage with others who share my goals of electing Democrats and improving the lives of millions of Americans. With each and every phone call, I had a chance to share that opportunity with our volunteers.