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The temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing, and pumpkins are popping up on front porches all over the nation. You know what that means: GOTV is here! GOTV, or “get out the vote,” marks a shift in campaign focus from persuading voters to vote for specific candidates or ballot measures to getting voters to the polls. GOTV is generally the few weeks leading up to an election, often from the time early voting starts (or any kind of ballot will be going out to voters in the mail) until the day of the general election.
There is a lot of time-tested GOTV and social science research that we recapped before the 2018 midterms. This article discusses a few ways to apply recent Sister District Action Network (SDAN) research findings to your GOTV game.
We ran a pilot study where volunteers reached out to their friends and family members and asked them to donate to Sister District Project candidates. We found that specific asks, like for a specific amount of money to reach a specific fundraising goal, were more effective in raising money than more general asks, and that they also raised more money per donor than emails from Sister District Project HQ.
Apply this finding: Ask your friends and family to donate to candidates that you think they would support! Set a goal to raise at least $100 for a candidate you support by asking five family members to donate $20 (or set your own fundraising goal – just be specific!).
Our research indicates that inviting volunteers to events with just emails is not enough to make them RSVP or show up. In the SDAN experiment, personally contacting volunteers increased RSVP rates by 168% and attendance rates by 177% compared to contacting volunteers via email alone.
Apply this finding: Personally contact volunteers to invite them to events in addition to sending them emails! Even low-effort communication like text messages is more effective than just sending emails. Set a goal to actively recruit participants by texting or calling them (or both!) for at least one event this GOTV season.
Our research indicates that reminding volunteers that they signed up to attend an event via email is not the best way to get them to show up. Using calls, text messages, or a combination of both to remind volunteers that they were planning to attend an event increased attendance rates at the event by 51% compared to email reminders alone.
Apply this finding: Personally contact volunteers to confirm they are actually attending events they RSVP’d for in addition to sending them emails. Set a goal to actively confirm participants by texting or calling them (or both!) for at least one event this GOTV season.
Our 2018 volunteer survey found that demographic factors like age, gender, race, education level, and even party affiliation did not significantly predict a volunteer’s level of involvement in Sister District Project. Instead, social factors were some of the strongest predictors of Sister District Project involvement, like feeling socially close to one’s team and being socially invested in Sister District Project.
Apply this finding: Try to make things social! Increasing feelings of closeness and investment may be good ways to keep volunteers coming back. Set a goal to host one social event soon, even if it’s a future volunteer appreciation event after the election.
SDAN does not conduct research for knowledge’s sake; we conduct research to determine the best practices around various kinds of political and volunteer engagement. Even if you follow up on just one or two of the recommendations in this post, you will help get out the vote for your candidate and engage volunteers!
SDAN is a 501(c)(4) civic engagement organization that is the sister organization of Sister District Project, a national progressive volunteer organization. SDAN focuses on field research related to voter registration, voter engagement, and volunteer engagement in order to help develop best practices for things like voter outreach and volunteer retention.