Running a successful volunteer calling program with USAction

Running a successful volunteer calling program with USAction

How do you drive an online list to meaningful offline action? Just ask our client USAction! We helped them run a strategic and effective volunteer calling program in the Massachusetts special election in 2013 with their online supporters.

USAction is a federation of 22 state affiliates and partners that organize for a more just America, with more than 500,000 online supporters across the United States. In 2007 TrueMajority merged with USAction to form this online powerhouse, one of the largest online organizations in the country.

PowerThru ran every aspect of the online program for this national leader on progressive action. While working closely with their staff, we relaunched their website, designed their overall internet strategy, wrote over 200 emails, raised over $200,000 for their c3/c4/PAC, ran their volunteer calling programs for candidates and other online-offline work, kept the list of over half a million people growing and generated over a million actions every year, making an impact both online and off.

Fresh off the success of their volunteer calling program in 2012 (where over 100 volunteers made over 10K dials in the last couple weeks of the election to voters in Ohio and Wisconsin to put Senators Sherrod Brown and Tammy Baldwin over the top), USAction wanted to make a difference in the lower profile elections taking place this year.

With Senator Kerry’s move to Secretary of State, Massachusetts provided a compelling opportunity to make sure the Senate continues moving in a progressive direction.

A partnership with DailyKos in January led to over 78,000 messages to Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint proven progressive Barney Frank to the interim seat. Even though Gov. Patrick opted for Mo Cowan, USAction members had been alerted to the situation — and opportunity — in Massachusetts.

We kept an eye on the developing situation in February, and in March as the candidate field shaped up, we were ready to make a move. USAction began by spreading the word about their upcoming calling plan. This wildly successful fundraiser showed a powerful interest by USAction members in making sure a conservative Blue Dog Dem did not slip into the Senate from Massachusetts.

In the month of April, we began to put together the logistics of the plan, including doing a phone match of USAction members so that we could do member-to-member calling instead of calling random Massachusetts voters. USAction members talking to fellow USAction members is one of the most persuasive ways to get people out to vote in a sleepy low turnout election.

We were ready to launch a call for volunteers in mid-April, but the tragic events in Boston led to putting election plans on temporary hold. (Lesson learned: you can never tell what local or national events will occur, good or bad, so it’s important to launch campaign infrastructure early.)

After the last bomber was caught (but now with only a week to go before Election Day), we launched the volunteer ask and began running nightly volunteer calling sessions. A big list of progressive voters in hand, we set up an inexpensive cloud calling system for our callers (we used a system called CallFire). By using a computerized autodialer, we were able to connect callers anywhere in America to Massachusetts members — with no long distance charges. And by running a nightly training session, prerecording a voicemail and designing a fast and simple caller script, we maximized the efficiency of volunteer callers — often hitting as many as 100 dials and 20 live conversations per volunteer, per hour. The CallFire system had its quirks, but the main advantage was affordability compared to the other systems available.

Even with the very last minute nature of the campaign, we were able to get several USAction volunteers to call every night, and as of two hours before close of polls, we finished dialing through the entire member universe.

But the best part was yet to come, when Ed Markey won his primary by over 10 points! In this case the extra push by USAction was not the margin of victory for Rep. Markey, but in future special elections this calling program may be the key difference.

Based off the success of this test run, and with polls showing a close race in the general election, we re-ran the program in June. Everything ran much more smoothly this time, as everybody (volunteers included!) was more familiar with the calling system and the layout of the races. Last month was another victory for Ed Markey, and a big success for USAction’s calling program once more!

Interested in running a data-driven voter or member-to-member calling program for your organization like this? Contact PowerThru and we can help you make it happen.

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