What Is Paid Canvassing and Do I Want Some?

by The Campaign Workshop


Spoiler: You PROBABLY Want Paid Canvassing

This may come as a shock to many people, but not every political campaign has people lining up to volunteer like President Barack Obama’s did. In fact, that was the rare exception, and for many campaigns, getting more than a handful of volunteers is a miracle. We know that high-quality, face-to-face canvassing is the best tool in our arsenal for both persuasion and turn out, but not every campaign has the footprint to cover a robust field operation using volunteers or campaign staff alone. In fact, many won’t. That’s where paid canvassing comes in.

Paid canvassing has gotten a bad rep in recent years, with scandals rocking ACORN and other progressive field operations. But, paid canvassing is important to consider: paying people who are well-trained professionals to communicate with critical voters you need to win is a good idea, and frankly, could be the difference between winning and losing. Here are some tips for deciding to hire a paid canvassing operation:

  1. Exhaust other (free) options. Is there a local group, union or organization you belong to or are endorsed by that will send a canvas crew out on your behalf? Could you team up with another candidate on the ballot and add your name and lit to some of their turf?
  2. Ask around. If no free options exist, does your local party chair or kitchen cabinet have a recommended paid canvassing group that they’ve had a good experience with? You may be surprised to learn who has hired paid canvassers in the past and can provide some valuable insight.
  3. Do your homework. Before you reach out to anyone about paid canvassing, dig into your own data. What universe of voters do you need to persuade or turn out? Where do they live? Is it canvass-able? Figure out exactly the scope of the project you want done by paid canvassers and be prepared with these hard numbers when you first reach out.
  4. Get down to brass tacks as soon as possible. What case studies have they done to show successful impact? What kind of metrics and data can you expect to receive from this paid canvassing operation? Will you get script approval? Do they have references you can talk to? What’s their hiring process? Good paid canvassing firms will have all of these answers for you.

Hiring a paid canvassing operation can seem like a daunting process, especially when you’d rather just do a TV spot. (And that’s not to trash paid media, everything has its place). If you don’t have the resources to do it yourself, consider hiring a trusted paid canvassing field operation to augment your program and help you win.

Have other advice about paid canvassing operations. Share them here.