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The State

Host a Door Knocking Event

What is a canvass?

A canvass is a gathering of volunteers for the purpose of knocking on voters’ doors. A canvass might launch from a volunteer’s home, a Starbucks parking lot, or a campaign office. 

Canvasses are generally led by a staff organizer or an experienced Neighborhood Team Leader. A canvass host might invite 8-12 people including neighborhood team members, members of their personal network, and volunteer prospects who have not been involved before.

The primary goal of a canvass is to contact voters and build camaraderie between volunteer team members.

Why knock doors?

The most effective way to motivate a voter to take action, whether contacting their representative, supporting a candidate, or otherwise advocating for our shared values, is to have a one-on-one personal conversation with them. The most effective type of one-on-one conversation is face to face, at their door. 

When we knock on a voter’s door, that person is 6% more likely to take the action we ask of them.

Hearing from an authentic member of their community will always be more effective than a message crafted in Chicago or Washington, D.C. delivered through television or direct mail.

Why canvassing events?

While it is great knocking doors through i-360 by yourself, many volunteers prefer to knock doors with others. We also find this method to be more effective – generating more doors knocked and better volunteer retention. 

It’s also safer to knock doors in teams of two, each person taking one side of the street.

Most volunteers are motivated to return week after week by the relationships that they build with each other. They come back because they’re having fun!

Canvasses are an opportunity to catch up with friends and to feel like we are a part of a larger movement.

Canvass Planning Timeline

Successful canvassing events require some planning. While it’s not necessary to follow this format exactly, it provides a helpful structure. 

5-7 Days out

3-4 Days out

Day Before

At The Canvass

On the day of the canvass, arrive early to make sure that the space is ready for the attendees.

If possible, prepare some snacks and water to provide attendees. If you’re not able to grab supplies, ask your staff organizer or send an e-mail to your attendee list. Someone will be excited to help!

Consider printing the wifi password or posting it in a conspicuous location.

Allow the attendees some time to mingle and get comfortable before heading out to knock doors. Aim to start knocking doors 30 minutes after the scheduled start time.

Spend a few minutes training volunteers on how the app works, and answering questions. Dispatch walkers in pairs.

If you plan to meet up afterward for lunch or debrief, make sure volunteers know the time and location.

Confirm you have contact information for guests.

Tech Troubleshooting

It’s likely that technological issues will come up during the canvass. Don’t panic!

If a staff organizer is not present, make sure you have their phone number easily accessible. Your organizer may be able to provide extra devices in case an attendee needs one. 

Prepare paper paper walkbooks that you can provide to anyone who is unable to make calls through i-360.

Most of all, stay calm and be patient. Attendees will take their lead from the host.

Canvass Asks

An important step in retaining volunteers is asking them to come back! Use these sample asks to make sure that you are as effective as possible. 

Best Practices

Canvass Follow Up

A primary purpose of a canvass is to expand our volunteer pool and motivate people to get involved as part of a neighborhood team. That means follow-up is one of the most important things a host does! 

1 Day After

2 Days after

Put It Into Action

Now you are ready to expand your network and act as a leader in your community. Change will come to Illinois, but only if we each work to bring more people into our movement. Sign up here to host a canvass and we’ll follow up to walk you through each step.