Organizing with Social Distance

Sangeeth Peruri
Mar 16 · 3 min read

In response to numerous requests from campaigns and organizations across the country, we are putting out a list of suggestions on organizing virtually. Social distancing is antithetical to most campaign tactics. Yet the need to organize and preserve democracy has never felt more critical. For additional resources, see here.

Meetings and Events

Now is a great time to try an online meeting. Here are some things to consider.

  • Test meeting. Not everyone will be familiar with your meeting software of choice. If possible, set up a test meeting that people can join in advance to download any drivers and try out cameras/microphones.
  • Cameras on. Encourage everyone to join with their cameras on (put this in the invite). It’s more fun and helps to make it feel more real.
  • Introductions. Start with introductions to build a sense of community. For groups that already know each other, try an icebreaker.
  • Follow up. We have found texting to schedule calls is extremely efficient. Affinity texting is especially helpful here as well.

Canvassing Programs

In the current environment, going door-to-door can put both the canvasser and the canvassee at risk. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to convert in-person (both paid and volunteer) programs to digital outreach programs. The key is to convert cold outreach to warm outreach. Below is an example of what I am doing for a campaign I am running.

  • Community mapping. Create a thorough list of all organizations, community leaders (make sure to include school leaders such as PTA presidents and after-school coordinators and coaches, see here for more details), current and former elected officials
  • Training. Train volunteers in deep canvassing and building relationships. The goal should be ongoing engagement and not a transaction.
  • Reach out. Update your call scripts for VIPs and community leaders. At the end of each call, ask for introductions to others in the community.
  • Digital ambassador. Ask local leaders if they are willing to be digital ambassadors for your program.

Phone Banks

The main difference with phone banks is they will need to be run virtually instead of in-person. You will need to make adjustments to your program to make sure volunteers are well trained and comfortable so that they are able to complete the task at hand. Here are some ways to implement remote training and volunteer management:

  • Training. Use programs like Zoom or Google Hangouts to conduct training online. Make sure to record your training so those that couldn’t make it can still benefit.
  • Scheduling. While not required, it may still be helpful to schedule specific times for people to make phone calls. Send calendar invites and reminders accordingly. .
  • Leaderboard. Motivate your volunteers with a virtual leaderboard and post updates on Slack or a Facebook group.
  • Communication tools. You may need additional communication channels. Tools like WhatsApp or Slack are great for group communication. For easy one-on-one conversations, you try Affinity texting, which does not require the volunteer to create an account or download an app.

For all of the above, there are a number of ways OutreachCircle can help. See our Covid-19 organizing guide to learn more or contact support@outreachcircle.com. And most importantly: wash your hands, practice social distancing and stay safe!

Sangeeth Peruri is the CEO and founder of OutreachCircle, supporter management, relational organizing and P2P texting platform that makes it easy for volunteers, activists and donors to support their favorite cause, campaign or organization. Formerly president of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees, he serves on the boards of Orenda Education, Think Together and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. In his spare time, he is a fitness fanatic and competed on American Ninja Warrior 6 (check out his video ).


Originally published at https://blog.outreachcircle.com on March 16, 2020.

Sangeeth Peruri

Written by

Sangeeth Peruri is the CEO and founder of VoterCircle, a relational organizing platform that dramatically reduces the time and cost of outreach.

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