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Notes From The Field


When folks talk about increasing voter turnout, there’s a common mistake in the way we talk about it. Specifically, there’s often a tendency to highlight the low number of voters who are actually voting, with statements like, “Turnout is low this year, so we really need your vote!” 

But behavioral science shows us that this approach is actually less effective than emphasizing the number of people that actually are voting. This tactic will be most persuasive to people who only vote infrequently or occasionally. 

So, how can you change your script to reflect this? If you were emphasizing low turnout, it’s simple to turn it around.

Instead of saying: “This is a very important election, but thousands of people in our district are staying home. Your vote matters now more than ever!”

You can say: “This is a very important election, and thousands of people in our district are turning out to make their voice heard. Make sure your vote is counted, too!”

This simple change of the frame can make a big difference in motivating people to vote.

If you try this trick, let us know how it works in the comments on our Tumblr.

Melissa Varga is Candidate Outreach Fellow with the Candidate Project at NOI.

PS - Wanna read the whole study? Check out Descriptive Social Norms and Motivation to Vote from Alan Gerber and Todd Rogers here.

Did you find this tip helpful? Visit our Resources page to learn more about how you can run a successful grassroots campaign. For additional training and resources, sign up for NOI on Demand, a FREE online training program focused on teaching critical data, new media, field, and campaign strategies.


Meet Irene.

Irene’s running for Bell County Commissioner in Texas, and this is what she had to say about why she’s running for office:

“I told myself that there comes a time when ordinary people, we of the 99%, must either step up or shut up. So I decided to run for office. I found out that unless I stepped up to run against the incumbent who’d been in office for 18 years, he’d win by default. I wanted to have a choice in the matter, soI decided to be the choice.”

If Irene wins her race, she’ll be the first woman ever elected to that office. That’s an amazing feat, and we want to help other people like Irene stand up and run for office in their community.

That’s why we’re here to help by empowering you with the tools, resources, and training to run the best campaigns you can.

Join us for free, online trainings with NOI onDemand from now until Election Day.

Every day, we’re focusing on a different skill. From Sept 24 – Sept 28, we’ll give you tips on an early vote strategy, including vote by mail, leading door-to-door events, and an end-of-the-week wrapup with a skills training on online fundraising.

Next, you’ll learn all about voter contact the first week of October. On Monday, we’ll start with the basics of phonebanking, and go over data management, setting up volunteer teams, and how to get online supporters to take offline volunteer actions.

The last set of trainings are focused on GOTV (Get Out the Vote) – including best practices, data management and entry, setting up volunteer shifts, creating your online strategy, and how to write a minute-by-minute GOTV tick-tock.

We’ve got a lot to cover over the next 4 weeks, so we hope that you’ll join us for some or all of the sessions.

Sign up for NOI onDemand trainings for September and October.

If you’ve already been through our previous trainings, we’re excited to have you back for a new round of sessions that focus on everything from voter contact to getting out the vote.

NOI onDemand is a project of the New Organizing Institute – free, daily trainings for organizers, by organizers. We’re bringing together the top practitioners in the field to provide skill sessions on data, new media and field best practices for progressive organizers and activists.

Stories like Irene’s are why we do what we do - so make the choice, stand up, and join us for NOI onDemand trainings this fall.


Volunteering on campaigns usually goes one of two ways. Volunteers can feel valued and supported, and eagerly return to help again. Or, they may feel like cogs in a wheel or not appreciated, in which case they’re probably not coming back. One easy way to make sure volunteers want to keep helping is simple: listen to them. Here are a few suggestions:

Ask questions. When someone first comes in, ask why they support your candidate, what motivated them to get involved, and what some of their skills and interests are. After the shift, ask what they enjoyed, and what improvements they can suggest. This helps you build a meaningful relationship with volunteers, and get valuable information on how they can best help you.

Respond to what your volunteers are saying. Not everyone wants to phonebank or canvass. If you can, find people a position they enjoy, like data entry, greeting people at the campaign office, or putting together walk packets for the canvassing shifts. 

Encourage your volunteers to share their experiences. After a productive phonebanking or canvassing shift, encourage folks to share stories from voters they met, the best line they used at the door, or a story about a new friend they made on the canvassing trip. Giving people a chance to share their experiences can boost morale, highlight good tactics, and gives you a chance to hear important feedback about what your volunteers are hearing on the ground.

If you work on creating an environment for your volunteers that makes them feel like you appreciate them and their hard work, they’ll come back for another shift. Remember, you’re all like family!

Melissa Varga is Candidate Outreach Fellow with the Candidate Project at NOI.


You might be wondering what a sandwich has to do with voter contact. No, I’m not talking about the kind of sandwich that you provide for volunteers during those long days of canvassing and phone banking. In the field, sandwich is a term used for maximizing the effectiveness of your voter contact strategy.

The idea is that you sandwich your most important contact in between two others. The first contact initiates the conversation, the second contact makes the sale, and the third contact reinforces (and maybe provides you with important information). For example, if you’re trying to identify and persuade undecided voters, here’s what a “contact sandwich” might look like:

  • Contact #1: Phone bank to into a neighborhood you are about to canvass, using an ID script to ask for the voter’s position on the issue/candidate. You might also let them know that your canvassers are coming soon.

  • Contact #2: Hit the doors of undecided voters with your persuasion script (the sooner after the ID call, the better).

  • Contact #3: After you’ve spoken to your persuasion list at the door, call back to see if they’ve changed to a supporter (and repeat your persuasion if not). This has the two-fold effect of reinforcing the main points you’ve communicated with the voter and allowing you to evaluate how effective your persuasion was.

  • Could you identify a shift towards your position between the two phone calls? Congratulations! Your persuasion may have been convincing. If you find that undecided voters aren’t moving, you may want to evaluate your persuasion message.

  • Take it a step further, and have the same volunteers call back the same voters. This way, they will establish a more personal connection.

You can use the sandwich strategy in multiple ways. Maybe you sandwich an important mail piece with robo-calls. Or maybe you call to let people know their absentee ballot is about to arrive, knock the door to see if they’ve filled it out, and follow up to make sure it got in the mail.

And, of course, don’t forget to feed your volunteers too. They’ll appreciate a real sandwich after a long shift at the doors or on the phones.

Tim Anderegg is Lead Web Developer at NOI, and has worked in data and field for a number of years, most recently at the Center for Community Change, advising issue advocacy and community organizations on data, targeting and reporting. 


I hear a lot of questions from organizers and candidates who are fighting for progressive change in rural areas. The most common of those questions goes something like this: “How do I create a message that resonates with rural voters?”

Whether you’re working in the bluest of blue cities, a deep purple suburb, or a flame-red ranching community, my answer is the same: create a message that’s built on values, not policy. Policy is important, but it has to come second. First, you have to convince people that you’re LIKE them, and that you share their same values. Here are a few of the big picture hows and whys for that, with a focus on why it’s powerful in rural or “conservative” areas.

  • Decide what values you want to convey. Progressive policy goes hand in hand with small town values. Sticking together in tough times. Looking out for your neighbors. Hard work. Sacrifice for the greater good. Figure out which values you share with your community, and how they relate to your goals.

  • Build a narrative that conveys those values. Use the art of Public Narrative to develop a Story of Self, and a Story of Us and Now, which you’ll use to connect with voters in a powerful way.

  • Show how the values match the policy. Finally, draw a line between values and policy. For example, most progressive policy is based on the idea that we all look out for one another. Rural communities often have strong bonds between neighbors, and communities take pride in coming together in tough times. Show how your proposals match that value.

Your ten point plan for fixing the local schools or investing in roads is important, but if you can’t connect those policies to values, you won’t connect at all.

Got a good trick for connecting progressive values in conservative communities? Share in the comments on our blog!

Evan Sutton is Communications Director at NOI.

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