Green Party: How to Campaign on a tiny budget.

green-party-signThe Green Party of Canada has a few strong riding associations, a few dozen weak, but capable ridings, and hundreds of vanishingly small EDA’s. There are a sprinkling of Greens with real election experience spread across the country. Often the genesis of a middling, or strong EDA was one or two people who knew what they were doing two or three elections ago. Without having an organization to work with, they set out to build their lists and membership by using the blast of interest and publicity that an election brings to the Party. I want to help the vast majority of EDA’s with a little advice on what you can do to prepare for, and capitalize on the next election.

A strong Campaign team will have a number of functions, that are co-ordinated by a Campaign Manger. The different functions would normally be headed up by the various ‘Chairs’ and I will list them as follows:

  • Fundraising Chair
  • Events Chair
  • Canvassing Chair
  • Telephone Canvassing Chair
  • Signs Chair
  • Communications Chair
  • Candidates Canvass
  • Volunteer Co-Ordinator
  • Campaign Office Manager
  • Financial Agent
  • Election Day Chair
  • Candidates Advisor (Normally lawyer who forms link between campaign and candidate)

The Candidate is missing! That’s deliberate folks. The candidate should be much too busy canvassing the critical polls, attending and speaking at the events, making the key fundraising calls, etc. to be distracted by the actual running and planning of a campaign! The Candidate will be converting votes all over the place, provided they are out there meeting new people constantly.

If you’re understaffed, underfunded, and under experienced like most Green Party of Canada Campaigns, then some of these functionaries will wear multiple hats, and some of these things simply won’t get done. The functions that simply must be made to happen are dependent upon the skills present in the campaign.

Without the big team envisaged above, you will have to figure out how to reach out and touch the

Wholesale Politics!

Wholesale Politics!

largest amount of people possible, with minimal human resources. That means ‘broadcast’ type communications. Make contact with the local press, and keep them informed about your’ campaign. Don’t be shy about asking them for publicity. They expect you to, and they can reach more people than you can with your message. Try your’ damnedest to get your signs in high traffic, and high visibility locations. Plan high visibility events. Main-street in busy pedestrian areas. Do flyer drops across whole areas of the riding. Just make sure that every single message hammers home the theme that people should get in touch with you! If you cannot go to them, then get them to come to you. That is why a website is sooo important. It will be able to gather in the volunteers, money, and build your mailing lists that will allow you to make a much stronger showing in the NEXT election. Your volunteers job when doing high visibility stuff is to drive volumes of people to the campaign website.

The Green Party of Canada website generates a huge amount of traffic, and many people from your’ riding will decide to join the Party, and volunteer their services online during an election. The cardinal rule of volunteer co-ordination is to have useful and interesting tasks ready to hand immediately. If somebody volunteers online, and gets a phone call a few hours later from a local Green asking them to help out with a specific task, they will be happy to help out. If you fail to engage the new volunteer immediately, you will probably lose them, and may even leave them disenchanted with the Green Party.

You must fundraise. Every member, past supporter, past member, and sign taker on your’ EDA’s lists must be approached, and asked for $400 – $1,100. Not everybody will give, but you will be pleasantly surprised how many people will simply pony up the cash to support what they believe in. Without money, you will be able to achieve little.

You will need a signs team. They will be needed to get out there and place election signs, as well as keep tabs on damaged and vandalized signs for replacement during the Campaign. If you expect to place 100 signs, one person can do it on a pretty casual basis. If your target is 1,000 signs, then you will need a few people, and somebody will be out every night placing new, and replacing old signs.

The Canvass is problematic. You need to be out there ID’ing the vote, but it takes a lot of feet on the pavement to contact tens of thousands of people. If you have the technical skills on the team, then you can populate a database with phone numbers. {I have heard rumours that some people can write scripts to pull thousands of phone numbers from online phone directories. ;-) }. By telephone canvassing, you can reach a lot more people in a short amount of time, and you can target main streets for example for an arterial sign canvass. Make sure you conduct an analysis of past election results, and try to canvas the polls with the most green voters in them. Remember that home owners vote twice as often as renters, so try to go for home owners foremost. That’s the low hanging fruit that you need to ID.

Your’ communications MUST develop a website, and make sure that any brochures, signs, and literature has a consistent theme and message to visit it. Make sure that you are able to collect the names and addresses of voters online. Every voter who identifies themself has saved about one hour of volunteer time.

There will definitely be some events that need planning. There will be the kick off meeting, and victory party at a minimum. The kick off should be a combination of social and business. Get all your membership in one room for a nice get-together. Make sure there’s food and drink. Have the Campaign manager lay out the basic plan, and then immediately ask for volunteers for the specific functions, and ask for donations please. If out of 10 or 15 people 2 or 3 write a cheque out for $400, or $1,100, everybody will pull out their cheque books, and you will graduate from a broke campaign to one with thousands of dollars. If someone jumps up and lays a $20 bill on the table, you are in trouble. (hint hint) During the campaign, you should have one social fundraiser at least, and you will need to plan for all candidates debates, and other public invitations to the candidate. Make sure there are socializing opportunities along the way, so that people don’t forget to have fun while they’re at it.

The election day chair (EDC) is probably redundant to the low budget campaign. In the traditional campaign, the EDC takes over the whole campaign apparatus on advanced poll days for the dry run, and on the actual E-Day. Their job is to staff the polls with scrutineers, set up the runners to bring in the lists of who voted, arrange transportation to the polls for elderly and infirm supporters, and generally run the Poll by Poll GOTV machine. The low budget campaign will probably be limited to picking up the phone, and calling everybody to go and vote at the advanced polls, and then again on E-Day. This still must be done. Every vote counts, and you will have a better idea of what you’re doing when the next election comes along.

The last person to consider is the Candidate. Public speaking ability is an asset. If the candidate joins toastmasters, then he or she can get a little experience in delivering to a group. Really, really try to get a candidate who can devote some time to canvassing. There is a technique colloquially called power canvassing. This is where a small team canvasses with the candidate by going ahead of him/her, and holding people at the door. This way, the candidate can rush from door to door, and not have to wait for people to come to the door. You can develop signals so that the candidate is made aware of what issue the elector is interested in. Maybe point to a part

Running for Office Shoes

Running for Office Shoes

of the campaign flyer while introducing the elector to the candidate. The candidate can then deliver a ‘canned pitch’ in 30 seconds. Ask, ‘Can I count on your vote on election day?’ then ‘Can we put up a sign on your lawn tonight?’. Mark off the supporters name on your list, and run to the next elector talking to another team member at the next doorstep. A team like this can canvas quite a few thousands of people, and the candidate will win a lot of wavering voters just by showing up and shaking their hand. Make damn bloody sure you wear comfortable shoes! Dressy running shoes are the best, and the campaign should be ready to buy a new pair when you’ve worn them out. We’re a young Party, so you can literally ‘run for office’, and put the old Party’s to shame!

Above all else, always have one cardinal rule you follow. Make Politics FUN! If all of your team works their buns off, but has a great time, then your campaign team will grow and grow. When the next Campaign comes along, the pro’s will be looking forward to it, and the team will be much bigger, and better funded because of your efforts in the previous campaign.

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2 Responses

  1. “That is why a website is sooo important. It will be able to gather in the volunteers, money, and build your mailing lists that will allow you to make a much stronger showing in the NEXT election.”

    “Your’ communications MUST develop a website, and make sure that any brochures, signs, and literature has a consistent theme and message to visit it.”

    Just a couple of thoughts on that from someone who has had nothing to do with the internal efforts involved in presenting a candidate or party to the public but does use on line information to make a decision in that regard.

    It seems to me that the local organization should maintain a web site at all times, not just during election periods. It should be an ongoing effort to inform the public of local issues, party policies, candidate status etc. This must be coupled with much more effort to keep the local and national party candidates in the news much more often than is currently the case. Those in government get press coverage almost daily, god or bad it still keeps them in the public eye. Those NOT in government seem to disappear off the face of the earth between elections and then must almost start over when an election is called. I know nothing of the internal processes but it seems to me that to rush around finding candidates at the last minute is counter productive.

    The ongoing web site should be part of this, at a minimum weekly postings by local party insiders, the candidate or potential candidate, even fence sitters like myself, updates upon national goings on and news releases etc etc. In other word BUILD a web following BEFORE you need it. Keep it interesting and fresh.

    If the site can be interactive and allow commentary so much the better, but this does of course involve some risk and a greater commitment to monitoring said site. I do not know how effective local web sites are in promoting candidates but do believe that they will be ever more influential, particularly if they are not just static pages that change little over time.

    To promote it, do the same as the successful bloggers, comment upon political forums and blogs across the web and leave a link to the site like this The Rural Canadian

  2. […] to canvass on a tight budget Jump to Comments A good discussion on canvassing for the Greens with limited money can be found at the green canada blog. A strong Campaign team will have a number of functions, that are co-ordinated by a Campaign […]

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