Opinion: Canvassing – a few steps to success

Dundonald ward, in Merton, was awarded the “most canvassed ward in London” at the London Liberal Democrats regional conference.  As one of the people co-ordinating the campaign in the ward, it was great that the hard work was recognised, but I was also a bit surprised.

Not surprised as in “can’t believe we’d won”, but surprised in the fact it didn’t feel like hard work, once the initial groundwork had been done. In reality, although there were times where we were out doing surveys, recruiting or canvassing twice a week, it averaged about once a week. The canvass teams were never huge, 3-5 people, with the odd session with one attendee!  We’d have action days which were better attended, but it was the regular sessions which were the key to the canvas data.

For me the key steps in the success were:

Firstly a good delivery network – the ward has deliverers for almost 85% of the streets freeing up campaigners to canvas.

Have a specific policy or reason for speaking to people – just asking if they have any local issues cold on the doorstep gets little response. Activities to speak to people could be a survey, petition, street stalls, deliverer recruitment or just re-canvassing LD voters.

If using a survey, what are you trying to achieve? We’ve asked pool-type questions such as most important national policy concern, how they have voted, policies they support, to help us with targeting (and things they care about). It feeds into getting a feel for the local streets and area for street focuses, or targeted letters based on their past voting intentions.

Regular canvas sessions – but around people’s availability, it doesn’t have to be every weekend or a set day.

Ask people to join you with a personal e-mail or better still a phone call, they are more likely to come along if you personally ask them.

Regular action days (at least every two months) where a real push is made to get irregular activists along and those from outside the local party to chip in. It really helps when there is a big group, a lot can be done, and it’s fun as well (and we repay the favour!).

Being organised and following up on the information gathered. Once the data has been collected we used it for communications, updating Connect and casework. The follow up is just as important as the canvassing and in reality will take even more time, but without it we’re only doing half the job. A big thank you to Anthony Fairclough for leading on this in Dundonald ward, especially as not all the members / volunteers know this is happening.

Obviously having a great team helps; Anthony Fairclough and Diana Coman are fantastic fellow campaign co-ordinators and we couldn’t have done it without all the volunteers.

And lastly thank all the volunteers.

It’s the basics really, but putting them into practice, and then building on the information / dealing with case work are the key to local success. So start now before the Christmas weeks are upon us, review how things have gone over the New Year, amend (if necessary) and get out there talking to people.

* Phil Ling is an Executive member of Merton Liberal Democrats and Treasurer of Chinese Lib Dems

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4 Comments

  • Liberal Neil 1st Nov '12 - 9:30pm

    Excellent stuff :-)

  • Grammar Police 2nd Nov '12 - 8:49am

    I was going to say, “Is it Sandy Walkington?” Then realised who the comment above was from …

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