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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Effective Canvassing with Streets and Trips

Remember the last time you went canvassing? Yeah, it was repulsively hot and steamy, with some stranger named Steve, roaming throughout God knows where to talk to who knows what, meanwhile sweating your cajones off and finding that you can't feel your feet anymore? Not to mention avoiding the man-eating dogs and the occasional alligator...or an NRA Republican.

The above situation is a bit exaggerated, but canvassing can be difficult and frustrating if not done right. Streets and Trips can help.

Canvassing is the most valuable activity a DEC or campaign performs. Its the most personal contact there is: one on one. The more personal the contact, the more effective it is. Of course, the most effective activity also takes the most planning and resources.

This post isn't about necessarily how to plan and prepare a canvassing operation, this is about making one of the biggest, time consuming obstacles of canvassing far easier than it used to be. The hardest thing about canvassing is giving people accurate maps and lists to work from. Even presidential campaigns are still giving canvassers those huge room sized maps to take with them to figure out where to go.

With Streets and Trips all you need is a simple 8.5 X 11 peice of paper with a map and directions on it. Of course, you'll also need to include a list of your voters in alphabetical order in addition to any campaign materials you have to pass out and/or leave in people's doorways.

Basically, you download a list of people you want to canvass from VAN in Excel. Open up Streets and Trips and import the list (just like if you were going to do a mail merge - only without the maddening frustration.) Every address is plotted as a pushpin like so:

Neat, huh?

Then you select a bunch of pushpins and get a route, directions, and "Optimize Stops" and voila you get this:

No more getting lost and trying to find targeted households. Typically, the average canvasser can cover around 10-20 households and hour the traditional way. Our volunteers were doing an estimated 25-35 houses an hour using these pre-drawn maps yesterday. The volunteers really enjoyed using this "new" technology, and were impressed with how much easier the whole canvassing process was.

Streets and Trips is not exactly a big expense either. Just click the link above and find out. Its a great investment your DEC can make.


tally said...

Cool! Ray, you are a jewel.

Eddie said...

Some nice tips here, I'll check it out more.

Susan S said...

The VAN file has a mapping feature that works the same way. Although our DEC in the last election, to my knowledge, didn't use it, the campaign I worked on did.

Ray Seaman said...

I've heard about that feature in VAN as well, but have never found a way to access it. I guess the DEC has to have a subscription to it, and ours (and possibly yours) doesn't.