Candidate FAQ: Your Political Campaign Field Plan - National Democratic Training Committee

You have some questions about your political campaign field plan. We have some answers.

Field is what most people think of when they imagine a campaign — knocking on doors and calling voters asking for their support. Field is key to earning and turning out voters.

You and your team should interact one-on-one with the people in your community. Build relationships. Help them get to know you and how you’re going to help them.

Writing a good political campaign field plan and implementing a comprehensive field strategy will make you stand out from your opponent(s).

To help you get there, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about field tactics.

Why does everyone rely so heavily on phone calls and canvassing?

A personal one-on-one conversation will go a lot further than a pamphlet in the mailbox or yard sign ever can.

Research shows that personal conversations are key to making deeper connections with other people. Those connections also help to build trust, which is a key consideration for many voters when deciding who to trust to represent their community.

Phone calls lend a voice, while canvassing puts a face to the name.

These methods also open up conversations about what your community wants – what are their needs, what are the critical issues they are focused on?

For more information on how to execute these methods and why they’re important, take our Field Tactics course.

Also, if you’re not good at making conversation, here’s one of my favorite TED Talks about how to have a better conversation (hint: listen more).

How does a campaign field plan look different in very rural areas?

Field is obviously more convenient in urban areas when you can talk to six constituents per apartment building, but if you’re running in a rural area, you’ll have to adjust your campaign field plan.

In some parts of the district, the houses may be too far apart to efficiently canvass. You’ll need to use a combination of other methods, such as:

  • Phone calls
  • Texting
  • Meet and greets
  • Direct mail
  • Targeted digital ads

Even if canvassing is difficult, try to find a way to meet folks where they’re at to have face-to-face conversations. Where can you talk to a lot of your target voters in one place?

Do a lot of these folks go to the same high school football game on Friday evenings? Or attend the same church?

Once you’ve located their meeting places, you need to find out if there is a way you can respectfully approach these crowds.

The best route is often to find someone in your network to introduce you around and help you navigate the do’s and don’t’s of the gathering. Our Building Your Network course offers more tips to use when connecting to large groups in public settings.

How do you find your first few volunteers?

Your network! Find your people and ask them to help.

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, if you can’t convince your family and close friends to support you, why would voters?

Once you have your friends and family reaching out to constituents, it should ripple out from there. They should find volunteers among their networks and the people they contact on your behalf.

During phone banking and canvassing, you can ask members of the community if they would be willing to volunteer on your campaign. Make the most of these conversations.

You can also reach out to the Democrats in your community — ask local elected officials or the local Democratic Party who the worker bees are and set up meetings with them to ask for their advice and recruit them to volunteer with your campaign.

For more tips on how to find volunteers and build your teem, take our Volunteers course.

Where do I find the data to calculate my win number and vote goal?

There’s no perfect way to make a turnout prediction. You don’t have a crystal ball, so you’re estimating turnout based on what has occurred in the past.

Unfortunately, there’s no national database we can give you a link to where you can see past results of every election. However, generally, the elections office that you have to register your campaign with should have this data.

For example, if you’re running for state legislature and have to register with your Secretary of State, they should have the results of all the recent elections for your seat. If you’re running for the county board, it may be your county clerk or county supervisor of elections. But if you’re running for special sewer district, you’re going to have to do some research as to who you file with and who has that information.

Collect the following data points for each of the last three elections for the office you’re running for:

  • How many voters were registered in your district
  • The number of ballots were cast in your district
  • How many votes were cast for the office you’re running for
  • The number of votes each of the candidates for your office received

In a truly ideal world, you’d get each of these data for the past five elections for the office you’re running for, just to be safe. And they’d each be broken down precinct by precinct. Though, that might be a tall order for some elections offices, so get what you can and we’ll help you make the most of it in our Calculating Your Vote Goal course.

Start looking for this data in the election official’s website, if they have one. If it’s not available there, you may have to call/email them directly to request it. And if they play hard ball, you can always request it under the applicable freedom of information laws (aka FOIA).

Start your search in one of the following areas of the election official’s website:

  • Election Data
  • Results from Recent Elections
  • Election Statistics

Start early! If you have to request the data, candidates have reported it taking a few weeks to get what they need. So put that request in ASAP!

How much of my budget should I spend on my campaign field plan?

There are a lot of demands on your campaigns budget — and no one right way to spend money. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 70 percent of your budget talking directly to voters.

On large campaigns, this is mainly television advertising, direct mail, digital ads, polling, and more. Your field plan is a much smaller percentage of the budget — closer to 5-10%.

However, on smaller campaigns without money for paid advertising, you want as much of your funds to go directly to talking to voters as possible. This means canvassing, phone banking, and more.

You can’t execute an effective political campaign field plan if you don’t budget for it. But you also don’t want to spend all of your money on reaching out.

You’ll need to save parts of your budget for other aspects of the campaign — such as fundraising events (necessary to expand that budget) or staffing needs.

Our Budgeting and Financial Compliance course teaches you how to consider where to allocate your limited resources and write a winning budget.

Your political campaign’s field plan encompasses many facets of your campaign, and there is definitely more to be said about each of the topics raised by these questions.


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