Offline activities are powered and attended by volunteers and supporters, and are some of the most potent components of a successful campaign.
This article describes the reasons behind adding offline activities to your campaign calendar. It includes which kinds of activities are most effective and examples of how to use them to win your Green election campaign.
Campaigns are about people and effective election campaigns engage people in real life.
Offline activities are anything your campaign does to connect with people offline. While these can include phonebanks where volunteers call up potential voters, or even over Zoom as a Zoom phonebank, the key element is that phone calls are being made directly from the campaign to supporters.
Examples of offline activities:
When working with a candidate during an election, it’s important to balance out the activities of their schedule to have a mix of “air game” activities (interviews, social media content) and “ground game” activities (essentially, talking to potential voters). It’s easy to feel like interviews with major newspapers or videos for social media should take precedence over a less-exciting conversation with individual people, but interviews won’t win you as many votes as speaking to as many people as you can. More importantly, when voters are exposed to a party or a candidate in different ways, for example a radio interview, a social media ad and an encounter in the street, the probability that they end up voting for you increases significantly.
That’s because personal connections are the number one way to sway votes, bar none. Nothing has as much of an impact as the recommendations of friends, but a personal conversation with a stranger comes close. The cheeky Twitter account called “Knock on doors” sums this up well, by tweeting “knock on doors” in any circumstance. Raining? Knock on doors. Beautiful day? Knock on doors. Have an incredible idea for an ad? Jot it down, but then knock on doors.
Different countries have different political cultures around door knocking, so you can adapt this tactic depending on where your are campaigning. But the key message remains, talk to people!
With all activities, including offline activities, it’s important to track as much data as you (legally and ethically*) can, to be able to evaluate and improve your structures and systems. In many countries (but not all), it can be a good strategy to remind the people with whom you had a positive conversation, to go and vote on election day.
*Note: The nature of European GDPR data protection rules can make certain organising actions and performance tracking difficult, and you should always take the election rules of your specific country or region into consideration. Much writing on organising is written from an American perspective, so be wary.
This work can be less pleasant and glamorous, slower, and difficult when people aren’t responsive or are rude. It can be easy to put it off in favour of other more exciting efforts, but conversations with voters (by volunteers, but especially by the candidate) always needs to be at the core of any successful strategy.
A tip for foot canvassing with the candidate: have the candidate go with people from the neighbourhood. They’re likely to know people in their neighbourhood and so they can introduce them. Always have someone else knock on the door first to save the candidate from awkward or unpleasant encounters that could contribute to burnout.
There will always be a million things to do besides knocking on doors. But if you want to win, go knock on doors.
The more time the candidate spends speaking to people - over the phone, on the doorstep, at a shopping mall, in public places etc. - the more likely they are to win. Successful campaigns start this work months before an election is even called. You may have to remind the candidate of this (and remind them again, and again).
You always want to make sure your volunteers are comfortable during offline activities. It’s important to train lead volunteers, consider key elements of accessibility and inclusion, set norms and expectations for those participating in your events, and more, as outlined in other sections of this handbook. You should also take into account race, language, disabilities, gender diversities, sexuality diversities, age, income, education and so on. Not all conversations are pleasant and for some these conversations with voters can be harder than others. Simply put: be mindful of the circumstances in which volunteers operate and watch out for each other.
Offline activities are key to an effective election campaign and the more time a candidate spends speaking to potential voters, the more likely your campaign is to win. Ensure your candidate’s time is balanced out with other tasks, and that engaging with the community takes priority, always. It’s crucial that those taking part in your offline activity feel safe and included, so take care to establish this ahead of time.
Last updated: June 2022