GOTV stands for Get Out the Vote and encompasses a campaign’s mobilization efforts leading up to an election. Rather than continuing the persuasion efforts that have been ongoing from the minute the candidate announced their candidacy, GOTV only targets voters who support your campaign. Basically, GOTV is the process of turning abstract support into real, tangible votes.
This time is your opportunity to build off of all of the incredible field and digital organizing that you’ve already done. By building a solid volunteer base and identifying your supporters, you’ve set your campaign up for a successful GOTV operation.
In the last two weeks of the campaign, your team should reach every supporter in your universe at least once (one full pass) to encourage them to vote. It’s a heavy lift, but with a solid plan in place, you can make it happen. Here’s how to get your messaging right, scale up your field operation, and make the most out of GOTV:
Focus on the Act of Voting
You’ve already started countless conversations about the vision that your campaign has for your constituency and the issues that affect the voters day-to-day. Now, it’s time to focus on the act of voting. You can increase voter turnout by talking about the act and process of voting. To make sure that your message breaks through all of the noise, get your volunteers on board, prepare to walk supporters through a voting plan, and apply a diversity of tactics to reach those supporters.
1. Retrain your Volunteers
Trainings matter! By taking the time to train (and retrain) your volunteers, you can boost the quality of all of your voter outreach efforts. Your messaging to voters will pivot for GOTV, so it is time to bring your vols up to speed.
During persuasion, it’s great to have volunteers share why they’re passionate about the campaign, but that’s not the case when we’re trying to get voters to the ballot box. Your conversations with voters should focus on the act and process of voting. Teach your volunteers to help folks create a voting plan.
2. Help Folks Make a Plan to Vote
Your canvassing and phone banking operations should prompt voters to think about their voting plans. It isn’t enough for a someone to make a verbal commitment to vote, you need them to imagine how they’ll make it to their polling place on election day.
To improve turnout, walk voters through a personal vote plan by asking some or all of the following questions:
Are you planning on voting early?
What day will you vote?
How are you getting to the polling place?
Do you need a ride to the polls?
What time of day are you going to vote?
Will you be voting before or after work?
Leave out “yes/no” questions like are you planning to vote. It is really important for folks to have a plan to get themselves to the polls.
Prior to the GOTV phase, you can deepen a supporter's investment in the process by asking folks to fill out and sign pledges, committing to vote. Folks can fill these out at the door, or even online. During GOTV, your campaign can mail, email, and/or text these reminders back to voters.
Diversify Your Approach
Rather than focusing on just one medium (like digital ads, direct mail, or canvassing), apply a diversity of tactics to reach voters. It is hard to determine ahead of time to know what will mobilize any individual voter. Within each method, try to talk to every target at least once.
3. Knock More Doors
Door-to-door canvassing is the most effective way to get your message across. Fielding a large canvas used to mean hours upon hours of campaign staff assembling turf packets and entering data. Now campaigns can run fully mobile canvasses with MiniVAN, cutting down on administrative work and making contacting voters easier than ever.
By upgrading to MiniVAN Manager, campaign staff can monitor the vital stats of every canvasser, including location, progress, and effectiveness in real time. Spot trends as they happen in the field and make updates or changes to scripts, walk sheets and canvasser profiles straight from VAN.
4. Make More Calls
Phone banking is a crucial part of any campaign’s GOTV efforts. With a strong volunteer effort, you can make a pass through your universe and make sure that potential voters are ready for the election.
Friend-to-friend contact has been shown to turn out twice as many voters as traditional voter contact methods. Before you start a volunteer phone bank, ask your volunteers to call or text people they know to ask them to vote.
A predictive dialer automatically dials phone numbers for you, and screens each call so that you only talk to the people who actually pick up the phone. This tool can make phone banking up to 3 times more efficient than hand dialing, helping you make the best use of volunteer time and reaching more voters.
To supplement the amazing work that your volunteers are doing, you can also use NGP VAN’s Live Call Tool. Our live call tool takes your list and script and deploys them to a high-quality call center. All you have to do is push a button, and trained staff will start calling.
5. Shoot Potential Voters a Text
We all need a friendly reminder sometimes. Cold text messages are peer-to-peer messages to people who have not opted to receive them. Consider using this tactic once or twice right before Election Day. Keep it relevant with the when, where, and how of voting in their precinct. VAN and Votebuilder are integrated with peer-to-peer text messaging tools like Hustle that can help you accomplish your GOTV outreach goals.
6. Embrace Positive Peer Pressure
Positive social pressure is the single most effective and scalable GOTV messaging tactic. People are more likely to vote when they are reminded that whether or not they vote is public record, even though who they vote for is private. This messaging can be employed anywhere but is often communicated through mailers.
Consider sending a direct mail piece that thanks people for voting in past elections and reminds people that their voting record is public. You can even include the voting record of the recipient and compare their record to an average of others in their community. First-time and low-propensity voters should also be reminded of their voting rights. Let them know that they have the right to vote without intimidation.
Go, Mobilize, Win!
By focusing your messaging on the act of voting in the last two weeks of the campaign, you can boost voter turnout. Mobilize your supporters by asking them to explain their voting plan and have them sign a commit to vote pledge. By replicating this message across a variety of channels, you'll reach the broadest base of supporters possible. Go, mobilize, win!