Our challenge is to build a party by and for liberty-loving people that grows and prospers, a party that holds the government accountable to the people. To do this we must engage people where they are most comfortable, where they live.
By visiting people in their homes, we have the opportunity to connect with them in an environment where they are likely to share their concerns, and also be open to learning about how they and their family would benefit from less government and more personal freedom.
Behind every door is a stranger who probably has never had any personal contact with the party. For that brief period of time you are the Party! The impression that we want to leave is one of an effective pro-freedom group, not made up of strangers but of their neighbors.
Door- to-door objectives
- To recruit new members to give the Party a louder voice
- To raise the public’s awareness and expectations of the Party
- To bring extra revenue to the Party.
- To paint a clear picture of who the enemy is
- To listen to their stories
- To help people steer their anger in a positive direction
- To give individuals a sense of their own power to make a change
- To plant the seeds for further advances toward liberty
- To identify members with leadership potential
- Have a plan! Decide who will be your target audience. Will it be registered voters, in which case you’ll need a list from the county registrar? Will you target a particular neighborhood by geographic boundaries? Are you looking for party members, or possible voters? Mapping out a good plan ahead of time will increase your speed and effectiveness, and make it easier to chart your success.
- Proper attire and good hygiene are a must! Project a clean, professional appearance. Remember that you not only represent the Party, but may be the first Libertarian that the person recalls having met. Clearly identify yourself as a Party member by either wearing an article of clothing, as a polo shirt, with the Party’s emblem , or a “lapel” pin. This will have them feel more secure about inviting you into their home.
- Work in teams. This is not only an effective method, but is key to your safety.
- Have plenty of materials—flyers, booklets, membership forms, voter registration forms, etc.—and keep them organized.
- Bring a smart-phone so you can report any important information and be easily contacted.
THE TEN-MINUTE RAP: a give-and-take process
Enthusiasm is infectious: the more you convey it, the more likely you are to get it back. The power of suggestion is effective, as well. You want to move the conversation along and gain momentum. One way to do this is to ask questions and make statements that illicit positive responses. For instance, rather than ask if they have heard of the Libertarian Party, you can say, “You’ve probably seen on television or read in the paper about the work Libertarians are doing to promote freedom and save our civil rights.” Or you could say, “A lot of Americans have joined the organization to fight to get our government cleaned up.”
Your dialogue is meant to bring out issues that are important to them, explain what the Party can do to alleviate or fix those problems, and give them compelling reasons to get involved. As they respond, really listen to what they are saying and try and imagine how you would feel in their situation. The more agreement you create about which issues are important to the community, the more you’ll persuade others to assume responsibility, join in, and take action.
Also be aware if they appear to be coming from a Democratic or Republican background. However, you don’t have to put down their party in order to show how the Libertarian Party is different.
These elements will put the “co” in your communications!
- You hear: “My business went under because of city hall.”
- You respond: “Of course no one alone can fight city hall. But if we have a strong group…”
- You invite: “Will you join the Party?” “Will you come to the meeting?” “Who do you know who would be interested in joining too?”
- INTRODUCING YOURSELF: Speak with a smile.
Here’s how you might open the conversation:
“Hello. We’re with the Libertarian Party of Ventura County. We’d like to visit with you for a few minutes to find out some of your concerns about government and show you how we can help solve those problems.”
Once you engage them and get a welcome reception, ask if you can sit down with them where they’ll be more comfortable. Or simply ask, “May we come in?”
- ASK QUESTIONS, STATE PROBLEMS, POLARIZE: Direct their anger at a target.
As Saul Alinsky wrote, “It is every organizer’s duty to rub raw the sores of discontent.” Questions can include:
- Don’t you think you pay enough taxes?
- Do you expect city council members to comply with their own laws?
- Why do you think they don’t care about this problem?
- Would politicians put up with this in their own neighborhoods?
- What’s it going to take for the city to treat you with the respect you deserve?
- EXPLORE SOLUTIONS: Ask what they think should be done about the problem.
We don’t have to have all the answers to every problem. Ask what they think should be done about it. This is our opportunity to show them what they, their friends and their neighbors can do if they get involved and fight for the solution you just discussed. Steer them to adopt freedom-based solutions by incorporating their ideas. People should be nodding their heads in agreement. Stress that folks are concerned and are joining up. Tell them the Party is about action. Share one of the Party’s success stories, where we won on an issue. You can show an article about our success, but don’t hand out clippings or focus on them. Tell briefly about it but stick to the issue and the solution.
- GAIN MEMBERSHIP: Sign them up!
Ask three positive questions:
- Do you want to take care of the problem?
- Do you think if we were a large enough group we could handle the problem?
- Do you want to be part of the group that is resolving the problem?
If they answer yes, then explain that dues provide us with a steady income and allow us to keep up the fight for liberty. Tell them that dues are $25 per year and pay for flyers, staff, media, etc. Explain that many members pay their dues through a monthly pledge: some pay $25 a month, some more. Hand them the pledge card, look them in the eye, point to the spot they should fill out and then BE QUIET. If they balk at the pledge, offer to take cash or check for $25. If they hesitate, ask them if they want to see their issue addressed and remind them that it only works if everyone gets involved.
After they have joined, ask for names and contact information of friends and neighbors who might be interested in joining. If they give you a neighbor’s name, ask if they would be willing to go over and introduce you. Tell them about the website and social networks. Let them know that you will stay in contact. Get them to commit to volunteer tasks, such as calling, going door to door or handing out flyers.
Honing these skills will enable us to become skillful communicators and successful organizers.
- EYE CONTACT conveys trust, integrity and confidence. It holds the other person’s attention and allows you to watch his or her responses.
- COUCH: The only way people relax and talk is when they are seated with you in their homes. Unless you get their attention you won’t be able to sign them up.
- REFLECTIVE LISTENING: In order to get people talking about what their concerns are and what they are angry about, we have to ask. Most people are never asked. City officials talk at them! So when we ask people what they think, they will feel the Party is different. Ask questions that require people to talk and give more than one-word answers.
- I.S.S. (Keep it Short and Simple) We may be at their door at dinner time (unknowingly), or while they’re unwinding from work or have children to watch. People are busy, so keeping it short is a courtesy. The discussion of problems and solutions should be short and simple, so they can be easily understood. This will also help overcome the sense of alienation many people feel when they think only experts or people with fancy titles can solve society’s problems.
These secondary skills will help you become a successful outreach leader.
- Analyze each part of your rap and modify what is ineffective. A flexible organizer will modify the rap for different personality types. At the door you should feel natural and comfortable with what you are going to say.
- Look at the number of contacts you have per hour. If under six, move faster and shorten your rap. If over fifteen, analyze what you are leaving out (e.g., stating problems/polarizing, discussing solutions, soliciting membership.) Don’t spend an abundance of time with people who haven’t welcomed you into their homes. Once inside, keep it short. The LP is about action not words.
- PEN CONTROL. Do not let the person fill out the membership card until they understand we are a dues-paying organization. Make sure they also understand the pledge form.
Your personal success formula
- ATTENTION TO DETAILS: These are the mark of a well-prepared volunteer. Focus on good map skills, voter lists and records. Keep your clipboard well-stocked and in order. Bring water, snacks, a hat, etc. Be prepared for weather. Be on time. Cover the details and stay on schedule and you won’t be distracted when you are making contact with potential voters/members. Take care of the little things and the bigger things will fall into place.
- ATTITUDE: A positive attitude; self-respect, confidence and composure; and a sense of urgency are attitudes that project action!
- INTERPERSONAL SKILLS: Be sensitive to the needs of others. Facilitate the removal of barriers (TV, phone, etc.). Get in the door, listen and relate, zero in on the problem and solution they are interested in, and sign them up!
HANDLING CHALLENGES YOU MAY ENCOUNTER
Problem—TV is on. Solution—Ask them to please turn it down or off.
Problem—Person is silent. Solution—Ask open-ended questions, those that require more than yes or no answers.
Problem—Person feels uncomfortable or embarrassed. Solution—Remind them you really want to know his or her opinion.
Problem—He/she goes off on a personal concern. Solution—Acknowledge the concern and ask about political issues.
Problem—Now is not a good time for them. Solution—“I understand; may I leave you with some information?”
Problem—“I’m moving.” Solution—“If this area or state were more job- or business-friendly, would you stay?”
Problem—“I need to talk to my husband/wife first.” Solution—“I understand. May I speak with you first and then follow up another time with your husband/wife?” Well your husband/wife wouldn’t be against more freedom for Americans would they?
Problem—Can you come back later? Solution—“I’ll only be on your block today. May I spend just a few minutes with you?”
LEVELS OF AGREEMENT
One of the most important goals of outreach is to get the other person as involved as possible. The strategy we use to do this is called “developing levels of agreement.”
Speak with everyone you meet as if you already know they share your views and want to support liberty in their communities. ASSUMING SUPPORT IS CRITICAL. Remember, people often have issues with the government but feel they can’t do anything about it. Their level of support depends on you being able to build a vision for them of how liberty will improve their lives.
The first level of agreement is when the person lets you inside his or her home. Ask to come in as if it’s the next natural thing to do in the conversation. When a person lets you in, it lets you know he is interested in sharing his issues with you and hearing what you have to say.
After speaking about problems and solutions, you’ll gain another level of agreement to confirm their support. Pause and ask a rhetorical question such as, “So you are saying that if we got together and grew as a group we could make some changes?”or “That make sense, right?” Avoid asking questions for which you may not know the answers, as this will undermine your self-confidence as well as the other person’s confidence in the information you’re sharing.
At the end of your rap, when you ask them to join, be sure to get their email address and billing information. Ask them to fill out the membership card as if you expect them to do it without hesitation.
The ask-three-times strategy should be a staple. This helps to get people off the fence. Many people will say no at least twice before they agree to get involved. Each time you hear “no,” rephrase the question and ask again, assuming support more strongly. In your response, be sure to
- let them know you are listening,
- give them a reason why they need to get involved and,
- consider asking for a smaller commitment or offering a more flexible way to get involved.
If you are getting less than 25% of your contacts to commit, ask yourself:
- Are you keeping it short and simple?
- Did you follow the steps of the rap?
- Are you maintaining eye contact?
- Are you listening to problems rather than bulldozing with solutions?
- Are you listening for excuses and turning them into solutions?
- Are you directly asking them to join?
- Are you asking them to join three times?
- Are you giving strong, short reasons why they should join.
MAKING IT A BETTER DAY
Everyone has bad days. Your rap isn’t working and people aren’t joining. As a result, you feel frustrated and less excited. In turn, you aren’t being let in as many doors. At this point you can a) quit or b) take a break, review and practice your rap with a friend or co-worker and get back out there to save freedom!
Going door-to-door is one of the important ways you can help the Party and promote liberty. So go out there, use these tools and be prepared for the changes we will make together!