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5 Steps to a Successful Get Out the Vote Campaign

by Veronica Magan, FiscalNote

Time is ticking for your organization’s GOTV campaign. These tips let you leverage a powerful tool to drive member retention, donations, and build community with your supporters — quickly.

Get out the vote

This year may be unique in American history, but the same principles around elections and pushing voter turnout are the same. You want your organization’s mission to be represented by the elected officials who win, and that means getting the folks who support them to the polls for federal, state, and even local elections, where voter turnout is often pitifully low and seats can be determined by just a few hundred votes. 

And while it may seem that get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns are solely an election-day activity, the positives reverberate far beyond engaging advocates and encouraging good citizenry. Here at FiscalNote, we’ve found GOTV advocacy campaigns can help with member retention and donations, as well as creating a community. 

Even if it’s simply communicating how the results impact your supporters, GOTV connects your advocates to your organization in a way that is challenging to do in non-election years. 

So, what does a successful GOTV campaign look like? Read on for five distinct steps you can take now to get started before it’s too late. And when you’ve finished reading these tips, download our GOTV checklist to make sure you tick all the boxes. 

1. Get People Registered to Vote

First, you need to make sure your advocates, be it supporters, members or employees, are registered to vote. Typically, voter registration ends 20-30 days before Election Day, depending on the jurisdiction, so you want to make sure to start your campaign before then and maybe even segment your efforts depending on location to provide the most up to date information to your advocates.

FiscalNote VoterVoice GOTV get out the vote voter registration.

FiscalNote's VoterVoice makes it easy for your advocates to register to vote.

You can ease that process for advocates by allowing them to register directly through you. FiscalNote’s VoterVoice automatically provides the users simple steps to register to vote, including relevant information on where and when to vote, and what the requirements are depending on their location. This also allows you to grow your advocate base with possible new members who register to vote through your campaign.

Beyond giving them the option to directly register to vote, you can educate your supporters with additional resources. For example, a Q&A on how to register through your site, or even linking out to supplemental nonpartisan resources, such as VoteSmart to learn about the specific deadlines for registering, absentee or early voting, qualifications, and other useful information by state.

2. Educate Supporters on Candidates

Unless you are directly and openly supporting a specific candidate, most get out the vote campaigns try to be non partisan. Educating your supporters on the candidates running in their localities, doesn’t mean you are endorsing them, but rather you are looking to give your advocates all the resources they need to make an educated decision on Election Day.

FiscalNote VoterVoice legislator scorecard and congressional scorecard GOTV get out the vote

FiscalNote's VoterVoice allows you to create a scorecard for legislators based on the issues you and your advocates care most about.

You can allow your advocates to specifically search using their zip code and find their candidates with the most up to date information on how to contact them or learn more, all in one place: your FiscalNote’s VoterVoice action center.

VoterVoice also allows you to easily create a vote scorecard for legislators to rate how each lawmaker has voted on your key issues. These scorecards are a powerful tool you can distribute to help educate your supporters before Election Day. Again, this doesn’t mean you are endorsing specific candidates, but when it comes to your issues, you want to make sure your advocates are well informed.

Give Tools to Vote Absentee or Early

There is a lot of misinformation and questions around absentee ballots and early voting since the majority of the electorate traditionally have gone to the polls in person. 

Though every state supports absentee voting, rules on who can take part vary. Some states require an excuse for voting absentee. Due to the coronavirus, some states are giving all voters an excuse to vote by mail for certain elections, while other states may automatically send voters an absentee ballot or a form to fill out to request one. The situation changes daily and it's important for you to keep your supporters up to date with what's going on. As mentioned before, this is a unique opportunity for you to be that main source of information your supporters can trust and come to for answers.

You can automatically display the correct resources depending on each person’s location on how to file an absentee ballot or vote early using FiscalNote’s VoterVoice. The best part is, you don’t have to do any of the work. It is all integrated into your action center and your users only need to provide their zip code and street address to get all the relevant information.

Election-Day Communication

Of course, a GOTV campaign is not complete without day-of communication. You can go with a broad message or use different messages for specific jurisdictions or states, but the main goal is to express the importance of voting and motivate people to get out the vote.

FiscalNote VoterVoice voter resources get out the vote GOTV

FiscalNote's VoterVoice provides all the important information for your advocates to know where and how to vote.

You can contact your advocates via email, text, push notification, even fax all through FiscalNote's VoterVoice tool. Whether you want to contact everyone at once, or segment your list, we make it easy to activate your base. VoterVoice features a very powerful search filter where you can look up by district or state and build a list of your supporters in those areas and quickly message them through any of the aforementioned tactics.

Post-Election Follow Up

After the election it is time to reap all the benefits from the hard work you put into your GOTV campaign. Using the momentum and the sense of community you built, it is now time to reach out to your base with a communication or series of communications that seek to inform supporters about the results from the election and to provide additional context of how that impacts them directly, as well as the work your organization is doing.

The idea here is that you're sending emails or text messages, or even creating visual materials to help answer questions such as how newly elected officials align with your organization. You can also poll your advocates to see how they feel about the results. You can make all these resources available on your VoterVoice action center to have one central source of truth, and even start getting users engaged on the next advocacy campaign you are preparing.

Now that you’ve learned about the steps for a successful get out the vote campaign, download the checklist you can print or share with your organization to make sure you don’t miss any step!