Phone Banking: First Impressions

Election 2004 | Fundraising
If you get a recorded message from John Kerry calling your home, and you enter the keys on the touchtone pad in order to donate money, you might just reach somebody like me. I spent an hour doing this tonight, and thought I’d record some initial observations.

1. An auto-dialer goes through a huge list– is it the DataMart? I didn’t ask. Off in the ether somewhere, it reaches people who indicate that want to give, and then it rings any of the 20 phones in the office. If you’re volunteering, you pick up the phone and introduce yourself as if you had just called the person on the other end. I think I broke through this fiction with each person called… and I’ll just refer to them as “callers” below.

2. Calls are assigned by line order, and not randomly. So if you’re at the end of the line– you have a little more time to be social, and pose for pictures, like the one taken my campaign buddy Jeff Driscoll above. But you don’t get as many calls. I got give in the hour– counting the one where the man at the other end of the line presumed that I had his number in front of me and I call him back. (Wherever did he get such an idea?) It would be really nice if we had a little information at hand, so we didn’t have to waste time having it repeated. Perhaps this could eventually be done over the Internet, but it’s not like people brought in laptops, or the campaign staff’s computers were accessible to use (a good number of them were still working there– entering in the poor information we had transcribed onto pen and paper over the phone).

3. I ended up speaking for some of the time with Rick Hessett of Dorchester, who was kibitzing around our end of the table. Rick, a Vietnam veteran, had told me that in Iowa they had been able to set up a special phone bank for veterans which had really scored. Many of them hadn’t bothered to register since they returned thirty-odd years ago. I wonder how much that is anecdotal, but I’ll take his word. Rick perhaps gave the most glowing testament of the energy of the Kerry campaign, though he was also talking about the MoveOn efforts. I mentioned to him my theory of campaign motivations: that a number of people from the Dean camp were a bit underwhelmed by the Kerry campaign.

4. Abby, one of the staff coordinators, told me that the calls were mostly connecting with East Coast states tonight. All my calls went to Florida. I wondered, if twenty people in Boston could do this, who were our counterparts in the Miami office calling? How do individual campaign efforts track who’s been called? And what on Earth is the role of the KerryCalls Database Yahoo group in relation to this?

5. We didn’t have computers, but it would have been nice to have cheat-sheets in front of us. If we were calling Florida, why not have a special sheet bring us up to date on the Sunshine State? I was aware that Bob Graham was retiring, and that former Republican New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith, who had retired to Tampa, would be running for his seat. But I forgot the Democratic challenger. Not that anyone asked. As it happens, Florida geography is not totally alien to Northeasterners. I told a ninety-year caller from Port St. Lucie that I had been there not too long ago, golfing at the PGA Village. She was worried about the fevered developed in Florida, which now stretched up the treasure coast. (I in fact had turned the wrong way while looking for the PGA Village, finding new developments advancing like Brazillian pepper plants throgh the everglades).

6. We did have one cheat-sheet: the list of the seven official campaign offices. One of those was in Florida– in Miami, 5 hours away from many of the people I reached around Orlando. So, given the pronouncement from Nita Chaudhary, DNC Online Organizer (“Additionally, we will be looking to you our Meetup hosts to serve as representatives of the DNC in your state.”), I had figured it would be handy to have a list of local Meetup operations and leaders. One woman I reached in Orlando had already given, and couldn’t give more as she was unemployed. She had already given, and as best as I could understand through her Columbian accent, she did know someone locally who she could turn to for more campaign information.

7. In total, I got $100 from one caller and $200.40 from another, as Kerry’s recorded message had asked for. The other callers appeared to have picked up the phone perhaps just to try and reach out and touch someone in the campaign. The nonagenerian from Port St. Lucie had some checks ready to mail out. She asked whether I could ask that her deceased husband could be taken off the list. I kept her on the lime, and told her I’d do my best. (I made a note on the sheet).

I’ve felt I’ve had a pretty active run for the last two months of campaigning. So before I took biked the three miles down Beacon St. to vote in a local Brookline election, I thought I’d write on the wall who number 2 (of the March Madness campaign) really works for:

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    Random Comments: Aldon Hynes May 05 ’04 12:58PM
    . Florida field organizing Jon Garfunkel May 06 ’04 7:35AM