Glossary of canvassing terms:
Rap: The conversation you have at a door.
Contact: The person you speak to at a door.
Turf: The neighborhood or area in which you work.
Burb: The van or suburban vehicle that delivers you to turf.
Last night I did sides with Rob, a clean-cut tall and handsome guy in his middle twenties. His twin brother, Eric, also works for Clean Water Action. Eric is like seventeen minutes older and it fascinates me how Eric projects the classic personality traits of an oldest child and Rob projects the personality traits of a youngest child. He's fun. He's easy going. He's nice to everybody. And on top of that, he's cute. Who wouldn't want him at the door?
When we "do sides" we share a street. One of us takes the houses on one side, the other takes houses on the other side. We repeat this pattern until we finish the turf and then work on callbacks. A nice thing about doing sides is that you work as a team, giving each other high fives as appropriate and encouraging words as needed to keep each other's energy focused and positive.
I thought we were going to make a great team -- two youngest children (actually Eric and Rob have a much-younger half sister, but as I said, he projects that enthusiastic and warm youngest-child energy) canvassing in a nice neighborhood in Chelsea. Chelsea has become something of a miniture Ann Arbor (without the University and the residual culture from events such as Hash Bash and the Naked Mile). Chelsea's a cool town -- with Jeff Daniel's Purple Rose Theater, lots of kayaks, canoes and small sailboats in people's driveways, tons of original artwork apparent from the doorstep, gardens. This is turf where you would expect to find tons of supporters. And we did find quite a few supporters. We did OK. We made our basic financial goals for the night. But we ran into a problem.
The problem we encountered last night in Chelsea is a common problem: People who don't give money at the door to anybody -- no matter how much they believe in and support the cause.
There were tons of those people in this neighborhood. Rob and I kept encountering them and it's so frustrating. They say, "can you leave me something I can mail in" or "isn't there somewhere I can donate on the internet" or "can't you mail me something" or "won't you send me something by e-mail?"
Clean Water Action has a long tradition of door-to-door education and fundraising. We go to neighborhoods annually (no sooner than every eight months and usually twelve months between visits) We are affiliated with a national Clean Water Action network and within the past few years our national campaign has begun contacting supporters by phone to do fundraising. That may turn some people off. Others seem to be relying on the phone calls from the national campaign now. Just about every organization operates this way these days. People get calls from all sorts of charities and organizations. And most of those organizations send information in the mail, too.
If you give to Clean Water Action over the phone, it helps the national campaign and someone in another state benefits from collecting your donation. If you give to Clean Water Action, or any other organization that canvasses door-to-door, you are supporting the local economy -- in fact, you are directly supporting the person who is standing on your door.
When we come around to the door, It's democracy in action. I am going to try to develop an effective rap for these people who prefer giving money over the phone or internet. Some people are, unfortunately, a bit insulting at the door -- as if they think we are going to run off with their donation or something. We always write reciepts, work with picture identification cards and have local permits to canvas in every community we visit. I dress pretty well. In fact, I've decided to try out French manicures. I had a couple done at salons in the past and I always enjoyed that. Now that I am on a shoe-string budget, I had a friend explain to me how to do them my self. I find I am more successful at fundraising when my nails look nice.
I just wanted to say something about these people who "don't give to ANYBODY at the door" because it is a "personal policy."
If you are one of these people, rethink this policy. It's a really BAD policy. It's bad for democracy in general. It's bad for the local economy -- and it's absolutely the inverse of a "random act of kindness."
Frankly, I find it to be a bit insulting. I'm an educated woman. I worked for more than a decade as a journalist and can give people the inside scoop on lots of local and state issues. I know many lawmakers personally. I completed a fellowship in Great Lakes Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University. I was born in Michigan. I love our state. I am a sailor. What else do these people want to know before they will feel comfortable parting with $20 for a cause they proclaim they support absolutely?
Seriously, don't be one of those people who looks a canvasser in the eye and tells them you support the cause but you have a pesonal policy not to give anything at the door.
It's a bad policy. Rethink it.