*Below is a guest blog from Peter Wrinch, the co-chair of David Eby’s Election Preparedness Committee. For readers outside Canada, the BC NDP are the leading progressive party and the BC Liberals are the leading conservative party in the province.*
Like many other progressives in British Columbia, I woke up on May 15 stunned. The night before the ruling BC Liberals had pulled off an unexpected come-from-behind victory defeating the BC NDP in British Columbia’s 40th General Election. In the months leading up to election day, polls had predicted the BC NDP would coast to an easy election win after 12 years in opposition.
Despite my despondence there was one silver lining: the campaign I worked on – that of prominent civil rights lawyer, David Eby – had been successful. Although it was close, on election night we won by just shy of 800 votes. David Eby did something that had only been done three times in the history of Canada – he denied a successful premier a personal victory in an election her party won. David Eby beat Liberal Premier Christy Clark in Vancouver Point Grey.
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David Eby won Vancouver Point Grey for the NDP because he was a great candidate. He is full of integrity, smart, hard working, social, and authentic. He also had an amazing campaign manager, hard working staff, and hundreds of committed volunteers. His campaign office buzzed throughout the election and his people powered effort focused on a direct connection with voters in his riding – on the door, on the phone, and on the street.
Over four hundred volunteers gave their time and energy to winning Vancouver Point Grey for the BC NDP. In order to keep this incredible machine running the campaign staff needed a strong platform for keeping people connected, motivated, and working hard for the victory. The BC NDP has some tried and true methods for executing a campaign and we added to that by using the community organizing system NationBuilder.
Taking our volunteer ‘black book’ online
In mid-February I was sitting in an election organizing class and the instructor was talking about the importance of a master contact log. The master contact log is basically the “black book” of any campaign – it contains the contact information of all the volunteers working on the campaign. Every night during an election, the volunteer coordinator calls through the book confirming and filing the canvass shifts for the following day/week.
We took the Master Contact Log online and used NationBuilder’s robust contact log to keep track of our connection with volunteers. This created two key innovations on the campaign. First, we could have multiple people (volunteers, volunteer coordinator, candidate) calling through the Master Contact Log easily. This meant more people being contacted and more shifts being filled. Second, we could record the interactions we were having with people and filter the list accordingly. For example if we were calling a volunteer who was consistently not answering the phone, we could prioritize calling other volunteers. In that way our most consistent volunteers rose to the top and our canvassing shifts filled up faster.
Change for the better, one canvass shift at a time
Connecting with people in Vancouver Point Grey was at the centre of David’s campaign. In order to cover the riding and reach as many supporters (and potential supporters) as possible we needed people on the doors every night and a full phone room. In order to fill these canvass shifts with committed volunteers we customized NationBuilder’s calendar template turning it into a volunteer calendar. Potential volunteers could sign up for canvass shifts (created as events) online, self-selecting the hours they wanted to volunteer. Once they did so they received a confirmation email from our volunteer coordinator and a warm welcome when they arrived for their shift.
With hundreds of volunteers working on the campaign, people who regularly showed up for canvass shifts rose to the top of the list. Our volunteer coordinator used NationBuilder’s event features to highlight volunteers who both RSVP’d for shifts and attended them. As the campaign ramped up and we needed more and more canvassers we were able to use NationBuilder to identify a core group of volunteers who could hit the street at a moment’s notice. On E-day our amazing coordinator was able to organize over 300 volunteers for the big final big push.
The silver lining
On a night when the BC NDP suffered a terrible loss and a great set-back, people won the election for David Eby and helped make history in Vancouver Point Grey. People who saw a candidate they could believe in. People who got involved in an election campaign for the first time and for the thirtieth time. People who got over the fear of calling voters, people who knocked on doors, people who stood on street corners, people who entered data, people who made E-day sandwiches, and people who voted. At its best NationBuilder is a tool for moving people towards something together. That is what happened in Vancouver Point Grey on May 14, 2013. That is the silver lining.
Peter Wrinch was the co-chair of David Eby’s Election Preparedness Committee. He is also a NationBuilder enthusiast.