Project Wonderful

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Voter Contact Formulas

Putting together a GOTV plan the other day, it occurred to me that there should really be a one sheet with all the formulas to figure out how many resources you need to execute a field plan. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I googled and found the following from Wellstone Action and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. Unfortunately I can't find the link to the original document. You can feel free to disagree with the math a little, but I think most of these are pretty spot on.

Volunteer Voter Contact Formulas

The following formulas for voter contact are averages and assume all volunteer labor. The numbers in bold are for budgeting purposes; the actual number may vary depending on a number of factors – you should adjust your own budgeting accordingly.

Door to Door Canvassing
• Door-to-door canvassing — assuming every door is knocked – or a very dense walk list: average 25 doors per hour; 6 contacts (5-8 contacts) per hour
• Door-to-door canvassing – assuming a walk list or more suburban district with less density: average 15 doors per hour; 4 contacts (3-6 contacts) per hour

Phone canvassing – Non Predictive Dialing

• Phone IDs — straight ID, no persuasion: average 35 dials per hour; 10 contacts (7-14 contacts) per hour depending on length of script (assuming non-predictive dialing)
o Normal 3 hour calling shift to calculate number of lines needed
o Normal 5 days per week (unless other reasons)
o Calling through the list 4x you can expect on average to reach about 45-50% of the people. One call through you can expect about 25-30%.
o To calculate number of dials for repeated calls through the list multiply the original list number by the following factors: 3x call though = 2.25 – 4x call through = 2.5
• Phone Persuasion — average 25 dials per hour; 7 contacts (5-11 contacts) per hour depending on length of script (assuming non-predictive dialing)
• GOTV calling — average 30 dials per hour; 10 contacts per hour, assuming no message.

Phone canvassing – Predictive Dialing

• Phone IDs —average 110 dials per hour; 45 contacts (assuming less than one minute script) per hour
o To calculate number of dials for repeated calls through the list multiply the original list number by the following factors: 3x call though = 2.25 – 4x call through = 2.5 (e.g. to call through a 1,000 name list 3x = 2,250 dials, assuming bad numbers and contacts are removed after each dial through.)
• Phone Persuasion — average 90 dials per hour; 20 contacts (assuming an average 2.5 minute conversation) per hour
• GOTV calling — average 100 dials per hour; 25 contacts per hour (assuming a 2 minute interactive conversation), assuming no message.

Dropping Literature
• Dropping literature — average 50 houses (30 – 70 houses) per person/per hour shift, depending on turf

Volunteer Recruitment

• Volunteer Recruitment calling — average 30 dials per hour; 10 contacts and 3-5 volunteers per hour depending on list and task (e.g. canvassing fewer, Persuasion calling fewer, ID calling more, GOTV calling more, dropping literature still more.

Voter Contact Formulas — Doing the Math

Persuasion Phone Calls: Assume that you are asked to make 5000 persuasion calls in 5 days. You will need 14 volunteers, each working a 3-hour shift and 14 phone lines to call the list one time.
o Assume you do not have a predictive dialer. For volunteer persuasion calls, assume you can make 25 dials per hour/per phone line. Divide to figure out how many hours it will take to make the calls.
5000 attempted contacts ÷ 25 dials per hour = 200 hours
Divide by 5 days (the number of days you have to call)
= 40 calling hours per day

o To figure out how many phone lines, determine how many hours per line you will be calling. If you assume you will have 3 hour shifts, then divide to determine how many lines per day you will need (and how many volunteers per day you will need).
40 calling hours per day ÷ 3 hours per shift = 13.3 shifts (14) per day. You will therefore need 14 phone lines and 14 volunteers per day to make 5000 persuasion calls in 5 days.

o To figure out how many actual contacts you will make, assume a 25% contact rate (based on calling through the list one time). You can expect at the end of five days to have made 1,250 actual contacts.

o To figure out how many names and volunteers you would need to make 5000 contacts do the reverse.
5000 contacts ÷ 50% contact rate (based on calling the list through 4 times) = 10,000 names/numbers to start with

10,000 x 2.5 (the factor for the number of dials to call though 4x) = 25,000 dials.
25,000 ÷ 25 = 1000 hours
= 200 calling hours per day
= 67 shifts and volunteers

o To figure out how long it would take to call one time through the list of 5,000 names using a predictive dialer.
5000 attempted contacts ÷ 90 dials per hour = 56 hours
= 11 calling hours per day
= 4 stations and volunteer shifts

To figure out how to make 5,000 contacts using a predictive dialer.
5000 contacts ÷ 20 contacts per hour = 250 calling hours
= 50 hours per day
= 14 shifts per day

Door-to-Door Canvassing. Assume that you are asked to knock 3600 households of targeted voters in a dense urban district (although not every house will be knocked). You want to know how many volunteers you will need to knock it in ten days. To knock this number of houses in 10 days you will need 5 volunteers per day for 10 days, each person working a 3 hour shift. You will make approximately 864 contacts.

Start with 3600 households. To calculate how many hours it will take:
3600 HH ÷ 25 doors knocked per hour = 144 hours

To calculate number of volunteers you need to determine how long a shift will be:
144 hours ÷ 3 hour shifts = 48 shifts (or volunteers)
48 shifts (volunteers) ÷ 10 days = 4.8 (5) shifts (volunteers) per day

To calculate the number of contacts:
144 hours x 6 contacts per hour = 864 contacts

GOTV Calling. Assume that you are asked to make 3000 GOTV calls on Monday as part of a GOTV effort. You will need 9 lines and 34 volunteers calling in 3 hour shifts over 12 hours.

For calculation purposes, assume that you will contact all 3000 with a message or direct contact (since they have already been contacted in some way).
3000 GOTV calls ÷ 30 calls per hour = 100 hours calling hours

Assume that you will be calling Monday 9 am - 9pm = 12 hours. To determine how many phone lines are needed, divide the total number of calling hours needed to complete the calls by the total number of hours available to make the calls.
100 hours calling hours needed ÷ 12 hours total to call = 8.5 (9) lines

To determine the number of volunteers needed:
100 calling hours ÷ 3 hours shifts = 33.3 (34) volunteer shifts

This means that not every phone line has to be filled at every moment, but that a full 33 shifts need to be filled over the 12 hour day.

What other formulas should we share? What do you think of these?



  1. Hi Nancy,

    I love this volunteer formula thing you assembled. It's a good idea to have for all campaigns, so the volunteer or field coordinator can plan the number of volunteers needed, and what they can realistically do.

    of course you need good lists, frequent voters, absentee voters, so you can carefully target walking and phoning. Not jut for GOTV, but as you start your field operation that will help you ID the voters for GOTV.

  2. Thanks Dotty! As I said, credit belongs to Wellstone action because I just copy and pasted. I agree though you can make all the calls you want and it doesn't mean anything without a good data system, targeting and an understanding of the district. Thanks for reading!