Today’s post comes from Vance Aloupis, executive director of the Children’s Movement of Florida one of TurboVote’s most successful non-profit partners.  Welcome Vance! 

One non-profit’s story…

The objective of The Children’s Movement is simple: Make children a real priority in Florida. Higher than roads. Higher than prisons. Higher than anything. The question is: How do you do that? The answer: Educate and engage hundreds of thousands of Floridians to insist that more be done for our youngest citizens.

As a statewide advocacy organization, voter registration was a no-brainer. And once the decision was made to begin registering voters, there was no better platform from which we could jump than TurboVote. Like many good non-profits, our resources are limited and our team is never as large as it needs to be. While we have organized representation and leadership in 17 regions that cover almost all of Florida, virtually all of our “on-the-ground” leadership is volunteer. So, our question was: How do we deliver this message to as many people as possible  — in as effective a manner as possible – without having an army of people, computers and locations to physically sign folks up? And here’s what we learned. The three steps to non-profit success with TurboVote:

  1. Partner up: Our first step in building a strategy for our voter registration model was to identify all of the organizations (with large databases) that would have real interest in providing this resource to their members. We then began to contact them individually. (We often find that mass emails – even to 10 or 15 people – can be detrimental to success.) We explained TurboVote, why The Movement was doing it, that we were “paying for it,” and that we needed their help to spread the message. We afforded enough time to walk everyone through their questions and concerns – and built ownership one organization at a time. After identifying all 35 of our partner organizations, we sent each of them a toolkit to use over the next three weeks. This included links, logos, steps to success and a draft text that they could cut and paste to supporters. Most of the organizations simply cut and pasted the text we sent, while others drafted their own text and developed beautiful banners and images that further enhanced the message.
  2. Write. Send. Edit. Follow up: No one message will work for voter registration. First of all, many folks will already be registered to vote. Some won’t see the point in voting. Others just won’t read your email. We tried to develop messages that spoke to each of these populations – talking about all of the aspects of TurboVote (especially the absentee ballots and reminders), offering important statistics about child welfare in Florida and trying to engage folks through catchy subject lines (especially ones that referenced the few remaining days or hours to register). We drafted multiple texts for our TurboVote message and did our best to deliver them to the constituencies we felt needed to hear it. If one message wasn’t working well (or one tweet or Facebook post), we’d tweak it and re-send. Once we were able to convince someone to sign up, we would then send them an email (usually within 24 hours) thanking them for their registration and asking them to then share TurboVote with five friends – again including links and draft texts that made the process as simple as possible.
  3. Harass: If your campaign is primarily online (and almost entirely email-based), the odds are against you. So, repetition is key. Over the course of three weeks, our supporters received at least five emails from The Movement that mentioned TurboVote. Some were sent in our weekly message, others were sent in region-specific emails, but everyone in our database should’ve received our TurboVote link at least five times. Beyond that, tweets were posted every two hours and Facebook posts were made four times each day. And this does not include the possibility that many of our supporters received the same message from one or more of the 35+ partner organizations. For every one person that we were able to register to vote on TurboVote, more than 300 people received the email. It’s just very hard to convert folks online. So, you increase your chances for success if you ensure that someone has more than one opportunity to read and act on your message.

Voter engagement – and, therefore, voter registration – is fundamental to the work of The Children’s Movement. In our brief three-week TurboVote campaign, we not only had fun and signed up a heckuva lot of people, but we learned a lot, too. The ability to have real people at strategic access points can be very effective. (In two mornings at a local early education center, we were able to register 44 parents in four hours.) But this requires volunteers and staff and computers – something we were unable to coordinate with such short notice. In Year Two, you better believe we’ll have an on-the-ground outreach plan…to complement all that we do online.