2022 Organizing Guide

Table of Contents

4. Canvassing:
A Foundational Political Skill

Canvassing builds needed relationships with neighbors as well as the capacity of the organizers in our chapters. Our canvassing goal should be to have high-value conversations. In other words, we don’t just want people’s signatures in support of universal healthcare — we want them to think hard about the inadequacies of our current healthcare system, how it personally affects them, and how they might join in the fight for Medicare for All and socialism.

You can tailor your canvass to suit your local organizing needs, your strategy, and tactics. For example, you might canvass to let people know about an upcoming Chapter event, or you might collect signatures to demonstrate community support for a City Council resolution supporting Medicare for All. Remember, your ultimate goal is to connect with those you canvass and bring them into the campaign! They should not just be signatures on a page, but active members of a mass movement.

Step 1: Sign Up for the 2022 DSA M4A Campaign!

  • All chapters that sign up will receive a canvass kit including 30 DSA M4A buttons and 200 DSA M4A doorhangers. You can also buy DSA M4A t-shirts on the DSA website!

Step 2: Review this guide on “How to Organize a Canvass”

  • All you really need is a script and a pledge sheet to keep track of contact info after your conversations!
  • You can find English and Spanish language versions of these resources here
  • Update the script and materials accordingly to the tactic you are pursuing!
  • If you need guidance on how to do this, email [email protected]

Step 3: Pick a date and a neighborhood.

  • Try to cut turf - that is, make your walking map - in a strategic area within your target’s constituency where many people live.
  • To escalate your tactic, do research on your targets and opponents - you could organize their own neighbors against them. Messages from people they know will be extremely impactful.
    • Look up the voter registration and property information of political targets or opponents like health insurance or administration CEOs and cut turf for your canvass around their home address.
  • Choose a weekend afternoon when the weather is supposed to be nice.
  • Find a park or parking lot that is easy to meet up in.
  • Bring water, snacks, clipboards, pens, masks, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen for your canvassers!

Step 4: Listen & Learn!

  • Remember the structure of your rap - you should often listen more than you talk.
  • Ask open-ended questions to get the conversation moving
    • What’s your experience with our healthcare system been like? Have you ever had a negative experience with an insurance company? What was that like?
    • Have you ever had to go without healthcare for financial reasons?
    • What would a better healthcare system look like to you? What would you like to see changed?
    • How has the COVID-19 pandemic shaped your view of the American healthcare system?
    • What do you wish the government had done differently to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Make the ask that’s appropriate for your campaign
    • Would you be willing to call your elected official’s office, tell your healthcare story, and state that you urge them to cosponsor Medicare for All/reject corporate healthcare industry campaign contributions/cosponsor the single payer resolution?
    • Would you be willing to join our pledge & leave a comment to your elected official’s office that you will withhold donations and your vote from them unless they caucus to bring single payer healthcare to a vote?
    • Would you be willing to talk to your friends and family about single payer healthcare, and why this is important?
  • Collect other information
    • Are you a union member? Which local?
    • Have you heard of DSA? Are you interested in it?

Step 5: Build Your List

  • Keep track of any new contacts you make from each canvass
  • Follow up is key: every new canvass contact should get a follow-up call within one week
  • Don’t underestimate it; this is a LOT of labor intensive work. But it’s absolutely worth it.
  • Stay in touch with your contacts and keep your list active. Invite new folks to the next canvass, the next phonebank, the next social, the next working group meeting.
  • Use an online petition to gather new contacts, input signatures and comments, and directly contact legislators about your ask. You can adapt this petition to your local needs. For assistance using Action Network to do so, email [email protected]