Relational Best Practices

  • Updated

In this article, we will walk you through how to frame relational outreach to gain buy-in from your team, and will share some recommendations and best practices when running a relational program of your own. 


This article will review:


Overall Relational Framing:

Running field at its core is simple: it’s reaching out to people we know and people we don’t know, and asking them to get involved in some way - whether that be turning out to vote, placing a donation, joining a union, or something else. Relational organizing, otherwise known as Friend to Friend (F2F), is reaching out to people we know. 


Studies show that reaching out to people we have a personal connection with is much more effective and persuasive than reaching out to cold contacts - whether that’s a volunteer ask or a vote pledge ask. Particularly in a noisy media landscape  with a lot of activity, relational outreach is one of the best ways to break through the noise and make connections with our personal networks.


Recommendations and Best Practices:


Put in the training time

Training staff and volunteers in the importance of using relational organizing on the front end of your program will yield greater results down the road. Relational is still a relatively new organizing strategy for many people, even those who have been involved in multiple campaigns. Train your staff and volunteers early in the “why” behind relational and the “how” to implement it concretely. 


Can it scale? Yes it can. 

One of the most commonly heard phrases in opposition to relational is: “Yes it’s effective, but can it scale?” The answer is yes. It’s all about making an investment in your field program early, developing staff and volunteers who are invested, and doing quality, ongoing training. 


Scaling volunteer outreach:

Using relational organizing to scale volunteer involvement is one of the easiest ways to build up quickly, and it should be one of the first things you focus on at the beginning of your campaign or initiative launch. Tapping into your staff and volunteers’ personal networks can yield much greater volunteer recruitment results than cold-calls.


Scaling voter outreach:

Doing Voter ID and Persuasion is much more time efficient using relational outreach than with traditional cold contact outreach. One person can make many voter ID’s from their own personal contacts in 15 minutes or less. Compare that to dialing or door knocking, when you might get 1 ID in 15 minutes. On the flip side, once a volunteer has done relational Voter ID outreach to their own personal contact list, they can’t exactly keep going back - except to a few people who may be persuadable.


This is why continually onboarding new volunteers to relational organizing is so important. Every volunteer on your campaign that knocks a door or makes a phone call to voters should also take 15 minutes to do relational outreach to their own personal contacts. Think about how you can incorporate a relational outreach session alongside already occurring events:

  • At the end of a fundraiser
  • At the beginning of a canvass
  • During a 15 minute break in the middle of a phonebank
  • At the end of a 1:1


Tack on a 15 minute relational session whenever possible, and make sure each volunteer on your campaign has taken the time to download the Impactive App and synced their contact list with the voter file.


Find the people that know everyone

Every community, every precinct, and every campaign has a few people that are *connectors*. These rockstar volunteers and community leaders seem to know everyone, and have tons of connections. Make sure to take extra time with these volunteers. Sit them down for an extended relational session. Help them write a compelling outreach script and make sure they send a message to each person in their phone. It will pay dividends for your campaign or organization.


Use it for constituency organizing

It’s hard to find a more effective use of relational outreach than constituency organizing. So many communities are unresponsive to traditional voter outreach methods, but will respond to members of their own community reaching out to them. Take the time to plan relational events focused on a particular community. Support your volunteers from a specific community to hold a potluck or house party, and have them reach out to their own personal networks. Make sure that you’ve supported them to craft an outreach script that will be well received in their community. 


Do contact matching in the App

This is a quick and easy activity you can do with your volunteers when you’ve got time - like when you’re waiting for everyone to show up at a canvass or to a Zoom meeting. Have folks take the time to go through their contacts in the Impactive app and manually match them with the voter file. Doing this frequently will yield you greater results when they do relational outreach later. Check out our Help Center article, Syncing Personal Contacts to learn more about syncing contacts and matching contacts to the National Voter File. 


Track success and create goals

Like any other form of direct voter contact, it’s important to set goals and track the progress of your staff and volunteers as they are conducting relational outreach. Choose the goals that make the most sense for your program. You could create goals around: number of messages sent, number of 1:1’s conducted, number of ID’s collected, number of reports filled, or number of shifts recruited. Whatever you choose - make sure you’re picking something that is achievable and trackable. 

Some talking points for your staff and volunteers:

  • Talk about why it’s effective: relational is *more* persuasive in convincing your friends to volunteer and *better* at moving people to  take action than cold contact efforts.
  • Talk about how it scales: With the proper investment in training and infrastructure, relational can yield just as many ID’s as other forms as contact - especially considering declining phone contact rates. And those ID’s will be higher quality. It’s all about training your staff and super volunteers early on your program.
  • Try different tactics: Relational outreach is just a way of doing outreach. You can be creative and use it in ways that will fit your program best. Maybe that means sitting a volunteer down for 15 minutes after a canvass shift, hosting a relational house party, or doing a 1:1 with a supervol who is well connected in their community. 
  • It works for voters and volunteers: Use it early on in your program to bring in vols to your organizing program that aren’t on your donor or party lists. Use it during your persuasion period to have personal, persuasive conversations with undecided voters. Use it during GOTV to turn out low propensity voters. Use it consistently  to meet the unique goals of your team. 

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