Top 5 Tips for Phone Banking

Created by VSA Community Moderators.

Phone banking is a critical tool in our toolbox for getting voters to the polls! Check out this compilation of high-quality research1. Spoiler alert: the effectiveness of phone banking depends on quality — having a pleasant, personal conversation! These tips — put together by VSA Community moderators — will help you to do that.

Tip #1: Get into the Zen Zone.

Making calls is not everyone’s favorite thing. Remember that you’re not alone in this feeling! So until calling is old-hat for you, it’s great to get into the zone at the beginning of your call session. Grab your favorite beverage, do a quick joy workout2, and watch this 2-minute pep talk from Favs3! Finally, remember that it is a rare phone bank where you don’t walk away with a few calls that will restore your faith in humanity. Getting into the Zen Zone will help you brush off the hang-ups, and laugh at the (very rare!) mean person you’ll talk to. Four tips in one! You’re welcome.

Tip #2: Smile while you dial.

If you go to a lot of phone banking trainings, you will get tired of hearing this! But that doesn’t make the tip any less fabulous! Smile especially when you say the first sentence — those first crucial seconds of a call. This will help hook the person you’re speaking to. Smiling does something else that’s great for phone banking: it makes you happy4. And the happier you are, the easier phone banking is! That said, there’s no need to smile for the entire call — just be natural.

VSA volunteers join a virtual phone bank from Florida
VSA volunteer Amy N. makes calls with a couple of her friends!

Tip #3: Review the script first and make it your own.

Take a look at the script before your first call — you might even read it aloud once or twice. Do not worry about following it exactly! No one expects you to recite every word of the script. In fact, if you read it word for word, you’re likely to sound less warm and human. Phrase it as you would — people on the other end want to talk to someone who is being authentic with them. 

Tip #4: Add a few key phrases to the script.

Here’s a corollary to tip #3: feel free to use these phrases to make it more likely people will stay on the line, and make your call more effective. 

  • After you know you have the right person and say you’re a volunteer from the organization you’re calling with, say either: “I promise, this will take just a minute of your time!” (when it really is a short call) or: “I’m not calling to ask for money.” When people know it’s a political call, they are often afraid of a long call or a fundraising ask. You might even put the two phrases together!
  • At the end of the call, say: “Thanks for being a voter!” Thanking people for voting has shown to increase mobilization5. It’s important to use that exact phrase rather than “thanks for voting,” because messages about “being a voter,” rather than just “voting,” have increased registration and turnout6 in state and national elections.
  • Pro tip, if you’ve made a nice connection with the voter, add a vote tripling request. You can say things like: “Can you think of three people to bring to the polls with you/encourage to vote?” or “Can you make sure that your friends and family vote too?” 
  • Also for people you’ve made a nice connection with, you might close with something like: “It has been so delightful to talk with you!” or “Calls with people like you really make my day/make volunteering to phone bank worth it!” Phrases like these leave people feeling great that they’ve talked to you.

Tip #5: Make it fun (yes, fun!) and bask in a sense of accomplishment.

Once you have a few calls under your belt, you will  get into the groove (and the groove will arrive sooner and sooner, the more phone banks you do!). Then, you can use these methods to upgrade from “in the groove” to “having fun”:

  • Ask your friends to join a phone bank with you, because calling is always better with friends. Recruit IRL friends or virtual friends you’ve made in the VSA Slack!
  • For even more fun, gamify the phone bank by playing phone bank bingo7.
  • Getting sh*t done is fun too. Keep a pen and paper handy to track the number of dials that you make and the number of people who pick up.
  • Keep a running total of the calls you’re making this election cycle! You can feel so good about what you’ve done. With democracy on the line (again), you will feel pride in the fact that you are leaving it all on the field! No regrets.

Bonus Tip! Don’t worry about getting asked questions you don’t know the answer to!

It is rare to call a person who asks you anything about facts! If they do ask and you don’t know, go ahead and say that! You are a volunteer, not a policy (or candidate) expert — and no one expects you to be — least of all the person you called.

  • You can ask them to give you a moment while you find the info (typically in the script or in an FAQ that was included during the training). You can say: “I just learned something too!” This makes the person you called feel like the two of you are in this together.
  • If they ask about the candidate, this is your chance to tell them the candidate’s website! They can go there and look things up — people often want to “do their own research” anyway.