A few months ago my colleagues and I mapped the charity organizations near our business. The idea here was to identify the organizations we could work with most easily based on convenience and proximity. From here we circulated a number of the options to our members and voted on our first volunteer efforts. I recognize that this isn’t the way people assume we’re coming to them. Most organizations assume that volunteers/donors are there for a few reasons:
- SOCIAL TIES: In this case, a large network of friends and family already give and volunteer with the organization. This donor/volunteer is highly motivated as their entire family network and sometimes church use volunteering/donating as a way to socialize and connect.
- SINGLE ISSUE: Often a single issue will be the crux of a whole series of volunteer/donation efforts. Armies of volunteers and donors have mobilized to help prevent breast cancer, to support pro-life or pro-choice organizations, and to eradicate poverty.
- IDENTITY: This volunteer/donor identifies with the underdog served or the person doing the service. This might look more like a duty-based Talented Tenth approach to giving.
You’ll notice that each of these reasons also tend to be the reason why individuals vote for a particular political candidate. In my past experience in the Public Affairs Bureau, I know that most voters (and their family) vote for a party first, a single issue second, a charismatic party leader third, and that last group is the swing voters. So it makes sense that a similar psychology might carry over to community affiliations.
So let’s talk strategy about swing voters. Campaign managers go after swing voters because they’re generally easier to persuade than someone with a deeply rooted belief system about a party or community organization. They still go to their polling station with a booklet in hand, but when they aren’t convinced on a particular platform, they tend to vote on a convenience basis.
People Want to Vote/Give. But it’s Not Always for You.
Californians recognize that convenience is a factor in political affiliation to the point that the order of candidates on the ballot is randomized. And despite the that that we’re definitely not a swing State, there are clues as to how to design for voters who are present but unconvinced. For example in the 2000 presidential race, George W. Bush received 9 percent more votes amongst Californians when his name was listed first on the ballot than when he was listed later. You might see this as a travesty, but it poses a huge opportunity. If the convenience-factor behind voting can apply to community contribution — how can community organizations design for maximum engagement?
Does it make sense to bombard a “swing voter” with literature, make them sit through a barrage of Youtube commercials, or talk at them for 2 hours? Sometimes it’s best to just give people a quick and easy way of doing or giving.