Here in Seattle, we’re lucky to have a community of nonprofit communicators that wear several hats. During election season, many of us work more closely with field program staff, or even lead field efforts for our organizations. Even in an off-year, this can feel like an incredible commitment of time, especially when we’re balancing it with all of our usual communications work.

Below are a few ideas to accomplish necessary field goals while also increasing the capacity of your communications program as we move past 2015 and look forward to 2016.

Capitalizing on Audience and Voice

Many of us are the sole communicators in our workplace. We hold the voice of our organization in our head. It’s the style in which we communicate with our base membership – an audience that we know pretty well and have experience communicating with.

Field programs require us to ramp up communication to those core members, reach out to those who may not have heard of our organizations, and increase the number of people speaking on behalf of our issues. Around this time of year, our audience is radically expanded and so are our messengers.

For these reasons, campaign season is a great time to put the voice and style of your organization into written guidelines and make sure that staff and volunteers alike are on board and disciplined in their use.

These guidelines should shape the way canvassers are trained, the scripts used for phone banking, and the newsletters that are sent out to volunteers. Every event that field staff speak at and every door that volunteers knock on should reflect that voice and the brand identity it communicates.

This repetition and consistency helps accomplish field goals, while building your image and expanding your audience long-term

Cultivating Press Relationships

Media presence can be a challenge. As nonprofits, our issues are complex and important to a niche audience – not always a big draw for larger news outlets.

Campaign season is our time in the sun. Election coverage can be leveraged to focus on our issues, candidates are available to provide an extra voice on our priorities, and field events can be great media draws. It’s only Wednesday, but this week I’ve already been contacted about scheduling a candidate interview focusing on campaign finance reform and seen footage of a local news story at a coalition phone bank.
Field activities are a great way to start relationships with press in general, but are especially helpful for those outlets that are outside of the mainstream call list, but powerful voices in their communities. If time is invested with these smaller outlets, and they see your organization doing fieldwork in their community, the chance of responsiveness and coverage during less exciting parts of the year is increased.

Press outreach also supports field goals. Local blogs are often willing to post about neighborhood field events. Ethnic media outlets can engage communities that haven’t previously connected with your organization, and several offer ad matches to nonprofits.

Ramping-Up Social Media Presence

Social media is a great fit for campaign season. Field activities generate pictures, cultivate interesting messengers, and draw people in through event invites. Often, accounts that have laid fallow for the rest of the year, or even just reached a plateau of followers, can be improved through robust field programs.

Below are a few ways local nonprofits have been capitalizing on social media during this period.

    • Creating a team of field volunteers that offer to retweet and share the content you publish. With a little training, this team can generate a significant amount of content using your org’s hashtag, direct traffic to your accounts, and generally boost your visibility in communities that haven’t been tapped yet.
    • Connecting with young voters who often don’t see themselves in mainstream political coverage, but are engaged through social media. For example, hosting youth-specific field events on college campuses and asking volunteers to promote those events through their social media profiles and through their college’s network.
    • Investing in targeted ads to reach demographics that support your work, are persuadable on your issue, or have never been engaged before. These ads can feature images of volunteers and also be used to promote upcoming field activities, either directly or by driving traffic to your page.


As we look at the 2015 election in our rear view mirror, it’s not too early to think about 2016 and the ways that an on-year election, and the accompanying field program, can build an organization’s voice and following.