Tips and Tools #19 Building an Organization: Counting the Doors and Organizing Math – Part III

Article from Columbus Free Press

By Wade Rathke

When you hit the doors, and despite the fact that I’m writing this during the coronavirus stay-in-place days, we will be hitting doors again in the by and by, then you have to count. In order to count, you will need a system to rate the responses that you are hearing on the doors once you put fist to wood.

The first thing to remember is that these are subjective determinations by the organizer or the organizing committee member who is hitting the doors. As I often say, “there’s no substitute for good judgment,” and this is a perfect example.

The scoring will absolutely not be based on whatever the person at the door promises. The scoring must be based on a real evaluation. People new to door-knocking or early in their organizing career tend to credit any “yes” that they hear on the doors as a concrete affirmation on attendance for meetings. Everyone learns the hard way when the twenty people they expected, turns out to be five instead. People are not necessarily fibbing about their interest, but they want to be positive and often they might have really meant to attend or follow through on some promise, but life intervened or their attempt at being pleasant to an effective team on the doors evaporated even before they saw them disappear down the block or the onto the next floor in the apartment building. You have to make judgements on the doors.

There are two common scoring systems that we have used and that are common for home visits. The simplest is a three-part rating of yes, no, and maybe. The other system more common in labor organizing or in organizing drives where the committee and the organizer believe they will have the capacity to do follow-up visits or additional touches with some doors is a five-part system. Ones are definite yeses. Twos are leaning yes. Threes are maybe. Fours are leaning no, and five are hard no. As time and talent are available, twos and perhaps even threes will get additional pushes along with the ones to attend and join the organization. Even if time runs out, in the organizing drive cleanup (we’ll cover that in the future), everyone from maybes to yesses will be contacted, based on the initial assessments, making them even more important.

The job isn’t done yet. What if no one was home? The data recorded on the doors and maintained needs to note NH or something similar for “not home” along with the time and day of the week, which might help the next person on that door to catch them at home if they were working a night shift or multiple jobs. In the good old days, okay, I’m talking forty and fifty years ago or more, we would use 3×5 index cards. I used to stock them for the organizers in different colors for different organizing drives in different neighborhoods. A 3×5 offers the opportunity to jot additional notes on the visit about issues, leadership potential, family situation, workplace, church and so forth. Now this information has migrated to various clipboards or software applications. [We’re trying Action Builder right now, which seems promising, and was specifically developed for organizing projects by senior labor organizers with input from community organizers.] However, you decide to keep the information and the rankings, the key thing is keeping it where you can access the information and utilize it, and those behind you can follow the breadcrumbs back to the door.

One last thing before we leave the counting room. Some people on both sides of the door worry about looking weird making notes on what people are saying. They worry it looks like they are spies or somehow evading someone’s privacy. Balderdash! You need to be transparent. There’s no need to sneak around about it or try to remember when you can back to your ride or down the street. Tell people up front that you’re making notes so that you will remember, can follow up, and, most importantly, because what they are saying is important and vital to the organizing drive. People who have their voice taken away from them and silenced, appreciate the fact that their organization takes them seriously. Don’t hide that fact – flaunt it!

Next: We’ll talk about the evidence of the persuasive impact of direct person-to-person visits.