Why Phone Banking Matters—and Is More Fun Than You Think

There’s never been such an important election in our lifetimes as the one coming up November 3rd.  350 Bay Area Action’s new campaign, Go Green. Vote Blue., connects volunteers with a virus-safe and extremely effective way to encourage people in key swing states to register, to volunteer, and ultimately to vote: calling potential voters via group virtual phone banking parties, held on Zoom.

“Research shows that the most effective way to influence people to vote is through personal contact,” says Zina Rosen-Simon, a Flip the West phone bank trainer and host. 

 However, there are a few worries people may bring to phone banking. Many people think their phone calls will be rejected, or that they will end up talking to hostile Trump voters. They feel like they don’t know enough about the issues or the candidates to talk to real live voters on the phone. And in a world full of robocalls and scam artists, many people just don’t like the idea of “bothering” others by calling them at home or on their mobile phones.

Ellen Nelson, a phone-banking regular, admits she used to have big reservations.

 “Absolutely! I used to hate getting those kinds of calls at my home — and they always seemed to come at dinner time… right?,” she says. But, the stakes in this critical election caused her to conquer her fears and try phoning.

Ellen envisioned having loads of angry people answering her calls and yelling at her. But that’s not the reality, she said. “Most folks these days let their machines do the answering for them,” and phone bankers have scripts that let them leave polite, positive messages for voters.

 The important thing is to be yourself, she says. Let your personal “voice” come through in your message. “I try to picture the person I’m calling and  deliver the words as if I were talking to them across the kitchen table.”

Zina says confidence builds as you make calls and discover it isn’t hard. Anyone “who has the ability to listen” and is willing to learn the ropes can do this. And support is always available, during Zoom group phone-banking parties. 

 And what about when a person does take the call, live? These two phone-banking regulars say they’ve met and talked with amazing people doing these calls.

A volunteer Zina worked with, Sara Tiras, recalled speaking with a 68-year-old Black man in Colorado who was discouraged by the electoral process, and by the long history of police and other killings of innocent Black people without accountability. He shared many of the milestones, hopes, and sorrows of his long life with Sara.

 After listening for a long while, and acknowledging his skepticism about the possibility of real change, Sara encouraged him to reconsider voting “because it was voices like his that need to be heard.” He told her he appreciated her message, said her parents and grandparents should be proud of her, and “encouraged me to keep up the good work. We had a very sweet goodbye.”

 Ellen has had several similarly inspiring and positive experiences. She’s talked to farmers’ wives in Iowa— “Honey, he’s still out in the fields. Is there something I can help you with instead?” She talked to a Native American who lived in a cabin in the woods and said no one ever calls him. And she talked to a 92-year-old, self-described “lifelong Democrat and activist” who promptly stepped up to become a volunteer.

 The woman then helped organize senior citizens in her area, wrote postcards, and called state legislators. “I just could not believe she was 92,” Ellen says, “until she told me she was literally holding on to make it to November, to make sure she was able to vote for the changes that need to happen in our country right now.”

 It doesn’t get much better than that.

You can be a part of this tapestry of connections and outreach. You can help us reclaim our country. Join our campaign, Go Green. Vote Blue. Sign up here to make a difference, while having some fun!

By Chris Rauber