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Home > News > How to ... > How to operate a phone bank

How to operate a phone bank

Posted: February 17th, 2009 @ 10:07pm

Phone banks can be a very effective advocacy tools if they are set up properly. They can be used to generate support for a campaign, to find volunteers for projects, or to get out the vote for a campaign. For example, when you need to influence one or two key legislative members, a phone bank can offer the quickest means of generating significant public support.
  • A phone bank has three basic components
  • Plan! The roles
  • The script
  • Some things to remember
  • Phone banks and canvassing
  • Things to remember

A Phone Bank Has Three Basic Components:
  1. at least one location with a number of phone lines;
  2. lists of local names and phone numbers to call; and
  3. volunteers to do the phoning.

The callers will need supervisors to organize and assist them, scripts telling them what to ask people to do, background materials on the issue, and snacks and beverages to keep morale high and to make work enjoyable.


Early planning is vital to a successful phone bank. There are four things you should do:
  1. Gather lists from all the groups in your organization's, coalition or from other groups whose members would be likely to help;
  2. Eestablish a pool of activists who are committed to phone banking and other projects;
  3. Look up all the phone numbers for your telephone lists; and
  4. Identify places in each locality where there are enough phones to hold a phone bank.

The Roles
  • Each phone bank should have a supervisor who is capable of making quick decisions and coordinating the project.
  • The calls are made by a volunteer operator who has an up-to-date address and phone list, a script and a positive, warm and friendly voice. The request message should be written out for the operator to follow. The request for help should be in the name of your organization.
  • Someone should also be assigned to the role of recordkeeper. This person should come up with a system for people to report the results of each phone call. The data gathered during phone banking will be very important for your group's future efforts.

The Script
  • Questions should be phrased so that the "correct" answer is in the affirmative.
  • If for any reason, the person being called upon acts annoyed or reluctant, the operator should be instructed to retreat gracefully without offending the person. When such reactions occur, operators should be told to strike these people from future lists.
  • Each operator should have a list of key questions with space to record additional information. The type and quality of phone responses received should be recorded with the member's permanent record for later reference. The record keeper for the project is responsible for keeping track of the response forms.

Some Things to Remember
There are several crucial facts which need to be remembered:
  • An average phone caller can complete 12 calls per hour.
  • The best time to operate a phone bank is between 5 and 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends.
  • Good phone bankers can handle three hours of phone calls in one night.
  • Most phoners participate for social purposes. Make sure to build social events into your phone bank. Bring food and drinks to the event, and allow for a "break time" reception after a shift.
  • If you are asking your contact to perform some task, such as calling their lawmaker, you will have to make many more calls than the number of responses you hope for.
  • Make sure you are calling the right people. On a get-out-the-vote drive, phone banks are used to reach known sympathizers. When trying to generate support for an issue or candidate, uncommitted and apathetic voters are sought by phone. When the effort is aimed at generating action from the grassroots, call the committed. When looking for canvassers and volunteers call only the very committed so-called "second mile conservationists."
  • The following formula will help you to determine the number of workers, lines and days needed to complete a project. Suppose you want to make 1000 phone calls. At 12 contacts/hour, it will take you about eighty-three hours. At three hours of calling per evening it would take twenty-eight staff days. Thus, if you borrowed an office with seven lines, it will take you four nights to make your calls.

Phone Banks and Canvassing

One goal of phone banks can be to get group members within certain legislative districts to agree to canvass their neighborhood to promote an issue, and to take an informal poll. Results of this poll can then be presented to a wayward legislator to help her reconsider her position and can then be given to the media.

Things to remember
  • One phone can be expected to solicit thirty canvassers from among a membership per eight hour day.
  • When organizing a door-to-door canvass by phone bank, detailed street maps are needed.

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