The Madison Coalition to defeat the ban has been organizing since even before we became Fair Wisconsin. We’ve been meeting regularly since August 2005 talking about how our diverse constituencies would each be negatively affected if this ban were to pass.
At our June 2006 meeting, we brainstormed ways to show our unity as coalition partners. We didn’t want to do a rally or just send out a press release. We wanted something that would bring us together and help the campaign gain power and momentum. Eventually we decided to do a united, coalition-wide canvass followed by a BBQ celebration.
When we came up with this idea, we had no idea of the work ahead of us. With canvasses three times a week, volunteer nights four or five times a week, regular volunteer recruitment events to maintain, plus new staff members to integrate, we found ourselves two weeks to the canvass and still needing to do major planning.
Not only did we have to turn out 200 people, we also had to find food for the BBQ. And we had to ask individuals who already put in 60+ hours at their own organizations to do additional work for us. We had no budget and no idea how challenging it would be to encourage people to overcome their fear of talking with strangers and really “walk the talk.” Our staff was a bit overwhelmed. We knew that in order to turn people out we would have to make repeat calls to commit people to the canvass and then remind them to attend. We had to perfect the science of calling just enough to turn them out, but not overwhelm them.
In the end, our repeated calls to coalition partners and individuals, nightly discussions about logistics, and dedicated volunteer captains who spent weeks cutting turf proved successful.
Although we advertised the event for a 10:45am start time, at 10:15 we already had about 50 people in the room. By 11am we had over 200 canvassers and standing room only. When we returned from areas all over Madison, Fitchburg, Monona, and McFarland our over 227 canvassers knocked on 7,132 doors. The vast majority of those canvassers were first timers who, like Josh, conquered their fear of the doors to find 2,023 new No voters (an 87% support rate) as well as 92 new volunteers.
Afterward, we all went out to enjoy a sunny BBQ in the front yard of the Madison Labor Temple. Thanks to our sponsors, Nature’s Bakery, Gumby’s Pizza and Jacobson Bros Meat and Deli as well as a generous contribution from Kay Heggestad, we enjoyed brats, burgers, beans and good conversation.
(This post was written by Jennifer Knox and Pabitra Benjamin)