As a community, Swing Blue Alliance (formerly known as Swing Left Greater Boston) took millions of actions to support the 2020 election. We wrote letters, sent text messages, conducted phone banking calls, and even canvassed (socially distanced, of course) to help swing state residents cast their votes. Altogether, our volunteers spent an estimated 156,100 hours on the election, making 1.76M calls and writing 1.77M postcards and letters.
“I’m so proud of this volunteer community. Their energy, their drive, how much we all put into this campaign, it’s unprecedented in my experience,”
– Susan Labandibar, co-coordinator for SLGB
Looking back: the shift to remote activism
Swing Blue Alliance (SBA) first launched as a volunteer organization to support the 2018 midterm election, fueled by the unexpected victory of President Trump. In that campaign, activism was driven by in-person events. We sat together at kitchen tables and in living rooms, church basements, and co-working spaces to write, call, and text voters … and then we piled into cars to knock on doors in Maine.
But this year, we had to rethink everything for a remote world.
“When the pandemic first hit, Swing Left told us to move everything to virtual. We’d never done anything like this before. We had to navigate new tools, bring in project management support, and frankly, learn new skills,” said Susan.
At first, everything stopped, but the volunteer organization quickly shifted its strategy: Postcard parties became postcard packets, where event hosts distributed hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of postcard packets to volunteers in their local communities. Phone banking events became virtual conference calls, where hosts trained teams to conduct phone calls in hundreds of remote events across Greater Boston and beyond.
It worked. Prior to the pandemic, the in-person SBA volunteers at Activists Afternoons produced a maximum of 1,500 postcards. With the new virtual volunteer network, volunteers produced and distributed 6,000 in the same time period. In the end, activists wrote and mailed 1.76M postcards and letters to help residents vote.
“Not only did our volunteers overcome the challenges of the pandemic, but we proved we could make a bigger impact by putting the right programs in place,” said Susan. “It’s truly amazing. Driven entirely by volunteers, we had team captains and group coordinators managing volunteer programs. We had analytics and dashboards to see our progress. This wasn’t just about brute force, it was about getting smart, and doing the right activities at the right time to see results.”
Postcard and letter writing programs were critical in the first half of the year, but the team knew phone banking was the best tool to Get out the Vote. In the final swing of the campaign, team captains put all of their efforts into recruiting volunteers for phone banking, and it paid off, driving a major spike in the final months of the election, and ending with 1.76M phone banking calls.
A community of grassroots superstars
Altogether, more than 10,000 volunteers supported about 4,000 events during the 2020 election. Every volunteer was critical. Without their support, we wouldn’t have had the ability to send more than a million postcards and make hundreds of thousands of calls to residents.
Hundreds of volunteer leaders stepped up to support the election, hosting events and drawing on their own circles to grow our grassroots network. They coordinated behind the scenes to make sure postcard packets were put together, phone banks were staffed, and volunteers had training and guidance. It was their networks that recruited tens of thousands of volunteers. Some superhosts supported hundreds and even thousands of events with the programs that they put together.
As a volunteer organization, these networks of volunteers, hosts, captains, and program managers are the heart of SBA.
“So many of our volunteers put their lives on hold for the 2020 election, and I’ve never been more proud, inspired, and grateful for their support,” said Susan. “We’ve built a community together, and I’m just so glad to have been a part of it. But we’re not done yet. The 2022 election is just around the corner, and we’ll want to continue to band together, build our grassroots networks, and achieve the impossible.”