Could Virtual Phone Banking be the Future of Student Engagement?

By: Madeline Coffey

New to the 2016 election cycle is an innovative tool for engagement: virtual phone banking.  My first experience with virtual phone banking came in the Spring when I phone banked in my spare time for the Bernie Sanders campaign.  I worked with Danny Timpona, a leader at the Winston-Salem for Bernie office and a WFU alum, to set up a virtual phone bank on behalf of WFU College Democrats.  The process was easy.  All I had to do was bring Danny in on a conference call, help everyone to set up their virtual phone banking platform, and phone bank away.  We didn’t need to carpool to the office; we just did it from Tribble Hall.

I have to say that of all of the newest campaign technology advances, I think virtual phone banking is the best potential new way of getting college students engaged.  Anyone can set up a virtual phone bank.  Whether you’re organizing for a group or just hoping to do some hours on your own, the platform is easy.  Even better than that is the online automatic dialer that accompanies these platforms that saves TONS of time normally spent dialing people on your personal cell phone and having a million people calling you back asking what you wanted from them.

This summer, I was a Wake Forest Research Fellow, meaning that I did not take on a formal internship at a political organization.  Instead, all of my work was as a lowly volunteer.  I volunteered some at Forsyth County Democratic Party, some at the Knoxville Democratic Party, and completed the rest of my hours of political work through virtual phone banking for the Clinton campaign.  With my busy schedule, virtual phone banking was a tool that kept me engaged.

I found that being able to phone bank from the comfort of my own home has encouraged me to do it more often.  I plan to utilize virtual phone banking throughout the election cycle because it fits within the constraints of my time and plans.  As students, we oftentimes have odd schedules.  Sometimes breaks within classes are hours long but still not long enough to go all the way to your car, drive down to your local campaign office, get set up on VIN, and put in a great deal of time phone banking.  With this tool, none of that is required.  Got 20 minutes between classes? Cool.  You can make a few calls because all you need is a laptop and some headphones.

I think virtual phone banking provides an interesting opportunity for engagement, and I wish that the push for college students to utilize it was much greater.  I have so many people tell me that they want to volunteer for a campaign, but they just don’t have that much time.  Virtual phone banking provides a new way for anyone with a laptop and wi-fi to easily connect with potential voters.  For anyone following WTV and wishing they had time to engage like us, there is good news!  You can.  Maybe you can’t come to the DNC or the RNC, but you might just talk on the phone with someone who did!  Maybe you can’t make it out to your local campaign office, but you can make your own campaign office in ZSR Starbucks.  I can’t wait to see if virtual phone banking takes off with college students, but I hope that this innovative way of participation transforms the ideology that we just, “don’t have enough time.”


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