Many local candidates are intimidated by direct mail – they think it is expensive, and they wonder about its effectiveness. While I can tell you that direct mail is effective, I can also tell you that it sometimes can eat away at the campaign’s budget (though not as much as buying TV time). One great way to cut down on the costs of direct mail is to send out the piece as a literature drop (lit drop) instead.
Simply put, a lit drop is a direct mail without the “mail.” It uses volunteers and staff to deliver the mail piece to the doors of targeted voters, instead of sending the piece through the mail. Because a lit drop uses volunteers to deliver the mail piece rather than paying for postage, it can be significantly cheaper than sending a comparable amount of direct mail.
Of course, literature drops can be a tool that the campaign uses on its own merits, rather than simply being a replacement for direct mail. Many successful campaigns have used both lit drops and direct mail to spread their message, raise their name ID, and persuade the voters.
Building and Training Your Team
The first key to successful lit drop is gathering a team of volunteers who are willing and motivated to go door to door for you, and who don’t mind spending the day pounding the pavement. Unlike going door to door, these volunteers won’t be required to speak with the voters whose houses they go to, so lit drops are great activities for volunteers who don’t feel comfortable speaking in public or going door to door.
Some great sources of volunteers for lit drops include high school and college students, members of clubs you have joined, and of course your regular group of campaign volunteers. No matter where you get your volunteers from, make sure you have a training session so that the feel comfortable with doing the job. Remember to tell them to be polite and courteous with any voters they meet while doing the drop – there’s not much point in delivering a piece of literature that has the candidate’s name all over it if the person who gets it has a bad impression of the campaign.
Targeting Your Drop
Like all the activities your campaign undertakes, literature drops should be targeted. Each volunteer who is helping you perform the drop should have a street list that lists the registered voters by street address. Your campaign should only deliver literature to registered voters. Of course, your campaign can target the drop even more than that. For example, you may only want to get literature to registered Democrats or registered Republicans, voters in swing precincts, etc. You could also do an “issue drop” where you deliver a piece of literature on a certain topic that is of concern to a particular neighborhood.
Far and away the most effective way to do a literature drop is to have all the volunteers gather at headquarters and then head out to do the drop together. While you could have each volunteer stop by at some point to pick up their share of the literature and then go out to do the drop sometime during the week when they are able to, you have much more control when you can supervise the drop closely.
When doing the drop as a group, many campaigns have found it effective to have a van that goes around the targeted neighborhood replenishing the volunteers’ supply of literature on a regular basis as well as delivering sandwiches and drinks to hungry walkers. Remember not to overwork your volunteers – you’ll need them to help you again in the future.
Postal regulations prohibit your campaign from placing literature directly into the mailbox of the houses you target. Instead, place your literature in the door handle of the screen door, in the railing, between doors, or in another appropriate place where it will be seen by the voters.
Literature drops can and should be an integral part of your strategy for getting your message out to the voters. Gather your team, train them well, and map out your walk strategy before the big day…and don’t forget to thank your team once the drop is completed!