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May 3 2023Blog Updates

How to use texting to recruit political candidates in red districts

Recruiting candidates for office can be incredibly challenging for many reasons including incomplete data, time and volunteer constraints, and resources.

Given the time and resource constraints, we at Civitech have helped organizations run recruitment campaigns with our texting tool TextOut and would like to share our learnings with you. We’ve worked with more than 350 texting clients, and we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. 

We’ll share the steps to creating a recruiting campaign using a texting tool based on our successful results. 



In the political ecosystem, we often use terms like battleground, red, and blue states. While those terms make it easier to categorize states and districts with a quick color category, we all know that our communities are more complicated than that.

Red districts could be the result of gerrymandering and voter suppression, low voter turnout, a challenging partisanship distribution, or ineffective candidates.

If you are interested in increasing the number of progressives running for political office, you already know the value of running candidates in all districts and areas. Yet, recruiting people to run for office can be incredibly challenging for many reasons including incomplete data, time and volunteer constraints, and resources. Ideally, we would all run a comprehensive recruiting program with extensive research, mailers and phone calls to identify and encourage candidates to run.

Given the time and resource constraints, we at Civitech have helped organizations run recruitment campaigns with our texting tool TextOut and would like to share our learnings with you. We’ve worked with more than 350 texting clients, and we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

This blog post will walk you through all the steps to creating a recruiting campaign using a texting tool based on our successful results.


Related Product

Real texting conversations that win elections

TextOut by Civitech is peer-to-peer texting software that allows organizations to reach voters and supporters about the issues that matter most, like abortion rights, gun violence, education, the economy, and more. Organizations have used TextOut to engage with their community on everything from COVID vaccination clinics to securing rides to the polls on Election Day. With hundreds of millions of texts sent across the US, we know that real conversations create transformative results.

Is my organization a good fit for recruitment with texting?

Texting is a great way to find potential progressive and Democratic candidates, but let’s make sure your group or organization is a good fit.

We’ve found that a texting program for recruitment works best for types of organizations that have access* to (or can get access to) a large amount of data on voters and potential candidates. These types of groups are an ideal fit:

  • State or County Democratic Party that has a broad audience

  • Nonprofit or Advocacy Group that works on a specific issue

  • Democracy Focused Organizations that focus on democracy, voting rights, and diversity, equity and inclusion in government

  • Voter Engagement Groups that have access or want to get access to a large amount of voters and potential candidates

  • Mission- or Issue-Based Organizations that focus on key issues with voters, such as abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, gun violence, climate change, and others.

*If you feel like access to data disqualifies you, don’t stop reading! Let’s talk about how to target registered or potentially unregistered voters across the U.S. We have access to 60 million+ records through our data toolset.

Set up your texting campaign

Determine your goal

Your goal should be the center of your program, and ideally you will use a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).

Organizations often have a goal of increasing Democratic and progressive turnout in statewide races, targeting certain races, contesting all seats in a certain district or state, or simply fighting for democracy by not leaving any seat uncontested.

Choose your target audience

Once you’ve set your goal, you are ready to determine the right universe of people for your program.

We recommend choosing your ideal audience based on your specific goal. For example, if you are looking for strong Democrats to contest races in a traditional Republican area, you could target registered voters with a partisan score of 80 or above.

If you are looking for moderate-to-left candidates to run for school board races, you could target parents in key districts with a partisan score that incorporates a broader audience.

You might have a key issue that motivates your organization. You could find voters who are motivated by climate change and environmental issues to run for office in a particular state or region.

Interested in a texting recruitment program? We'll help you make it happen with TextOut >>

Find your audience and acquire data

Once you’ve determined your ideal audience, you’ll need to either organize your internal data or find data elsewhere. If you are a partisan organization, you might already have access to a voter file with partisan scoring. If you are a nonprofit or not affiliated with the Democratic Party, you can find data sources through other vendors. (Talk to our partnership team at Civitech if you need data, but aren’t sure where to find it!)

Write your texting script

With your goal and audience in mind, you can start crafting messaging that will resonate with folks for the texting campaign.

Here are some elements we consider when writing scripts:

  • Goal: Your overall goal will help determine how basic or complex your script is. If you’re asking respondents a series of questions with branching logic, you’ll need to build out a complex script. Luckily, a recruiting campaign is fairly simple with one question and three to four possible responses.

  • Audience: We all speak differently to different groups, so make sure you think about your audience when crafting a script. If it’s a partisan audience, feel free to reference the Democratic Party. If you are focused on a certain issue, lead with language about the particular topic and potentially avoid partisan language that could turn off people who are very motivated on your issue, but are more moderate.

  • Brevity: How can you be as concise as possible while still getting your message across? We’ve all received those political texts that are closer in length to an email. Do they work? In our programs, we’ve seen the best results with conversational and succinct messages that don’t overwhelm recipients.

  • Messaging: make sure to have a good sense of your key messaging points and how to get them across. One way to think about it is from the framework of logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos focuses on logic and reason, ethos focuses on your status or authority to build trust, and pathos appeals to a person’s emotions. A great message will include all three.

  • Call to action: basically, what do you want your audience to do? Or alternatively, what answer do you want from them? In the case of a recruiting campaign, you are hoping most people respond with yes, no or maybe.

Looking for more details? We’ve included an example texting script below to help you get started.

Launch your texting program

Once all the planning is complete, it’s time to execute the program. You are ready to start texting!

After quickly sending the initial outbound texts, your volunteers or staff can focus on having engaging conversations with people interested in running for office.

You can set up standard responses to filter out folks who are not interested in running for office or have different values.

Be prepared to use your standard replies to respond to wrong numbers and people with follow up questions about running for office. You might need to reassign nuanced or complex questions to staff members.

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Tips for success for your texting program

We’ve included some extra tips for you to think about as you set up your texting program for recruiting candidates for political office.

  • Have a volunteer group ready who can send texts, so staff can focus on making calls to those interested in running. Make sure you are prepared for your next steps before you begin texting potential candidates. You can also engage with a texting vendor who can help respond to texts on your behalf.

  • Think critically about the audience you want to reach and make data decisions based on that. Make sure you tie your prospective texting universe closely with your overall goals or you could end up reaching out to the wrong folks. It’s not always a good idea to text everyone.

  • Think of alternative ways to utilize the people who say yes or maybe to running for office, but aren’t ready to run yet. Someone you text could be interested, but are thinking about running a few years down the line. How can you keep those folks engaged with your organization in the meantime? They might be interested in volunteering or taking on a leadership position that doesn’t involve running for office yet.

Success story: Using TextOut to recruit candidates state wide

In 2022, a state Democratic party wanted to increase state-wide turnout for a crucial election and knew that helping boost local turnout in “red districts” across the state could help. Plus, running candidates in all areas helps energize the base and prove that Democrats can run and win anywhere.

The state party worked with TextOut to target more than 70,000 people with strong Democratic scores in districts that had voted for Republicans in the past. Without the time or volunteers to call a large group of people, the party texted the list with TextOut and asked if they’d be interested in running for office. The volunteers answered questions and gathered crucial data on the universe.

As a result of the campaign, the party had a group of 534 people who said yes or maybe to the recruiting question. The party’s volunteers were able to follow-up with a much more manageable list of people and and party staff were able to reach out to those interested in running for office and help match them with a position that was uncontested.

Texting the universe was a much more affordable and efficient way to narrow down the list of targets.

Example script for your first campaign

If you haven’t used texting for candidate recruitment before, it can be intimidating to get started. We’ve included a simple script to help you begin.

Type Message content Data tags
Initial outbound  Hi {{ContactFirstName}}, I'm {{SenderFirstName}}, a volunteer with <org-name>. We are currently looking for a Democrat to run for <elected-office-position> in {{city}}. Are you interested in running for office? Stop2Quit  
Yes Fantastic! We are excited you are interested in running. We need a community minded person representing us in <office-location>. We look forward to talking with you more, we will be in touch soon! Recruitment = yes
Not sure Totally understand, it's a hard decision to make and we'd love to talk about it more with you. Would you like someone to follow up with you? Recruitment = maybe
No Got it! I hope you have a great day. Recruitment = no
What office? <elected-office-position> for your community. Are you interested in learning more?  
Wants a follow-up call Great, we would love to discuss this more with you. Someone will be in touch with you soon. Follow up
When? Great question! This is for the election taking place on <election-date>  
I don't know if I'm qualified We don’t care about your resume: if you’re a Democrat and you care about improving your local community, you are qualified and we want to help you run.  
Other question Great question! I'm not sure of the answer, I will get back with you ASAP Other question
Republican Thanks for letting me know. Have I reached {ContactFirstName}? Republican
Recommends someone to run Thanks for sharing that! Referral


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