What it’s like to text bank

Last week Kevin and I did some text bank volunteering with the Harry Potter Alliance and Head Count.

The details in advance were a little vague on what that meant so I was pretty nervous going it but it turns out that that text banking is almost completely painless and actually pretty helpful! (Added bonus if some of your favorite musicians play a just-for-volunteers concert while you work.)

If you’re curious about doing something similar, here’s what it was like for us:

  1. The HPA and HC set up a Zoom meeting for us all to join. There were 40-odd people in there when I checked. The people in charge introduced themselves and explained what we were going to do.
  2. You don’t have to use your phone or phone number. Actually, you can’t. There’s a fancy program that you log into that acts as the phone, I guess? And you don’t have to be in the country or state that you’re text banking for or to, since it’s through the program thing.
  3. You know that “I’m X volunteer with Y project” text you get sometimes? That’s what you’re sending, just with your first name where the X goes. There’s an actual send button and you just hit that over and over and over. The 40+ of us sent that message to 37,000+ people. In this case, making sure they were registered to vote.
  4. Then, once people started responding to the first text, we moved to the next step. It was kind of like a video game, actually, because there are a bunch of pre-set messages and you just select the appropriate one. So if they’re like “I don’t know if I’m registered, how do I find out?” you click the button that sends them the link and directions on how to find out. If they send you something nasty in response, you click the button that ends the conversation. (I didn’t get any of those, but some people did.)
  5. If you don’t know how to answer a response, you can either ask in the Zoom chat (I kept my mic & camera off the whole time and just talked in the chat) or hit the button that takes you to the next incoming text so the confusing one becomes someone else’s problem. Since there were practiced volunteers with us, I did that a lot.
  6. Do that for 1.5 – 2 hours. Anything that comes in after your shift is over will be answered by the Professional Head Count People so you don’t have to worry about leaving anyone hanging.
  7. Then you’re done!

It really was a lot of fun–the music and chatting with other volunteers made it festive–and it’s a surprisingly simple way to do something good. If you’ve been feeling a little lost and wanting to chip in somewhere, I recommend Head Count & text banking. Getting people registered to vote from the couch? Can do!

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