Welcome to my series of tips and advice for Liberal Democrat members, which appear first in the excellent email bulletin run by London Region’s Pete Dollimore for party members.
There’s a free app available for Android and iPhone/iPad* which makes canvassing much easier and quicker, as used widely in the Parliamentary seats the party won at the last general election and the councils the party won control over in this year’s local elections.
It’s called MiniVAN and works with the party’s Connect electoral database. Using the app cuts out completely the need to print off canvass cards, write down information as you go around (hoping it isn’t raining and making the paper go soggy) and then have someone type up the results (hoping they can read your handwriting successfully).
Instead, you download a list of names and addresses to call on at the start, have a handy map to guide you around, and all your data is safely stored, needing just one upload to the database at the end. Easier, more convenient and saves anyone having the job of having to do manual data entry afterwards.
It works well in areas without mobile reception too as you only need to be online beforehand (to download the canvass lists) and afterwards (to upload data).
The three steps to get started with MiniVAN are:
- Install the app on your phone.
- Get a login for it from your local party.
- Get a “list number” (list of people to call on) from your local party too. This will include the script to use when canvassing; i.e. what questions to ask and what data to record.
And if you go to install it, there’s as second Lib Dem app it is well worth getting at the same time – the conference app.
Top tips for using MiniVAN
- Use it – the app is much better than using printed canvass cards both for keep data secure and also for cutting out the laborious task of typing up the results from printed canvass cards.
- You don’t need to be online when canvassing – just at the start (to download a list of people to call on) and at the end (to upload your data). That means you can use it in very rural areas, in tower blocks etc. all without problem.
- Doing a long canvass session? You can extend your battery life by turning off data, e.g. by going into flight mode (see #2). And battery packs such as these are really useful.
- You can mark a whole household not a home in one go: from the household list view either (iOS) swipe right or (Android) tap and hold down on the household.
- Check out my canvassing guide for how to make the most of canvassing.
* The app is listed in both app stores as being from NGPVAN, the company which supplies both the app and Connect. It’s an American firm, also used by Barack Obama’s two Presidential campaigns as well as our sister party the Canadian Liberals.