Your Vision Matters: Change Your Community. Become an Outreach Lead or Volunteer.

Do you have the mindset, judgment, and skills to help us with outreach at least twice a month at farmers markets, festivals, and other outdoor locations? We have three primary goals in this work:
  • Recruit volunteers for our partner organizations.

  • Educate community members about the need for more tutors and mentors.

  • Highlight the long-term importance of people actively working together to create a community grounded in greater empathy -- not only for students but for all of us.

How Does Canvassing Work?

Check out this 90-second video sample canvassing interaction with DCTMI Executive Director Tom Pollak

How does canvassing make you feel?

These college students comment right after their experience.
Volunteer vs. paid positions. What's the difference?

Outreach Volunteer 

Want to get involved and earn community service hours or just want to help build stronger communities? Outreach Volunteering is a perfect opportunity for those looking to learn the art and science of canvassing but may not be ready to commit to regular outreach support. Whether you are a retiree, college student, or working professional, we have…Whether you are a retiree, college student, or working professional, we need your help at farmers markets and other public spaces. Let’s build stronger communities and a stronger democracy! 

Outreach Lead (Paid) 

The hourly wage of DCTMI Outreach Canvassers ranges from $16.10 to $22 in the DMV depending on the ability of a team member to reflect the values and approach discussed below. Depending on DCTMI’s workload and your skillset, there may also be an opportunity to help with other aspects of our outreach, volunteer management, and communications or to become a Civic Leadership Fellow (an intensive internship that combines outreach, weekly or biweekly leadership development workshops, and individualized project development).

Do you have what it takes to be a DCTMI Outreach Lead?

Here’s what we are looking for in canvassers

On one hand, we need to approach people with a combination of gentleness, kindness, openness, and friendliness. At the same time, it’s important to have appropriate assertiveness and moral courage and “speak our truth” to virtually anyone. Put another way, we put them at ease that we’re approaching them as a friend and that we’re open to their perspective. Yet we also communicate (in words and nonverbally) that we have something important to say that benefits all of us!
Communicate in a positive, upbeat, and direct way. Consistently keep it positive, even when speaking to people who may reject our efforts to engage them. (We do our best to follow the advice attributed to Maya Angelou: People don’t remember what you said but they remember how you made them feel! We also remind ourselves of the innocent “inner child” in each of us: We do our best but carry baggage or trauma from our childhoods.)
Be fearless in approaching people and raising awareness unless you feel your physical safety is at risk. There are two reasons why it’s important: First, it’s productive in getting the word out, especially to people who may not have thought about helping in their community before and who don’t appear to be friendly at first glance. Even though our intuitions may be right more often than not, there are still many times when they are wrong: A substantial portion of people who may look uninterested will turn out to be the opposite once you explain what we’re doing. Second, it helps us personally and professionally: We learn to get out of our own comfort zones, better understand our own barriers to engaging people, and better connect at a deeper level with people.
Be reliable and be consistent in showing up on time. We expect team members to help out at least twice a month.
Canvassing is a subtle art as well as a science and an opportunity to improve your verbal and nonverbal communication skills. While everyone has their own unique style, there are aspects to our approach that have proven effective over time and we expect everyone to work to develop them.
We recognize that canvassing can be emotionally draining, and we also want to encourage team members to connect with one another and to recenter themselves. Thus, we do NOT expect canvassers to be “on” 60 minutes every hour continually. We do, however, expect that canvassers are actively and intensively working at least three-quarters of their time — 50 minutes out of every hour. We think of it as a series of intense runs with breaks in between. It is neither a leisurely walk, a constant race, nor a single short sprint.
As you go about your work, keep in mind that you are part of what we hope is a CIVIC MOVEMENT! Leadership courses often use a parable: Three stonecutters were asked what they were doing. The first replied, ‘I am making a living.’ The second kept on hammering while he said, ‘I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire country.’ The third one looked up with a visionary gleam in his eyes and said, ‘I am building a cathedral.’ The problem with the second person: “Skill must be encouraged …but it must always be related to the needs of the whole,” as Peter Drucker put it. That “whole” is creating a civic movement that will create communities and a nation grounded in empathy, hope, and wisdom.

If you’ve played basketball, tennis, soccer, or football, you’ve probably had a coach tell you to anticipate what the other player will do and move your feet to get into position. It’s a good parallel to what we are doing:

  1. APPROACHING PEOPLE: It’s important for people to see that you are about to speak to them. It gives them a sense of safety that you’re not surprising them, which happens if you wait for people to walk by you before you speak. I take a step or two toward them and say in a clear direct voice as I approach them that I’m looking for volunteers. (I approach them at a 45-degree angle.) This puts them at ease that I’m not asking for money or anything crazy!
  2. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Unless someone stops to chat, you don’t have time to educate people about the need if you don’t walk with them briefly! It takes 10 to 15 seconds to say three sentences that capture the essence of what we are doing and how they can get involved. Walk with them with APPROPRIATE SOCIAL DISTANCE and in a RESPECTFUL and NON-THREATENING WAY is key. “Hi, we’re looking for volunteers. Two out of 3 kids in DC need extra support. If everyone helped out an hour or two a week, it would be a very different world for all of us.”
It’s often easier to work in the same vicinity as someone else. That’s fine. But we also expect each person to be ACTIVELY and CONSISTENTLY engaging people one-on-one, not together with your partner, after an hour or so of observation and practice.
Balance spending time making meaningful connections and conversations with people who are signing up, on the one hand, with connecting with new people, on the other. We’d rather have 10 people sign up who understand what we’re doing and are excited to get involved because they had a good conversation with us than have 20 people take a flyer only or who sign up while feeling lukewarm about getting involved!
In good communities, we take joy in sharing what we have with others and feel supported when we can express our needs and have others offer to help us. Explore how they can help, perhaps by engaging their employer, friends, neighbors; sharing their special talents; or helping us get the word out via social media to their networks. If you can keep our broader VISION of a community grounded in kindness, hope, and wisdom in mind (see earlier), this will flow naturally.

Are you Ready? Complete the Form Below to get started!

More reflections on Canvassing!

Two outreach volunteers discuss their experiences signing up volunteer tutors and mentors.