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Quick introduction to creating a Study Abroad Outreach program. 

Global Student Outreach Plan

The Goal: To get out the vote among the 340,000 Americans who study abroad each year as well as full-degree and advanced degree students. Click here for updated international data from IIE to support!

Phase 1: Research and identify Study Abroad and local programs:  MARCH--APRIL

American students study abroad through a variety of methods:

  • Programs organized directly through their US university, like NYU Abroad (https://www.nyu.edu/academics/studying-abroad.html).

  • Third party organizations like CEA Study Abroad (https://www.ceastudyabroad.com/) or API Study Abroad (https://www.apistudyabroad.com/), which create study abroad academic programs and coordinate with/offer their programs to hundreds of US Universities.

  • International Universities recruiting American students directly or American students organizing their own Study Abroad experience; these are often longer, degree-granting programs, this is also where full-degree and advanced degree students will be found.

Step 1: Locate programs and institutions in your chapter area where American students are studying.

Step 2: Identify the name and contact information for a local staff member or student organisation who may be willing to facilitate communication with students and organise onsite drives.

Step 3: Document programs and contacts in the Study Abroad Program Map

Step 4:  Set up a non-Democrats Abroad email address such as :  votefromabroad(country)@gmail.com and use for all communications.

Research Tools:

Phase 2: Outreach to Study Abroad Programs  APRIL--MAY

Reach out to Study Abroad program contacts and local universities to explain that American student citizens can vote in the 2020 elections while Studying Abroad; introduce them to students.votefromabroad.org and the resources available through DA volunteers, such as communications materials and voter registration drive assistance.

Step 1: Identify who is best to reach out to each contact. Is it you? Does a DA member have personal connection? A current student or staff member who belongs to DA?  For full degree and advanced degree students at local universities, a student organisation will likely be a more fruitful contact.

Step 2: Email or call contacts. Introduce yourself, students.votefromabroad.org and the resources available to help students register to vote. If you are reaching out to programs that have previously expressed concern about VfA being paid for by DA, use the phrase:  VfA is a PUBLIC SERVICE provided to all US citizens living abroad by the DPCA.  Also note that the new version for 2020 (students.votefromabroad.org) no longer asks the question about joining DA.  Example texts and scripts are available on the DA Wiki https://wiki.democratsabroad.org/display/StudyAbroad

Strategies that work:

  • Send a short introduction email with a request to schedule a phone call. A scheduled call will allow the staff member to give you their full attention.

  • Phone calls! Emails are easy to ignore. If you don’t receive a response to your email, pick up the phone and call!

  • Stop by their office. This is particularly useful with University employees. Recruit fellow DA members who are students or staff to help.

  • NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK:  Ask all your DA contacts as well as personal contacts if they know anyone that works with this population.  Locate local alumni clubs for US universities.  Sometimes it takes a few connections to get to someone who can help.  When you do find someone, ask if they know symathetic colleagues at other institutions.
  • Have Vote From Abroad business cards printed, with no mention of Democrats Abroad.  Order form to follow.
  • DON'T give up!  Staff change over the years and it only takes one sympathetic staffer to help you set up a drive.

Step 3: Make a plan to work with interested staff members. Identify what materials they need and when. Schedule follow-up during election season!

Step 4: Update the Study Abroad Map with the results of your outreach. Remove all incorrect contact information. Mark yourself as the ‘DA Contact’ and update the ‘Status.’ Document follow-up plan.

Special Note:  for local universities who host US students as a part of their general student population, the International Student office is often not interested as the population of US students may be quite small in comparison to other countries or the size of the school.  Find a student organisation and reach out to their leaders:  American societies, Democrats Overseas organisations.  If none exist you can assist an interested student to start a society, please see here for information on starting a student society.  This way the society holds the drive and your volunteers come in to assist and support them.


Tools: https://wiki.democratsabroad.org/display/StudyAbroad - sample scripts, emails and letters to help with outreach


Phase 3: Recruit and Train Volunteers to staff the onsite drives  MARCH--AUGUST

You will need people to help train, staff and manage on-site drives.  While you can register the longer-term students at any time of the year, the Study Abroad crowd will be high volume over a very short window of time, especially in the Autumn term.  Many programs will allow you to attend their Introduction, Orientation or Student Activity Fairs.  These are usually held in late August/early September and will run up against some state registration deadlines almost immediately.

Step 1:  Locate and recruit volunteers to help manage and lead drives.  Start in your DA chapter--you may already have a GOTV team, and experienced phone banking volunteers.  You may also find that volunteers who are not interested in phone banking enjoy attending drives and helping students to request their ballots.  You will need volunteers who are availble during the day.  Students within these educational communities are also fantastic volunteers–use personal networks to find friends' children who are studying abroad!  Also try to recruit at least one volunteer who identifies as Independent, which will allow you to say "I work with a group of non-partisan volunteers, some are Democrats, some Independents, but it is not discussed during a drive."

Step 2:  Hold training sessions for volunteers.  Check the  2020 GOTV Voter Information Resources Home for a fantastic training video, including the new photo signature option which will change how you register students in 36 states (no printing needed!)  Ask volunteers to watch the training video before attending a training session if possible.  Work up an agenda for the training day including lots of role playing, snacks and maybe a fun quiz with a VFA t-shirt as a prize?

Step 3:  Identify a few very strong volunteers and have them go to www.fvap.gov and become US government-certified Voting Assistance Officers.  This helps to reinforce their training, as well as giving you a strong lead when you are introducing Vote From Abroad to a new audience.  VAOs are non-partisan, government trained and certified.  In addition this allows you to encourage and develop future leaders on your team.  Eventually assign them to be primary contacts to selected schools, encouraging their further involvement.

Tools:  2020 GOTV Voter Information Resources Home, 2020 Video: Voter Registration (New Volunteers Training), 2020 VFA - How to Photograph Your Signature, https://www.fvap.gov/training/get-started.html

Phase 4: Schedule On-Site Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request Drives  APRIL--JULY

Follow up with all your contacts about scheduling on-site drives to help students register and request absentee ballots.  Capitalise on the fact that student voting was up 40% in the 2018 mid-terms and emphasise to the contacts that you will conduct a non-partisan drive highlighting civic engagement (mention your VAOs, and if pressed you can also substitute www.fvap.gov if you have to instead of VFA in case of partisan concerns).  Discuss VFAs new photo-signature option, which is the only platform featuring a completely paperless experience for 36 states.  Experience shows that students are much more comfortable registering on their phones.  ALSO no more carting the Voting Assistance Guide around!  It's all available online.

Step 1:  Reach out to contact as early in the summer as possible for events in August/September.  Some schools will be very organised and some will not.  Work with them to find a time to either host a table at a 'fair'-type event, a time to come and speak to students in a classroom, or a location in the building where you can set up shop and be in attendance for walk-bys for one or two days.

Step 2:  Maintain a master schedule and assign volunteers to shifts.  Make sure each drive has the necessary supplies (see below).  Consider signing up for a free account at Sign Up Genius to manage volunteers–it allows volunteers to sign up independently and sends them reminders, freeing you to schedule more drives.

Phase 5: Register Students to Vote!  AUGUST/SEPTEMBER/EARLY OCTOBER

Create a communication plan with each coordinator and schedule when you will follow-up with resources and materials. Each program will want to communication differently with their students. Offer all our Vote from Abroad resources and let the coordinator identify which they’d like to use. Follow-up regularly with new information, materials, etc. Push hard to hold an on-site drive.

Step 1: Provide Vote from Abroad materials to programs–send posters and email blasts to send to students in advance of the scheduled drive.  Be sure the comms remain non-partisan.

Step 2: Prepare for your on-site drives.  Use our checklist to make sure you have everything you need!

2020 Study Abroad Communication Schedule:

March/April/May:

       •Home univeristy staff targeted to include Vote from Abroad as a "best practices' for communication and promoting civic engagement for students

July/August:
  • Vote from Abroad materials in student orientation packets and communications (emails, newsletters, social media, etc.)

  • Vote from Abroad posters and flyers in staff offices and student common areas

September:
  • Email, newsletter, social media reminders to register to vote

  • On-campus Voter Registration Event

   October:
  • Email, newsletter, social media reminders to complete and submit ballot

  • Information about the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot


Questions? Contact Study Abroad Outreach Team Lead Linda Adeson at [email protected]