CINCINNATI — I fell into canvassing because I just plain needed a job. I started canvassing door to door with Greenpeace in the late 80s, when they had about 1,000 canvassers knocking on doors throughout the country. It blew my mind to think that every evening, 50,000 people in America were going to talk to someone like me about the environment. It gave me hope that that many people working together actually could save endangered species, transform our energy economies and preserve our natural resources.
I was working in Cincinnati when Greenpeace closed their canvass offices and so began canvassing for Ohio Citizen Action. Even though my scope was now the state instead of planet, I quickly learned how much work there was to do! I liked working with Ohio Citizen Action, because like Greenpeace, they understood and utilized the grassroots strength-in-numbers strategy, but their work was much more focused. I worked on getting local grocery store chains to carry organic produce, and on protecting drinking water from the weedkiller Atrazine. We helped pass a strong new federal pesticide law and opposed a plan by Ohio manufacturers to keep environmental releases secret from the public. These were all issues that affected people’s health, finances and the environment every day and I was thrilled to be doing something of worth for a living.
As I stayed with the organization, I met many bright, dedicated people who brought both a sense of fun and a sense of purpose to their work. I knew I had a lot to learn from them, which made me start thinking about making this a career. Eventually, I became a Canvass Director, board member, Program Director and recently moved into a new role as statewide Development Director.
More than 80% of the management of Ohio Citizen Action started out canvassing door to door or on the phones. Our whole organization is built around canvassing. Of the canvassers who moved on, many have distinguished themselves in government, law, as small business owners or in other non-profit groups. I still keep in touch with dozens of these people and find that canvassing is a bond that will always mean something to those who give it a chance and succeed with it.
In short, I highly recommend canvassing. Whether you’re looking for a career, friends for life, or even just a job; it’s a great way to go.
— Melissa English, development director, Ohio Citizen Action