“Flake rate” is a calculation of people who sign up to volunteer for political canvassing or events but do not participate.
This term is largely used by political operatives, nonprofit leaders, and other experts.
It’s presented as a percentage of volunteers who initially sign up for campaign activities but ultimately decline to attend. The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment suggests that 50% of volunteers recruited for an event will not participate.
A low flake rate shows strong buy-in by volunteers in a campaign’s message and structure. A high flake rate can be attributed to superficial campaign development or lack of engagement with supporters beyond their initial sign-up.
A negative flake rate occurs when more volunteers show up for a campaign action compared to the original sign-up list.
The Campaign Workshop provides a representative sample of suggestions for campaigns seeking to reduce their volunteer drop off. These suggestions include frequent confirmations with volunteers and encouraging participation as part of daily routines. Recognition for volunteer performances and a variety of work can also encourage higher participation rates.
Google’s Ngram Viewer does not register the term in English texts to 2012.
The Google Trends interest chart shows brief spikes around presidential elections but relative interest below 50%. Recent usage of the term comes from the dating app scene with users calculating planned dates that do not occur.
One way campaigns try to reduce the flake rate is to be more efficient about cutting turf.
Uses of “flake rate”
The Daily Beast (February 25, 2020): “‘We had a 75 percent flake rate,’ Leo said. ‘A good field plan can add on the margins but it can’t do it for you all by itself. You’ve got to be in the conversation, you’ve got to be on people’s minds.’”
Slate (September 6, 2012): “The metric of the day for Barack Obama’s field team is ‘flake rate’: the percentage of supporters who had registered to attend his open-air stadium speech but won’t show up for one of the replacement events the campaign is scrambling to arrange in its place after moving tonight’s convention session indoors.”