Volunteers Will Make You Successful (as a first-time candidate)
The engine of grassroots campaigns is the hoard of volunteers doing the work. They are knocking on doors, making phone calls, sitting at tables at farmers’ markets, and replying to texts. They often work long hours for no pay simply because they believe in you as a candidate. Campaigns must treat their volunteers well.
Here are five things I’ve seen campaigns do to retain the great volunteers they’ve recruited:
Have some onboarding and training
Volunteers need to have a clear sense of how your campaign works and who is going to be giving them instruction. While you do want to foster an atmosphere where people can do what they love, you don’t want it to be an unwieldy free-for-all. Successful campaigns have some kind of onboarding process, which may or may not include having the volunteer sign a non-disclosure form. I would recommend this for most campaigns. After onboarding, the volunteer should be trained by someone in their area who can show them the ropes of whatever their particular job is. I would also recommend having a volunteer coordinator in place to manage this aspect of the campaign.
Have some consistent method of communication
Volunteers want to know what’s going on. They don’t want to hear after the fact that there was an opportunity they could have participated in. Your campaign should have a hub of communication that is used consistently so that volunteers can stay in tune with the campaign. Many campaigns use Slack or Discord for their volunteers. Smaller campaigns might be able to make it work with a Facebook group or a group chat on GroupMe or WhatsApp.
Have something for them to do
There is nothing worse than having a motivated group of volunteers with nothing to do. They will quickly grow disinterested. It is nearly impossible to reenergize a volunteer who has disengaged from your campaign over lack of activity. Before you begin recruiting volunteers, make sure you and your team are ready for them. Have specific jobs that need to be done, specific activities that can be accomplished. Make a list and use it to plug volunteers in.
Have some way to make it fun
Volunteering for a political campaign can be a lot of fun. And it can be a lot of work. Campaigns that keep volunteers engaged and energized over the long haul have figured out a way to keep it exciting. Many campaigns are now using gamification, creating leader boards where volunteers can compete against each other for most doors knocked or texts sent, for example. Others offer perks like campaign swag for a job well done.
Have some gratitude
Thank your volunteers. Seriously. Not just a cursory “thanks” at the end of the day but something heartfelt and meaningful. Maybe throw a pizza party for your volunteers or send them all thank you notes. You wouldn’t be able to compete in your campaign without them. You know that. Make sure they do too.
Volunteers will impact every aspect of your campaign. If you’re nervous that this seems like a lot of plates to keep spinning, I understand. That’s why I’ve put together an online course that will walk you through, step-by-step, how to run for office. It is going to launch soon. When it does, you’ll want to be the first to know.
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