I was given the opportunity to become involved on the grassroots level with the Presidential Campaign. After a few weeks, I realized how much I was learning about volunteer recruitment and retention and began jotting down notes.
I knew by late October, whether our candidate won or lost, I had learned and grown from being a part of the campaign. Most of us are involved in some form of volunteer work within our profession and our community. As finding and keeping volunteers seems to be a common concern, I thought I would share my grassroots learnings.
1. When it Comes to Volunteer Work, Passion Trumps Years of Experience
Our field coordinator was 35 years younger than I was and most of the full-time office staff was even younger. Don’t judge someone’s potential contribution by his or her years of experience, look instead at passion and commitment. The enthusiasm these young people brought to the campaign was contagious. Their passion ignited mine.
2. Each Person Is Important
We were constantly told, “every vote is important” and every contact with a potential voter makes a difference. On the final day of the voter registration period, I did a two-hour shift by myself at a local park hoping to register just a few more voters.
I walked a couple of miles, met some nice people, had some interesting election conversations, but was disappointed to return with only one voter registration card. I was happily surprised to have this one registration card received with celebration, applause, and sincere thanks! “This could be the one that wins the election for us!” Remember The Power of One!
3. Give Potential Volunteers Several Options in Ways They Can Help
When receiving a personal email that says “we need you” and please check how you would like to help, I checked the easiest, less intimidating options:
- Data entry;
- Host a canvassing/phone bank party;
- Bring food to volunteers.
These were simple ways to become involved, without overly committing my time and energy, and allowed me to see what I might be getting into.
4. When Someone Volunteers, Follow up as Soon as You Can
After completing my survey to host canvassers, I wasn’t given the chance to have second thoughts before I received a phone call to schedule a canvassing gathering at my house. The question wasn’t, “Would I like to?” but rather, “Would you like to do it Saturday or Sunday afternoon”?
5. Encourage Volunteers to Do What They Enjoy Then Push Them Into New Challenges
After attending a neighborhood house party, I thought, I can do this – I just don’t want to go knock on any doors. By the second canvassing gathering we hosted, I was out knocking on doors too! Then I was trained to register voters. Later, I found myself registering other volunteers. I had to begin in my comfort zone before I could be encouraged to step out of it.
6. Make Volunteering Fun
Knocking on doors and making phone calls to people you don’t know could be stressful. We were paired with someone else to canvas a neighborhood. Callers worked in groups. There was laughter, story sharing, and at my house, we always had cookies! I met some wonderful people and came home from every volunteer experience having had fun and feel as if my time was well spent
7. Emphasize Your Common Purpose and What Can Be Accomplished Together
Whether it was a convention-watching party, canvassing get together, phone bank, or working at the campaign office–every gathering emphasized our goals and how much we could accomplish together. Just like our employees, volunteers always need a line of sight to the mission of the organization.
8. Say Thank You
When someone is donating their time and talent to make a difference, you have a responsibility to tell them the difference they are making and say “thank you”! Every time I gave of my time, I received at least two different thank you emails, calls, or texts. I was thanked so often I was sure I was the field coordinator’s favorite volunteer until I realized she responded to everyone this way. We all knew we were valued and making a difference!
9. It Is Never Too Late to Draft New Volunteers
I volunteered to work a big get-out-the-vote event the Friday evening before the election. I thought my job might be working an entry gate, or offering directions or water to people.
Instead, I was given a clipboard and forms and asked to solicit volunteers to canvass that weekend or help as needed on Election Day. I actually had 12 new volunteers sign up to work! They were excited to help and the campaign was excited to have them. Never stop asking for help and commitment from others!