Engaging Volunteers Through Powerful Experiences - NDTC

Deepening relationships and engaging volunteers is crucial to building a strong Democratic infrastructure. 

This November, we interviewed the Biden-Harris Victory 2020 Coordinated Campaign’s National Training Team. This series allows campaign staff, candidates, and local leaders to learn new approaches to training. We also highlighted the importance of NDTC’s training to Democratic politics.

Today, we hear from Lucia Nuñez (loo-SEE-uh NOON-yez), the Deputy National Training Director at the DNC

Before joining the coordinated campaign, she led organizing teams on the Joe Biden campaign as a Deputy Organizing Director in Nevada, Texas, Florida, and the Southeast Pod. 

She directed the winning field programs of Eric Johnson for Dallas Mayor and Josh Harder for Congress, which helped flip the House in 2018. 

Lucia was interviewed by Collyn Warner, NDTC’s Director of Live Training. 

Introducing Lucia Nuñez

Collyn Warner: Hi everyone! I’m so excited to do this blog series with expert trainers from around the country. 

Today, we have Lucia Nuñez joining us. Lucia, can you give us a brief introduction?

Lucia Nuñez: Hi everyone. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Lucia Nuñez. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m one of the Deputy National Training Directors at the DNC (Democratic National Committee). 

A Path to Democratic Politics

Collyn Warner: How did you get involved with training and democratic politics?

Lucia Nuñez: I got involved through field organizing. After my first campaign in 2016, I went to a congressional district we were trying to flip blue. This was after the first Women’s March. 

I started working with local democratic and progressive groups to host canvassing and voter registration events. Over the course of a year and a half or so, these events got bigger and bigger. And, I attribute that to the fun environment we created by doing high energy trainings at the beginning. 

Democratic Trainings Need High-Energy

I observed over time that as we improve the training, the quality of the canvassers and the work improved.

It wasn’t just about giving people the information to go door to door. It was about getting people excited to be doing what we were doing, welcoming people to the movement. 

So, the high-energy trainings became a really important part of what happened that cycle. That’s how I got into training. It sparked my interest then, and I’m very grateful to be in a training role in an important cycle like this one.

Training Across 50 States 

Collyn Warner: What does your current work look like with the Biden-Harris Victory 2020 Coordinated Campaign?

Lucia Nuñez: This cycle, I have been working to support the distributed organizing team through the creation of training programs and materials. The team is responsible for a 50-state organizing strategy. They organize with volunteers outside the battleground states to make phone calls and do texting, along with other forms of voter engagement.

Training Corps

By coming up with really solid materials and constantly updating training materials, we train thousands of volunteers a day. Because we’re training so many people, no one person can give all the training sessions themselves. 

Half of the work has been recruiting, training up, and auditioning a team who we call Training Corps. They do multiple training sessions a day engaging volunteers on various actions they can take. 

Equity and Politics Training Program

The other part I’m excited and proud of is the Equity and Politics Training Program I initiated. This consisted of 11 different live training events through October. 

Volunteers could join to learn more about how to make democratic politics more welcoming, empowering, and inclusive for everyone. We talked about coalition building, hosting equity informed events, and voting rights. 

It’s been a really good time to be part of this important election with an awesome team.

Creating a Magical Volunteer Experience

Collyn Warner: How do you approach training or what is your training philosophy?

Lucia Nuñez: Training people on the technical know-how is only like half of it to me. The other half that excites me the most is bringing the sparkle and magic to the volunteer experience. 

It’s particularly important in a year like this, where everything is virtual. 

It’s about giving people the knowledge and empowering them to be their best selves. It’s really about welcoming people and onboarding them to the team. 

Everybody needs to know they are needed as a part of the team. That they have power and we, especially, have power as a community. 

My style is a little bit of pizzazz, I guess you could say. It’s important to bring sparkle to the volunteer experience. And, I think that starts with training.

Building The Bench 

Collyn Warner: The National Democratic Training Committee trains candidates, staff, local leaders, all over the country for free. And, we have an amazing trainer community that helps us train so many folks. What impact does NDTC’s work have with regard to training and democratic politics?

Lucia Nuñez: You guys are awesome. I’ve been to one of your training sessions in Reno. 

It’s important to provide free training opportunities to Democrats everywhere. Some parts of our country have a stronger democratic infrastructure than others. There are more investments in some parts than others. 

But, there are Democrats everywhere in every single county who are ready to step up and run for office and volunteer for local candidates.

And you guys are bridging that gap in access by offering these free trainings to people everywhere. Now, virtually, of course, it could not be more important to build our bench of Democratic candidates while engaging volunteers. 

We have to start doing that all over the country. And, that’s exactly what you are doing. 

Process and Practice

Collyn Warner: Thank you. With all of your training experience, what is the most important thing you have discovered or learned along the way? 

I’ve been working on trainings that involves quite a few stakeholders. It’s important to set up on the front end, multiple points for feedback and alignment with all the various stakeholders.

And, of course, the material evolves a little bit as stakeholders give their input. So, it’s been important to build the expectation [for evaluation] into the process and communicate that clearly to everyone. 

It’s also been important to keep in mind who the audience is. What information and experience are they coming in with? 

And then finally, it’s important to practice. Do a run-through as you would if it was theater. Time it. Set up your lighting. Set up your background on zoom. 

That’s all been very important as I’ve been learning. 

Authority and Authenticity 

Collyn Warner: What is one piece of advice you would like to give folks who are learning to increase their training or facilitation skills?

Lucia Nuñez: I think it’s important to have authority over the subject matter when you are facilitating. 

It’s important to know your stuff and do your research. But, I think more important than that is people value authenticity over authority. So, when you’re facilitating, keep in mind the human aspect.  Whether you just met them that day or previously, bring your full self to the session. 

It’s important to let your genuine enthusiasm shine through because that is what I think creates sparkle. A little bit of the polish comes from knowing your stuff and being well-prepared. But, the real sparkle magic of it comes from being your authentic self, while being enthusiastic about the work.

Closing Words

Collyn Warner: Thank you for sharing how it all comes together and a little bit of wisdom.

Lucia Nuñez: Thank you for having me. It’s such an honor. Thanks for the work that you’re doing with NDTC. 

For a deeper dive into engaging volunteers, take a look at our course on Building Your Volunteer Team! 

Building Your Volunteer Team

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Collyn Warner

Since 2008, Collyn Warner has spent most of her time working on political and issue-based campaigns, community organizing, and training. She started her work in these areas in red (and primarily rural) areas in the regional South. In addition to these efforts, Collyn previously worked on event coordination, communication efforts, and logistics at the International Monetary Fund, as well as membership development with Business Forward. She has worked in communications and outreach for the Campaign for Southern Equality, Neighbors for Equality (a grassroots LGBTQ rights group), Amnesty International, and higher education institutions.

Collyn completed her M.A. in English (Composition and Rhetoric) at The University of Alabama, where she was awarded funding to research the digital tools of community organizing across LGBTQ advocacy efforts in North Carolina, and she has presented on activist literacy, digital organizing, and grassroots initiatives at national conferences.