The Importance of GOTV Volunteers - National Democratic Training Committee

You have limited time, money, and people to bring in all of your votes on Election Day.

The good news is: you can save time and increase your impact with strong, trained volunteers who own and run parts of your GOTV strategy! It’s incredibly important to have not only enough volunteer capacity to do direct voter contact (which means phone calls and texts this year) during Get Out the Vote but also to have enough volunteer leadership capacity to execute a successful GOTV to reach your vote goals.

What Do Volunteers Do During GOTV in 2020?

OK, so you know you need volunteers, but what do they do as part of your GOTV? Especially when you don’t have people on the ground canvassing?

Answer: A LOT!

Execute the GOTV Plan

We need people to make phone calls and text voters. Currently, with COVID-19, these are our direct voter contact field tactics, in the future, we may be able to knock on doors again!

This should always be your first ask when finding volunteers during GOTV.

Volunteer Leaders

There are leadership roles for volunteers during GOTV.

Remember, you have limited time, money, and people on a campaign. Folks are ready to lead if they aren’t already leading!

Phone Banking Leaders:

Volunteers can lead phone banking and text banking shifts.

Part of this may also mean leading virtual events. Such as using a virtual platform to have a “virtual room” while text banking to share interesting conversations, just like you would do in person. This helps engage the team of volunteers and build a greater connection between volunteer teams.

While volunteering virtually may be different than in person, you can still build community, share best practices, and ask for help from fellow volunteers during a text banking shift.

For example, you can share an engaging conversation you had via text, and that can help keep the team moving toward that goal. Additionally, after a scheduled phone banking shift, you may ask volunteers to join a video call to have everyone debrief, and each person can share a highlight from conversations (and you may also have space to troubleshoot any conversations, too).

Volunteer Organizer:

This volunteer leader also greets volunteers and re-shifts volunteers who may not have signed up for additional GOTV shifts.

GOTV Captain:

A GOTV captain is a volunteer who takes the lead to execute your GOTV plan. Remember that the campaign has built the GOTV plan strategy, and you’re training the volunteer to lead executing the plan. This level of responsibility and plan execution may differ depending on the size and scale of the campaign.

This person is ideally really detail-oriented and responsive. They’ve taken the strategy and owned it to the next level!

You might also have a GOTV captain take a specific role in your GOTV plan. For example, you may have someone who directly connects with your phone banking and text banking captains about shift outcomes and creates reports (number of volunteers, volunteer shifts completed, calls and texts completed, and number of conversations).

Qualities of GOTV Volunteer Leaders

When we think about our volunteer leaders for GOTV, it’s very similar to thinking about volunteer leaders in general. Here are four important questions to frame your thoughts around potential GOTV volunteer leaders:

  • Are they consistent and reliable?
  • Are they available for all dry runs (when you run a day like you would Election Day to ensure everything is running smoothly) and GOTV?
  • Are they open to training, coaching, and feedback?
  • Do they maintain enthusiasm and enjoy working with your volunteer team?

Assessing Your Current Capacity with GOTV Volunteer Leaders

OK, you probably have a lot of amazing volunteers to consider when thinking about leadership roles for GOTV! Consider a volunteer’s strengths when you begin to think strategically about GOTV.

Who are your lead volunteers? These may be repeat superstar volunteers who sign up every week for a shift, who go above and beyond to be helpful, and who are fired up to meet their personal goals that you give them and to help the campaign succeed! They know that teamwork does, in fact, make the dream work.

Leaders who you are still working on empowering: Have a maintenance 1:1 to understand where they are seeing their greatest impact this year. Identify some key volunteer opportunities, and offer up an opportunity to see how another volunteer leader runs a phone bank or guides a team towards hitting a goal.

Leaders who are empowered but may need more training: Consider someone you already have in a confirmed leadership role, but might need a bit more help to succeed with the role you envision for them. Set up a training plan, and work with them to evaluate what training, resources, and feedback they may need from you.

Leaders who might not transition into GOTV Leadership: Evaluate if there are any supplemental roles they can serve in. If not, based on your capacity with other volunteer leaders, have a maintenance 1:1 with them now to discuss the increase of need with direct voter contact opportunities (phone banking and text banking in 2020) to ensure that they have their time and schedules blocked off to best dedicate that final time to get out the vote.

Ladder of Engagement for Your Campaign Volunteers

The importance of skill-building and escalation of volunteers starts at the very beginning of your campaign.

A very important part of that is our framework for volunteers: the ladder of engagement.

The ladder of engagement is a framework to deepen a volunteers’ engagement within a campaign or an organization through taking action steps leading into an eventual goal.

You will have a formal conversation (or escalation 1:1s) that asks them to have ownership over parts of your campaign. After a few points of engagement — and for every supporter — the timeline looks different.

Escalation 1:1 Conversation (for Confirming Volunteer Leaders)

You want to test and confirm your volunteer leaders early. Three-to-four months before Election Day is a good time to have confirmed volunteer leaders beginning to “own” their portion of the GOTV campaign work. After you have tested a volunteer with a particular task, you’ll want to fully explain and set expectations for the leadership opportunity you’re providing to a volunteer.

Here is a reminder of the escalation 1:1 conversation flow:

Debrief: Debrief their role and experiences on the campaign so far and celebrate their accomplishments.

Strategy: Explain which roles and/or responsibilities you need them to take on and why. Be realistic and honest about the time commitment and scope of work, too!

Ask: Make the hard ask!

Remember that you’ll want to also consider what additional training and resources a volunteer leader may need to be successful in their new leadership role.

As you increase your campaign capacity, especially as you think big about GOTV, this delegation becomes increasingly important. We cannot do it alone — especially with limited time, money, and people.

Reminders About The Volunteer Hard Ask

The GOTV volunteer hard ask follows a similar flow to any hard ask, but we want to emphasize three key things when you land that ask with a volunteer leader for GOTV. This is the final opportunity to volunteer for a campaign, so you want to emphasize the urgency to create impact:

  • Make multiple asks. Keep asking until you get a yes.
  • Don’t stop at a yes. Ask for everything you need (this includes all the volunteer roles, responsibilities, and volunteer shifts that you need).
  • Get a hard commitment for a specific thing (or things).

Lastly, remember that volunteers are ready to win for the candidates and issues that they care about, and they’re ready to lead!

For more on recruiting and maintaining relationships with volunteers attend “How to Recruit and Maintain Members of Your Organization” on August 7th. All NDTC Virtual Live Trainings are free to attend.

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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.