The Early Stages: Volunteer Engagement and Participation
July 31, 2018
Congratulations, you have just announced your campaign for public office. Perhaps you currently have one eager volunteer, a Facebook page that just went up, and a basic website with your contact information and your bio. Even with only one, volunteer engagement needs to be a focus of your campaign.
Imagine this: You host your first meet and greet, get to know new people and discuss local issues with them. It’s a decent turnout for your first campaign event, and then you “make the ask” for attendees to help with your campaign.
At the end of your pitch, a high school student introduces themselves and offers to volunteer!
You‘re a month or more away from being ready to knock on doors and don’t quite know how you’d put a volunteer to work just yet. What do you do?
You want to harness that energy early and get the volunteer involved right away. If they don’t hear from you for weeks, their enthusiasm could wane–or another candidate could snap up all their free time.
Volunteer Engagement Starts When They Are Invested
Early support and volunteer energy is instrumental to grow your campaign. When someone expresses an interest in volunteering, make sure they get an email within two days to thank them for their interest in the campaign and give them a tangible first step.
By giving them something to do, you keep them engaged and invested in your campaign.
Of course you can ask them to sign up for a phone banking or canvassing shift, but if your campaign is not at that stage yet, that’s okay! There are plenty of ways someone can help your campaign before you start contacting voters.
Here are a few ideas:
Like and Share Your Campaign Facebook Page With 10 Friends
This may sound simple, but when you expand your social media presence it gets your message to more voters. This offers volunteers a chance to feel like they’re a part of the campaign and starts allowing them to have discussions about who you are and why they support you.
Having this simple first task will immediately help with volunteer engagement with your campaign since it is both quick and easy. All they have to do is share!
People are often more comfortable communicating with friends and family. By doing this first, they will practice their pitch before they start knocking on strangers’ doors. To learn more about how to launch and grow your campaign’s social media presence take our “Digital 101” online training course.
Host a “Meet and Greet” With the Candidate
A “meet and greet” can be the first chance a voter has to meet the candidate in person. They offer campaigns the chance to share the candidate’s message and bring more people into the campaign as donors or volunteers. Private homes are often great places to host these events.
It can be daunting to ask so much of someone’s time and investment for free. But, you cannot expect them to volunteer to host an event unless you ask them to!
Many people are excited to take on this type of responsibility and invite their friends and neighbors to meet a local leader. This kind of volunteer engagement benefits your team in that you are giving them a way to learn more about you. They hear your answers to their friends and colleagues, and often creates an opportunity to gather more volunteers.
To learn more about how to plan successful events that contribute to your field and fundraising goals, take our “Campaign Events” online course.
Share Your Donation Page With Friends and Family
If a supporter shares your donation page with 5 friends and one gives $5, that’s great! Now imagine when 20 supporters do the same–you’ve just received $100 with very little effort. You are deepening the existing volunteer’s investment.
If they’ve already asked people to donate to you, asking people to vote for you will be a walk in the park!
When someone gives you money, a donor has literally invested in your campaign. They will usually stick with you and even donate again if you ask them. For help planning that re-solicitation program to get keep those new people engaged and donating regularly, take the “Raising Money,” online training course.
Distribute Voter Registration Forms at Local Events
We recommend prioritizing door-to-door canvassing. It is proven to be the most effective way to persuade the voters your campaign is targeting. But one other option for talking to residents is high-traffic canvassing. This simply means going to areas with high foot traffic such as parades, food festivals, and farmers markets and talking to the people passing by.
These areas can be a great place to distribute voter registration forms. Look for volunteer engagement opportunities for young people, new residents, and folks who have moved. Volunteers can get involved in an independent, low-pressure, fun way. Remember, a constituent cannot give you their vote if they are not registered first!
Use Your Volunteers’ Strengths
Every volunteer has something valuable to bring to the campaign. They might be a stellar writer and the perfect person to serve as your Communications Director. Perhaps they are skilled at data entry or can do some fundraising research for you. Or they might have an “in” for you with that organization you’ve been asking to meet with for months.
To figure this out, have a one-on-one conversation with them. Ask them why they’re volunteering with you, what their day job is, and which aspect of the campaign they would like to work on. Find the position where they can be the most effective.
For example, if someone is introverted and does not enjoy talking to strangers, there’s even less reason to wait to put them to work until you’re ready to delve into voter contact. But, they can dive right into that donor research you’ve been meaning to get to. Our “Building Your Network” course will guide you as you build these relationships with volunteers and find the right role for everyone.
Communicate the Staff Structure Clearly To Volunteers
Every single volunteer must know whom to go to with questions and whom to report back to with results. Even for these small, one-off tasks like sharing your Facebook page. You need someone to be the point person for the volunteer.
In the beginning, that person might be the candidate, campaign manager, or volunteer coordinator. It should be clear in the initial follow-up or thank-you email who the volunteer should direct questions to.
You don’t want someone messaging 100 friends on your behalf with the wrong message simply because they didn’t know who to ask for help.
Volunteers are incredible assets to your campaign, so don’t take them for granted. Instead, show them they’re valued from the moment they show interest. Everyone’s time is valuable, and volunteers stick around when they feel like they are contributing and helping your campaign. Truly the easiest (and kindest) way to keep volunteer engagement strong is by expressing your gratitude.
You can never say thank you enough. This shows volunteers that you truly do appreciate and value the work they are putting into your campaign. For more on volunteer engagement and how to create a strong volunteer force, be sure to take our Volunteer course !
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