Get your volunteers into the office ASAP

If a volunteer offers to come into your office and help out, get them into the office as soon as possible. 

Volunteers can bring a lot to a campaign. They're often unreliable, but if you manage your volunteer program well and have a little luck, you may add volunteers in name who are more like staff members in practice. 

My super-volunteer lesson

I learned the value of good volunteers a few years ago with a pair of brothers. They contacted me early in the campaign to ask if they could help. I got back quickly and got them materials to do some doorbelling. They doorbelled the precincts within a few days and did it well. 

I gave them more precincts to doorbell, and got the same results. After a few iterations of this, I asked if they'd be willing to head up our doorbelling program. They happily accepted. The head of a campaign's doorbelling program (field director) is often a paid position, and we were fortunate to get two volunteers to take it over and do it exceptionally well. 

Why get super-volunteers who contact the campaign into the office ASAP?

Super-volunteers generally offer their time because they care deeply about the cause. They intend to volunteer every year and devote a lot of time to it. They want their time to be respected and appreciated. If a campaign blows them off for a few weeks before responding, they won't feel like they're being valued. And they'll likely find another campaign to help.

They also want to feel like they're going to be a part of the campaign. They want to be aware of decision making processes. They want to be in on the ground floor. If they sign up to volunteer on your website, get added to a fundraising list, receiving 10 fundraising emails over the next month and don't hear back from an actual campaign staffer, they're probably not coming in to help your campaign. 

How do you know which volunteers will be super-volunteers? 

You don't. So treat all volunteers very well. Treat them all like they might be super-volunteers. You might just create a super-volunteer that wouldn't have existed otherwise. 

How do you get them into the campaign early? 

This is often a hurdle for campaigns. Soon after you announce, you may not have a lot of phone calling and doorbelling ready for volunteers. The solution is to get creative. Don't just think of volunteers as phone callers and doorbellers. Ask what skills they have. Ask if they have something in mind that they would like to do. Find something they can work on to keep them coming back. 

Here are a few ideas to help you always have something for volunteers to do. Even if they drop in unannounced. 

  • Call volunteers. You should keep a "potential volunteer" list that needs to be called. Get one from the local party or a prior candidate. Have your volunteers call other volunteers to schedule times for them to come in. 
  • Data work. If you have a database of voters, donors or volunteers, there's always something you need done with it. Have volunteers do that. 
  • Scheduling. There are hundreds of things the candidate can attend all campaign long. Have them research events in the district, and put them on a calendar with details about each event. The candidate doesn't have to attend all of them, but it's good to know what is available. 
  • Research. You can always do more research. Most of it should be done before the campaign kicks off, but there's always more to know. Have them do more research on the district or the issues. Ask them to summarize their research in a memo and send it to you. 
  • Photography. If you have a volunteer who is an instagram superstar, have them take photos of the district or follow the candidate around and take photos of him. You can use them in social media, on the website or your advertising if they're good enough. 

Those are just a few ideas. Tailor the volunteer work to your campaign. Look at the campaign manager's to do list. There is bound to be something on there a volunteer can help with. Have it organized in advance so you don't waste a volunteer's time. 

Give them a title

Finally, give them a title. If a volunteer shows up early and often, give them a title and job description. There is nothing like a title in the campaign to keep a volunteer coming back. 

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