For many campaigns, volunteers remain a valuable, untapped resource. Unfortunately, they’re often regarded as a headache or hassle rather than asset. In a new book, Producing Politics, author Daniel Laurison recounts his experience as a volunteer in 2006:
“I told campaign staff that I could dedicate an entire day every week to the effort, a time commitment substantial enough, I hoped, to get me really involved in the campaign. Instead, I spent a single afternoon inflating helium balloons and attaching them to a decorative arch for a one-off event. No one called me again until it was time for phone-banking and canvassing, which I showed up for every time I could.”
Campaigns simply cannot afford to waste volunteer time and expertise. It starts with a mindset shift and a cultural commitment to maximizing the full potential of your campaign’s volunteers.
Here’s a playbook for crafting the ideal campaign volunteer journey from start to finish.
Make It Easy To Sign Up
Your campaign’s volunteer form should be easy to find, not just on your website, but via social media, Google, marketing email templates, and your email signature. A volunteer signup is one of the best data gathering opportunities your campaign will have.
The volunteer signup form should collect only the most essential information you need to get in touch and nothing more. Some forms look like SATs with the number of checkboxes a volunteer must complete. The ideal form also gives a potential volunteer the option to share information about their expertise and how they want to help.
Effective campaigns follow the “Jack Bauer Rule” – someone follows up personally within 24 hours – after a volunteer signs up. This is more than just an automatic confirmation email, but a personal message to learn more about the volunteer and why they want to help.
Submitting a form into a void is a frustrating experience. Worse still, they may share their bad experience with other voters or volunteers. Digital campaigners should set up their form to assign and track a task to the responsible team member.
In this followup should be an immediate opportunity for helping out, like downloading the voter contact app or watching an orientation training – better yet, get them to come to the campaign office in the next week.
Keep In Touch
After a volunteer has invested their time in your campaign, keep in touch so they grow as a supporter. Add them to a Facebook group and email list. Give them opportunities to share opinions on the campaign, highlight events they can represent the campaign at, and get updates from the trail.
Spare Them the Fundraising
Unfortunately, most volunteer signups just end up in the typical fundraising email list – a quick path to unsubscribing or not reaching their inbox. Have your volunteers in a separate email segment that gets mostly content and occasional fundraising asks.
Treat them more like major donors than a petition signer. They’ve offered your campaign something money can’t buy.
The more appreciated and valued your volunteers feel, the more they’ll do for your campaign. Invite them to fundraisers as guests, give them free swag, recognize them on social media – these small acts go a long way towards showing respect.
The legendary political operative Lee Atwater remarked, “The sign of a great campaign is the ability to absorb unlimited numbers of people.” Unfortunately, our modern campaigns have instead shifted their focus to almost exclusively relying on paid media and consultants.
With a small mindset shift your campaign can tap into the power of volunteers and turn them into a valuable asset that money can’t buy.