Volunteers are an important part of almost every political campaign. Very few campaigns have the money to have paid staff do every needed task, so chances are much of your campaign work will be performed by volunteers.
I’ll cover how to recruit volunteers in another post, but once you have them here are some tips for how to keep them and help them to be more effective.
First and foremost make sure that all paid staff treats volunteers professionally and with respect!
Several years ago I was working on a campaign where a low level paid staffer came in tossed his keys at a volunteer and said, “Yeah… I drove my car into a ditch down the road. Get a couple people and get it out. I have to make some phone calls.” Fortunately for him the volunteer was more professional than he was. Candidates, paid staff and consultants should all be expected to treat volunteers as valued members of the team. Because they are!
Give the volunteers well defined responsibilities and reward those that exceed expectations.
A well-defined “job description” will cut the amount of time you need to spend getting a new volunteer up and running. Rewards for volunteers don’t need to be a paid job. Give them a title (maybe business cards) with other volunteers to manage, an invitation to a campaign event as a guest, not free labor, or include them in some higher level discussions/planning involving the area they volunteer in.
Track Volunteer Performance
Compliments a great, but a compliment is even more effective when the volunteer knows that you are actually aware what their contributions are. “John that was great. I appreciate you getting all 200 invites out in the early mail pick up.” It can also be used to build friendly competitiveness between volunteers.
In the hustle of a campaign sometimes you can forget about volunteers, but a few kind words, and actions to back them up, can help you to build a loyal team for years to come.