In my last post, I gave you 14 suggestions for where to find volunteers. The volunteer process, however, is not only about who you can get, but also how you can successfully engage, manage, and propel dozens of volunteers at a time. Once you accumulate a team of enthusiastic volunteers, here are a few pointers on how to keep them enthusiastic and committed:
1) Make your issues clear so that your volunteers know what they’re supporting and can accurately pass along your main ideas to others. Just because people have volunteered for your campaign does not necessarily mean that they know the ins and outs of why you’re running and what you stand for. They could be there for any number of reasons – anything from a recommendation by a friend, to simply a supporter of the party ticket you’re running on. It’s your job to make sure that your volunteers are informed and their questions answered.
2) Be kind. Most of these people will be working for little to no pay. They are (often) excited to actively support something they believe in, and will be driven by that excitement. Don’t ruin this by being rude. A little gratitude, a little show of friendliness despite your busy agenda will go a long way with volunteers. Take time to learn their names and recognize the work they accomplish. Note: how you treat your volunteers will inevitably get out into the community. The way in which you establish relationships now will reflect how you will govern once in office.
3) Show leadership. When I say be kind I do not mean be a pushover. People are following you and looking to you for direction so make sure you give them something to look up to. Your strength, conviction and character will stand out to your volunteers.
4) Give the volunteers a safe, clean, calm environment in which to work. Chances are campaign volunteers will be fielding calls, going door-to-door, calling people who may or may not be welcoming. It is your job to provide a place where your volunteers can come for answers to give to others, touch base, and relax after a long day of campaigning on your behalf. It’s a small way of showing gratitude to those who are working so hard to make you successful in your campaign.
5) Make it fun. Just because there’s a deadline and an end-goal does not mean that you’re volunteers should be treated as soldiers or as robots. Use gamification techniques: turn tasks into friendly competitions. It’s often not as much about what you do as it is about what you don’t do. If you’re not prepared, if the volunteers feel like their tasks are of no added value, if you waste your volunteers’ time, then you will guarantee that the experience will fall flat. And don’t forget the pizza parties to keep up moral! A well fed volunteer is a happy volunteer.