How to make the most out of a Volunteer Ask by Nancy Leeds

By at May 17, 2012 | 3:47 pm | Print

How to make the most out of a Volunteer Ask by Nancy Leeds

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any good campaign. For some candidates,
volunteer recruitment calls can be as grueling as fundraising. After all,
you are asking people to devote something even more precious than
money, their time! As difficult as it is to get started, building a base of
excited and dedicated volunteers is essential to a grassroots operation. In
a world of the finite resources of time and money, volunteers can broaden
your opportunities by performing free labor and in some cases helping to
fundraise. In addition, an office full of busy volunteers can bring a welcome
burst of enthusiasm to you and your staff.

With these recruitment tips your volunteers will feel valued and motivated
and you’ll set yourself and your volunteers up for success before they even
walk in the door!

Have a plan/Be Specific. Know what you are going to say before you get
on the phone. What will your first ask be? What if that doesn’t work, etc.
Ask for a specific time, date and activity. If that doesn’t work, ask again.
Don’t go into battle without a plan.

Know your audience. Keep specific notes on your volunteers and read
them. If a volunteer just got back from visiting her kids for example ask
how her trip went. If a volunteer has knee problems, don’t ask him to
canvass. If you’re calling someone for the first time, let them know where
you got their name from. Think about what makes this person tick. For
college students, highlight internship opportunities. For the elderly it’s a
chance to socialize and connect with the community. Tailor your ask to the

Be persistent. Don’t take no for an answer. If a time doesn’t work, ask for
another and another. If they won’t canvass this time ask them to do phone
calls, if you absolutely can’t get them to do direct voter contact, ask them
to do data entry, but always push for more. This is important work we are
doing, you have the right to be a little bit pushy.

Never end a conversation on a yes. If a volunteer says yes to canvassing,
ask the volunteer to canvass 2 shifts that week. If the volunteer still says
yes, ask until the volunteer says no. Never be afraid to over ask.

Thank your volunteer. This should be your number one priority every step
of the way. Volunteers will work harder and be more likely to return if they
feel appreciated and this starts even before their first shift.

Confirm, Confirm, Confirm. Though call time is your top priority, it isn’t
everyone’s. Getting an extra commitment from a volunteer the day
before not only reminds them they are signed up, it gives them one more
reason to show instead of going elsewhere. Confirmation calls should be
attempted 3x the day before a shift with a message left on the last round. If
a volunteer can’t make it, reschedule on the spot. Always recruit 30% more
volunteers than number you actually need.

Nancy Leeds is a Democratic Campaign Operative and Masters in Public
Administration Candidate at Columbia University. She is the author of
Campaignsick ( a blog about voting rights,
politics and best practices in Campaign Management.

Management & Strategy

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