“Everyone is a potential volunteer.”
Where Should I Look?
Everywhere! You are a representative of the campaign at all times and this means you are always recruiting. Work it in into the conversation at the grocery store (I’m just stopping in for some Red Bull, I work at the Democratic Party Headquarters and…) 9 times out of 10 the cashier will keep bagging, but the 10th time you might have gotten yourself a phone bank captain!
Democratic or Community Events. Have a sign up sheet wherever you go. Pitch the program to people at the Central Committee or folks dropping by the County Dems table, these people are already interested all you have to do is sell them on how fun it is and how great they will feel for being involved.
Your 1’s! Make sure you stress to your volunteers that they should be asking supporters if they would be interested in getting involved, and MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW UP soon after, if the volunteer can’t schedule the person on the phone/door right away. No supporter should leave the office without being asked to vol.
Lists in the VAN, Obama lists, Caucus Attendees, Party Volunteers, Community Activists, House Party attendees, anyone who has expressed interest in the past.
Other Volunteers and Activists! At every One on One meeting you should be asking people if they know anyone else who would be interested in getting involved. You should also ask your volunteers to help recruit their friends, spouses, etc. One of the reasons it is so important that your volunteers have a good experience in the office is that their experience will surely be spread by word of mouth.
What Should I say?
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 individual.
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.
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 the number you actually need.
Stay tuned for Part II: Volunteer Training!
Nancy Leeds is a Democratic Campaign Operative and Masters in Public Administration Candidate at Columbia University. After the Iowa primary in 2008, Nancy recruited 100 shifts in 3 days for John Edwards. She is the author of Campaignsick (campaignsick.blogspot.com) a blog about voting rights, electoral politics and best practices in Campaign Management.