“Volunteers come for the candidate, but they stay for you.”
Be Prepared!!! (Told ya.) Cut lists and have them ready in walk or call packets well beforehand. Always have extras on hand for walk-ins. This includes any scripts, maps, directions, etc. IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE TO BE UNPREPARED FOR YOUR VOLUNTEERS.
Know who you are expecting. Have your vols sign in as they enter, with a space on the sign-in sheet to schedule another shift, of course! This way you’ll have a record of who came and you can greet people by name! If anyone hasn’t shown up, call them approximately ½ hr after their shift started. If they can’t make it that day, confirm them on the spot for another shift.
Maintain a fun and pleasant office environment. Think of your office as any other place of business. If it isn’t clean and the staff isn’t organized and friendly, volunteers are likely to take their hard earned time elsewhere. Therefore, make sure your volunteer space is clean and inviting before vols get there and that there are posters and snacks to make them know that they are loved and appreciated. The best campaign offices resemble elementary school classrooms.
Greet your volunteers and thank them as they come in. Set them up right away. In general, no one should walk into your office without being greeted. No matter what else is going on in your day, everyone should be treated with a smile and a positive attitude. Your enthusiasm will be infectious.
Value your volunteers! Tell them how excited you are to have them and how important their job is. The best way to make a volunteer feel valued is by preparing for their arrival and training them properly.
Explain the universe and what the expectations are for the calls. (You are calling Democrats today who usually do not vote every cycle. It is critical to turnout each and every one of the individuals in cycle. It is critical to turnout each and every one of the individuals in important to elect Mark Udall and Barack Obama. You will likely encounter about a 20% wrong number rate, do not be discouraged as you are doing very important list clean up, so that our staff and volunteers are not still calling these numbers in the critical 1-2 months before the election.)
Go through the script. Provide your volunteers with a list of DO’s and DON’Ts. Make sure to cover common first time pitfalls. (DO ask supporters to volunteer. DON’T write notes on the sheet instead of using the codes.)
Go over the coding and tally system. Let them know beforehand that you will ask for their help in tallying. Explain what happens with each code (5′s are removed from the Universe, 1′s and 2′s will get reminded to vote during GOTV and invited to events) so that they know how important it is to use the system.
Give them a goal. (To new vols “Most people make about 80 calls in a shift. To return vols “Last time you made 80 calls. This time can you go for 90?”)
Give your volunteer the opportunity to role play the script with you so s/he gets practice.
Make calls with a first time volunteer. First time volunteers are generally nervous, so you or a pro volunteer should make a minimum of 10 calls next to them to make sure they feel supported as they begin their volunteer experience.
Ask for and answer questions. Saying “What questions do you have?” instead of “Do you have any questions?” is an effective way to let them know it is okay and encouraged to ask for clarification .
Pay your volunteers with kindness. Thank them again and again and again and again. Offer them water and snacks. Let them know where the bathroom is. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them.
Stay Tuned for Part III Volunteer Maintenance.
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.