Volunteers are the lifeblood of a campaign. They freely give of their time to help you do often tedious work. Campaigns wouldn’t succeed without them. Whether it is the little old lady stuffing envelopes and making calls or the 14 year old doing data entry, there needs to be a place on your campaign for EVERY PERSON who wants to help you. Everyone should have a role that caters to their skills, interests and expertise.
To stay organized you should assign the job of Volunteer Coordinator to one of your more ardent supporters. Having one person to go to with concerns or for scheduling volunteers to be at events will save time for campaign staff.
Most volunteers are willing to be involved in any activity, but you keep them coming back when they feel like the campaign cannot survive without them. Assigning jobs according to the strengths of a volunteer is optimal, but not always an option.
There will be times where there is nothing for a volunteer to do. NEVER turn them away. Mess up papers so they can do your filing, have them sort literature or do data entry that you already finished. Countless volunteers have been turned away because they didn’t want to knock on doors and the campaign staff couldn’t come with a list of other non-door knocking things that needed to be done.
If someone comes to you to volunteer their time and you don’t let them help you, you’ve angered a voter who will tell all of their friends and neighbors. You will lose volunteers, potential volunteers and even supporters if it seems that the campaign is too disorganized to utilize their talents.
Most importantly, thank your volunteers and show them how much they are appreciated. Make room in the budget for the occasional pizza party for when volunteers stay late working on a big project or after a long day of canvassing. It will not only keep them coming back to your campaign, but a positive experience will often inspire them to volunteer in the future.
To review: Assign a Volunteer Coordinator, identify and use the skills of each volunteer if possible, never turn away help (even if you have nothing for them to do), and show them that you appreciate their hard work.