How To Recruit Volunteers for Political Campaigns

November 23, 2017 - 8 minutes read

It seems getting others to do your hard work leads to some twisted practices in the bug and animal world. Some types of ants kidnap larvae from other ant colonies to serve as worker ants, the Sacculina barnacle takes over a crab’s body, turning it into a mindless host who looks after its barnacle larvae (it would even give the crab a sex change to trigger its mother-like instincts) and there is a species of wasp which stings roaches with a neurotoxic cocktail, changing the roach into a zombie slave.

Fortunately, you are human. Which makes you physically safe from such illicit practices. Plus it’s the 21st century so the law is on your side on that as well.

What do you do though, when you need someone to help with your work…for free?

Maybe you’ve got a campaign to scale up, there are multiple ground-level activities and not enough team members and funds are tight. How do you get free workers for your campaign?

attract volunteers to campaign

Leaving kidnapping, neurotoxins, and castration out of the equation, you have one thing left to do: ask for volunteers.

Doesn’t quite sound like a definitive strategy, does it?

Welp, too bad the mind-control program didn’t work out. Let’s focus on how you can attract volunteers to your campaign and get them committed to the cause instead.

Project the objective you need help with

Your volunteers would be more likely to step forward if they feel like their help is necessary to make the end goal. For that to happen, you have to show that you are a person working toward a greater public cause and require all the help you can get.

The objective you are working toward should project a future that the volunteer can envision as better than the present condition. If you could do that, people would be willing to take time out our their lives to lend a hand in the campaign.

Share stories of existing volunteers

Social proof is a driving force behind most of our decisions. People are likely to try something if the existing evidence suggests the ones who did it before had a good experience. That is why we have ratings and reviews for every product and “tried-and-tested” occurs to us as a synonym for ‘trustworthy’.

So share stories of other volunteers working in your campaign. Publish photos on your social media pages and talk about how an individual volunteer came to make a difference for the campaign. Sharing these individual stories will convince others like them to come forward and volunteer.

Identify the demographics of existing supporters

Most likely, you’d notice your active supporters fit into certain age or work groups, which would suggest other people from the same demographic would be able to participate as well. Reach out to them directly and you’d have more chance of increasing your volunteer base.

Your volunteer recruitment messages broadcast all over social media and throughout your community tend to bounce off because it isn’t targeted at anyone in particular. Identifying the common volunteer demographics help you come up with specific approaches for every type of supporter. They may be millennials, young retirees or older folk who have free time to offer. Know your volunteers to be able to reach out to others like them.

Provide volunteering options to choose from

A lot of people who would back your campaign and have some free time to offer as well do not come forward because they feel it’s going to be a longstanding commitment. Maybe the volunteer rallying call you send out is being vague about the time and task you need volunteers for.

You should provide options for volunteering activities so the interested ones can choose upfront when they could help out. Show that it is a limited period activity (volunteer on weekends, volunteer during summer ) or convey the urgency by stating the campaign deadline. People are likely to step up for such short-term commitments.

Have a volunteer management strategy

Once people show up or inquire about volunteering, you should have a plan ready to engage them. A volunteer training and allocation strategy will ensure that all volunteers understand the overall work of the campaign, their place within the grand scheme and the actual task they would participate in.

There would be different campaign tasks and responsibilities for volunteers. Explain to them in training what they are, when those tasks are performed and where the volunteers need to be. Some volunteers might have reservations and wish to go for a specific task only. Be smart about allocating duties based on their age, ability etc.

Retain existing volunteers

Remember when we discussed social proof in decision-making? Your existing volunteers would be a big factor in attracting new ones to the campaign. Maybe they would bring their friends in or maybe they would spread the message in their community.

However, first, you need to ascertain that the volunteers who come in are satisfied with their work. Your volunteer management strategy would already allocate volunteers to activities that they are comfortable doing. Give them regular updates on the progress of the overall campaign and the task they are a part of. Let them know that their contribution was a part of the progress.

Establish a culture to get them rooted

It is certain that the new volunteers would take a while to get comfortable with the task and the team they join. So you need to take an extra step to make sure the volunteers have a fine time in return for their commitment.

The good thing is all the participants are already united by a common cause. Get them to interact, have recreational activities to get them refreshed and build a culture so the participants feel like they are a part of a significant change.


All these steps will ensure that people offer to volunteer for your campaign and the ones who do, stay on board. Plus you get your volunteers to consider the goal you are working toward as a personal one so they give it their full dedication.

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