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The secret to recruiting volunteers through 8 swift steps

Published: Nov 22, 2016

All work and no play might make Jack a dull boy but, let me tell you, all work and no pay isn’t very appealing either. Now those of you who have been part of a campaign already know how important volunteers are. They help you scale a campaign and are your biggest advocates when trying to win over voters. Without volunteers, it becomes almost impossible to consider winning state or national elections.


For the natural born leaders among us, it might be a cinch, however for the rest, volunteer recruitment is the part where campaigns fail to take off. It shouldn’t be so because there is no secret to charming volunteers. Rather, you have to get through to them so they relate to your campaign goals and “offer to participate” (after all, that’s what ‘volunteer’ means).

These eight steps will improve your volunteer recruitment drive. Use them to enlist volunteers quickly and give your campaign a lift up.

1. Indulge in the family

A good way to scale recruitment is to turn early volunteers into recruiters. It allows them to spread the message with their perspective of the campaign. Plus it gives them a chance to better contribute to the group and builds a long-lasting bond.

That’s what the Les Republicains did in their campaign for the 2016 primaries. They trained early volunteers who then went back to their cities and set up more phone banking centers. This really sped up their volunteer recruitment process by months.

2. Ease in the task

Many supporters who would like to help you out do not offer to do so in fear they might not be up for the task. Your goal is to make the learning process easy for them. The use of technology in today’s data-driven campaigns might also make the job seem intimidating at first. So break down the exercise for them so that their initial fire isn’t dampened by the drill.

In a previous post, we spoke of how the Les Republicains organized training sessions for hundreds of volunteers. With the aid of scripts to guide them through every phone call and our calling software that automates tasks like lining up the next call and smoothly syncing data within the group, the party recruited 600 volunteers in 4 months!

3. Discover their cause in your campaign

As the saying goes “A volunteer is worth twenty pressed men.” (or was it two?)

The point is, paid or forced workers won’t share the same drive in your campaign so enlisting volunteers is important. You can always find the initial supporters in the ones who share your priorities. For the others, you have to discover the fuel that motivates them. Take the time to understand the issues they care about and address how your goals align with theirs. Show them your team is the group they fit into and they would love to join in the efforts. Use polling software to understand your voter better.

4. Be clear about the give and take

A campaign must not be vague in what is expected from its volunteers. Everybody knows the unknown is scary. So convey what the supporter can do to lend a hand in your campaign. Be sure to answer the questions

  • What do you need?
  • What can they offer?

When you clearly express the terms as an unmatched effort only they could provide, supporters are more likely to step out to help. 

5.  Reach into their circle

One way to get to volunteers is through people they know and trust. These people would be ideologically connected and be more willing to invest time in the campaign. This approach is known as concentric circles recruitment. This really scales up your volunteer recruitment because you already know how your campaign serves the end goal of their demographic. Once you reach through to someone in the circle, it takes lesser effort to reach people with similar issues and motives. 

6. Settle their curiosity

A lot of times, volunteers have questions about the campaign issues that they can’t find answers to. It’s really hard for people to commit to something that appears shallow. So open up to them as much as possible. One way to do that is to have the answers readily available online.

You can’t possibly answer every question that arises in their mind. However, you could ease them into the task with answers to the most frequent ones.

  • Are there risks involved?
  • Are their skills enough?

7. Foot in the door

Avid supporters are more likely to volunteer when asked. If they refuse out of inconvenience, you could ask for their help in some other way. People are more likely to say yes to a request if they have already refused to a prior request. Ask them for help with something that’s well suited for them.

On our voice calling software, it’s quite simple to carry forward an earlier conversation because notes entered from the past calls provide context. You can check the exact inconvenience they had last time and seek help with an alternate request. It’s guaranteed to get you more volunteers. 

8. Be reachable

It’s also important that your campaign is accessible for willing supporters to get on board. So make the sign-up easy to discover. Have a “Would you like to volunteer?” query in your phone banking script when contacting ardent backers of your cause. Direct ready-minded ones to an online sign-up form. Email links to the form to your supporters.

For the ones who are not so tech-savvy, you could go for our web form built right into your account. Just copy and paste the code in your website and get volunteers who sign up added directly to the campaign.

sign up form

You should have a point person to coordinate the ones who accept so they feel part of the campaign.

For your next campaign, include these practices and your campaign will definitely take off where most others fall flat.



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