Reading time: 22 minutes

How To Get Volunteers For Political Campaign: Step-By-Step Plan With Tips

By:
Published: Mar 13, 2024

Volunteers are a must for political campaigns. Their role in a campaign is beyond question. So the critical question is – how to get volunteers for a political campaign?

Volunteers tend to show up organically as your campaign grows in popularity. But this will give you uneven resources that ebb and flow with the campaign’s fortunes – often leaving you critically understaffed at crucial junctures. 

Instead, you need an active plan that considers all factors, like recruitment, training, engagement, rewards, and team management.

Important: Only unpaid personnel count as volunteers, which does not need to be reported. The people the campaign pays for are considered employees, and their salaries must be reported as campaign expenses. To quote the FEC – “If volunteers are, in fact, paid by any person for their services, then the activity is no longer considered volunteer activity.”

So then, here’s how you recruit and retain volunteers for your campaign: 

Define your need 

You ‘need’ volunteers, but defining your need comes down to a more practical list than that. Here are some steps to keep in mind – 

How many roles

First, outline all the roles you want volunteers to take up. Create this ‘master list’ in a spreadsheet to track how many you want versus how many you have at any given time. Ensure you have some buffer and extra roles for all-purpose tasks like ‘fetching the posters from the printers.’ 

Minimum number of volunteers needed 

You need to ensure your spreadsheet tracks what is the lowest number of volunteers you need. For this, you must understand the required resources for each role and give yourself a buffer. Remember that there will be absentees for health, family, other commitments, etc. So, it is better to keep a minimum in mind when planning, not the ideal. 

For example, if you need to make 100,000 phone calls this week, how many calls can each volunteer make daily? 

Pro tip: Compound your growth when it comes to recruiting volunteers. You can begin by having your own staff make calls and get volunteers to sign up. Once that first batch of volunteers is settled, you can dedicate a portion of those volunteers to making more calls and finding more volunteers. This will ensure you keep some resources dedicated to growing your volunteer base constantly. Begin small, but plan to grow big. 

Rotate your resources 

You will always be limited in your resources – volunteers are not available at all times, in all places, for all tasks. Take a survey among your volunteers and try to plan their allocation in a way that matches their availability. 

For example, if there is a major holiday coming in the last week of June and all your college-aged volunteers are available in an area, then that is when a rally should be planned there, and they should be switched from making calls to handing out flyers at the event.  

Such ‘rotation’ ensures your volunteers are given more flexibility in their work – rather than aiming to recruit more volunteers on the spot. 

Your campaign must find out how many of your volunteers are open to such work, when they will be available to do so, and how to get them prepared for any real-world events – all ahead of time.

Geo-plan your volunteers

Your campaign will take you around the constituency, state, or even the country – as needed. You will need volunteers on hand wherever you are. But you cannot just show up and hope for the best. 

You must ensure your plan maps your schedule with call-ups for volunteers weeks beforehand and allocates resources to coordinate with volunteers on the ground.    

Once you have this spreadsheet – divided into roles needed weekly and in each location, it will become the bedrock of your future plans. 

Short-term/location-specific volunteers

The first step is to plan backward from the day of voting to when your campaign formally launches. Your plan must be sorted by region and date, along with short-term and long-term. 

Keep in mind you need a few weeks in each location to do outreach, attract volunteers, train them in the tasks you need them to do, and then coordinate for the day when they are needed the most. Most of these volunteers will be short-term resources who will help you because you are in their town or village for the weekend to campaign. 

This will be more expensive than long-term prospects since you need to make outreach, training, and coordination in each location. So allocate accordingly. 

Pro-tip: Long-term volunteers could take up some mentoring and training of new volunteers.

Use the power of social media

Make social media a prime target for your pre-event outreach efforts. Post about upcoming canvassing events or other volunteering opportunities to your followers on social networking sites Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

volunteer-for-democrat-campaign-sample

Image: Tarrant County Democratic Party advertises on Facebook for GOTV Volunteers for the 2020 election season. Source.

Find local Facebook groups interested in the issues your campaign is working on. You can post about volunteering opportunities on these groups yourself or collaborate with the organizers of these groups to leverage the power of their supporters.

Reach out to local communities to help gather volunteers 

While online volunteer recruitment through social media works well to recruit individual volunteers, getting the endorsement of a community or a union that aligns with your cause in the area you’re running in can boost your volunteer base significantly.

These groups can mobilize their supporters to take part in on-the-ground activities for your campaign. And since your campaign’s values align with theirs, you can be sure they are willing volunteers. 

Ensure you reach out to unions, colleges and universities, local advocacy groups, and local religious communities well in advance. 

Plan texting and sign-up campaigns weeks in advance

One efficient way to gather volunteers is to host geo-specific texting campaigns, encouraging contacts to reply to the texts to ‘sign up’ for your campaign. You can then host a calling campaign to all those who respond for further details and give them more information. 

volunteers-for-political-campaign

Here’s an example of how that can be smoothly set up, using CallHub

  • Begin by sending out texts to your verified supporters, asking for volunteers in a region to sign up. For example, they can reply ‘Yes’ to the texts if they want to volunteer.  
  • Set up a Workflow that checks your replies automatically and saves the contacts of those who sign up. This contact list can be used to make phone calls to them directly before any major events in the region. 
  • Set up a node in the Workflow to automatically send them volunteering opportunities and details when there is a need in the area. 

Such location specific pre-planning will become the bedrock of your events long before they happen. 

Project the objective you need help with – giving a set end goal. 

Your volunteers would be more likely to step forward if they feel like their help is necessary to make a specific end goal – so define that for each location. The objective should be relevant and situational to the volunteers (think beyond ‘vote for me’), especially if there are multiple issues that are important to your base. 

Take this example from Bernie Sander’s 2020 campaign:

bernie-sanders-volunteer-objective

Have training for the specific event volunteers are expected to handle 

For example, when training volunteers for door-to-door canvassing, make sure they are aware of:

  • The main talking points for the campaign
  • The designated area they are canvassing
  • How to answer questions from constituencies
  • Splitting into teams for canvassing
  • Where and where not to place campaign literature
  • Keeping notes while canvassing

Similarly, have training on the day of the event that is highly specific to what they will be engaging in so that the instructions are fresh and relevant for these weekend warriors. 

Set up a ‘thank you’ appreciation communication after each event

Prior to your event in town and after the event, make sure you keep sending volunteers updates about your campaign. This keeps you in their mind and encourages the more strong-minded among them to volunteer for your campaign full-time or perhaps volunteer in another location close to their home. 

Remember you need to do all of these things in advance – so that on the day of the event or rally, your volunteers in that location or for that day are good to go. 

Did you know: According to a Pew Research study, 53% of US voters in 2020 said they – “…engaged in at least one of six different political activities over the past six months –  including contributing money to candidates, attending political rallies or events or working for campaigns.”

Long-term/full-time volunteers

Short-term volunteers are more motivated by the idea of making a difference over a weekend or a few days when your campaign is in town. 

However, for long-term volunteers, you will need more committed people who will be looking towards this as an opportunity to begin a career in politics or who are hoping for this to be a learning and growth experience in a professional sense. Also, you will have to maintain a constant recruitment drive for such folk throughout the duration of your campaign. 

Keep in mind – these long-term volunteers are the primary ones you are hoping to attract when you look for ‘how to get professional volunteers for a political campaign.’ So, invest heavily in helping them achieve their aspirations. 

You will need to: 

  • Set up a permanent sign-up form on your website for volunteers
  • Run a calling campaign to attract long-term sign-ups
  • Issue guidance about long-term career prospects
  • Have regular managerial-styled training sessions 

Set up a permanent sign-up form on your website for volunteers 

Promote the work of these volunteers on social media and in your outreach campaigns. 

The first step to ensuring you have a continuous flow of serious volunteers is to have a prominent ‘sign up’ section on your campaign website. 

sing-up-to-volunteer-for-a-zoom-phone-bank-sample

Image: Sign up page for volunteer phone banking opportunities with the Democrat Party Source

This is very critical since a lot of people who might want to sign up, having heard of your campaign from a friend or some other source, will search for your campaign online. It is crucial that they are able to find the ‘volunteer now’ section of your website easily. 

Pro tip: If you are a CallHub user, we offer embeddable agent sign-up forms that you can add to your website. People signing up via this form automatically get added to your designated campaigns as agents. So as soon as they sign up, they are technically ready to start making calls, having peer-to-peer conversations, or sending out text messages immediately. 

how-to-get-political-volunteers-agent-activation

Image: Embeddable code available in CallHub for campaign websites 

Just add this embed code (Available under ‘Embeddable Forms’ in your profile settings) to your website’s page, and you are all set to let volunteers sign up for your campaign. 

Run a calling campaign to attract long-term sign-ups

While this nets those who are passively interested, you need to run an active calling campaign at the start of your election among your identified voters – and make a strong pitch for volunteers among them. 

For example, you can initially have a calling campaign (run by your staff) among your identified supporters, surveying them to see how many would be interested in volunteering for you and what kind of time commitment they can give. 

You can then follow up with a text or call campaign among those who indicated they would be interested to provide them with more details and let them know about opportunities to volunteer. 

Issue guidance about long-term career prospects

When you make a pitch to your supporters, you will, of course, motivate them with the idea that a win for you will be a push for the policies they believe in. However, you must reinforce volunteer commitment by making it clear to them what they will gain from a professional point of view. This document must include things like – 

  • Certification/recommendations you will provide at the end of it. 
  • Specific roles that will be useful for those looking for a career in political organizing. 
  • A list of tasks they are guaranteed to be assigned to help them learn ‘how the machine works.’ 
  • Mentorship/learning time with senior advisors in the campaign.

Have regular managerial-styled training sessions 

Short-term volunteers need training about what to do. Long-term volunteers need training on how your campaign is run – and they need it repeatedly. 

Long-term volunteers require training on a host of campaign-related topics: 

  • Rules and regulations of a political campaign 
  • The tone and voice of the campaign 
  • Policy positions and talking points about the latest issues 
  • How to conduct themselves when representing your campaign  
  • How to read and understand analytics and poll statistics, to make reports 
  • Organizing and running local events on behalf of your campaign 

Think of this training as the preparation ground for future campaign managers – and the skills they would need to run a campaign from a macro perspective and not limited to a single event or type of campaigning. 

Fun fact: According to research conducted by Zippia, in 2023, there were over 10,000 campaign volunteers working across the United States. And their average age was 42 years old. So, it’s not all college students and political aspirants. Volunteers are everyday people across age groups. 

General tips for campaign volunteers

While the above are specific ideas on how to build a team of volunteers, divided by their role and location, there are some tips you need to keep in mind across all volunteers to ensure you have a smooth campaign. 

Provide volunteering options to choose from

You should provide multiple options for volunteering activities so interested ones can choose upfront when they could help out. 

List activities as a limited period activity (volunteer on weekends, volunteer during summer ) or convey the urgency by stating the campaign deadline to attract volunteers. People are likely to step up for such short-term commitments. 

Have a volunteer management strategy & software

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 in which they will participate. Be smart about allocating duties based on their age, ability, etc.

To keep this in line, ensure your campaign has volunteer management software that’s:

  • Easy for your volunteers to use
  • Lets you view a report of volunteer activity
  • Integrates with your CRM
  • Fits your budget

Read more: 23 Best Volunteer Management Software to Recruit and Organize Volunteers

Ensure volunteers receive recognition 

In all the communication your campaign sends out before an event and after the event, make sure volunteers are in the ‘front and center.’ Especially on social media, volunteers will get a morale boost when pictures of their work are posted, with a few words of encouragement and thanks. Ensure volunteers feel ‘seen’ by the campaign. 

appreciate-political-volunteers-sample

Image: Marion County Election Information celebrates volunteers on Twitter in 2023. Source

This is especially important in terms of personalized messages of thanks you must send out after each event or milestone. Ensure your email, or text message, or pre-recorded voice call is customized so that volunteers understand you are giving them your time and attention. 

In the end, if your message is strong – you will find no shortage of volunteers. But they are, like the voters themselves, looking towards you to set an example of leadership and guidance. So, as long as you remain true to your ideals (and follow these steps,) your campaign should be a well-helmed ship all the way to election day. 

Best of luck!

Categories:

Who should win the 2024 elections – Trump or Biden?

"I'm rooting for Trump. Biden's last term showed how he can send America..."

Join the discussion