When candidates start running, they’re often terrified to pick up the phone to ask for donations — even if it’s from friends or family. Unfortunately, they often face the same hurdle reaching out to supporters who can become volunteers.
This might stem from how in our culture, time is money — and there’s something wrong with asking someone for money. That’s baloney. In fact, these are two of the three things that people can do to support you. (The other one is they can give you their vote.)
Unfortunately, effective, passionate volunteers don’t just appear before a campaign, prepared and ready to change hearts and minds. Campaigns have to recruit, train, and empower their volunteer force.
Voter Engagement Leads to Volunteers
When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, his campaign reached a new level of volunteer engagement. He didn’t just deploy his team in an effort to win over voters. He sent organizers out to recruit voters and integrate them into his campaign. This unprecedented level of engagement is what got him elected.
Engaging with voters goes beyond simply knocking on doors. It’s about giving voters ownership of your campaign’s success and making sure they know they are a crucial part of your campaign.
By doing this, you change the “I” of your candidacy to a “we.” You get them to volunteer.
Measuring Volunteer Value
As you build your team of volunteers, your campaign will see innumerable benefits. You’ll be able to knock on more doors, make more phone calls, and engage with even more voters than before.
You’ll also have a group of excited and engaged ambassadors, who voters can related to and see as an example of who your campaign represents in the community.
Let’s think about the value of volunteers in terms of numbers. Imagine you’re the only person on your campaign, and your goal is to knock on 2,000 doors before Election Day. If you know that weekends are your best day to canvass — because you have the highest contact rate — and you know you can canvass five hours each day, and you know you can typically cover about 20 doors in an hour, all you need to do is some simple math.
2,000 Doors / (5 hours x 20 doors x 2 days per weekend) = 10 weekends.
So, you’d have to start about 10 weeks before Election Day to knock on all of these doors. That’s 100 hours of work. But if you engage with voters in a way that brings them into your campaign as volunteers, that equation changes.
If you can bring in just 10 volunteers, you go from working five hours a day, two days a week, for 10 weeks, to knocking on 2,000 doors in just one weekend. Bring in 20 volunteers and you can get it done in just one day.
As your volunteer team grows, you’ll engage more voters. As you engage more voters, your volunteer team will grow. When your campaign has a dedicated group of volunteers, it stops just being a campaign. It starts to become a movement.
Every cycle more people give more money to candidates on both sides. The same is true for volunteers giving their time.
Today, there’s an unprecedented level of enthusiasm out there, which will allow campaigns from across the country to interact and engage with voters that will ensure success come Election Day.
Kelly Dietrich is the founder and CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee.