This article provides an overview of ways to structure your volunteers’ work so they enjoy themselves, feel supported and comfortable and power your campaign to win.
Political parties engage volunteers to power their campaigns, but without good structures and procedures, things can go very wrong, or you just won’t optimise their work to win. There are many tips and tricks to help your party get the most out of volunteers while giving them an exciting and empowering experience of Green campaigning.
Volunteers are the backbone of your campaign, and how they are treated, organised and valued will directly determine the success of your campaign. Even though they’re not paid, an election campaign becomes like a small organisation and you would do well to treat it that way, with you as the manager and your volunteers as your employees.
See The Management Centre’s Three Dimensions for Effective Management and Three Ways to Manage Through Uncertainty.
You want to consider the entire experience for your volunteers from beginning to end to optimise their participation.
See the organisation Purpose’s template of procedures (below).
If you don’t engage volunteers (fast and well), you’ll lose them. It’s important that your flow of volunteer onboarding includes reaching out to volunteers quickly after they indicate their interest in participating, developing authentic relations and including opportunities for volunteers to grow, feel supported and be heard, or they’re likely to disengage.
It’s important to remember that volunteers are just that: volunteers. They’re not being paid, and so they won’t be able to prioritise your cause above their paying jobs. It’s important to keep this in mind when planning people’s capacity, the expectations you set, and how you treat them. They’re giving you their free labour, so be sure to thank them and make them feel valued. If they don’t, they’ll leave. Giving volunteers greater responsibility and decision-making power is a good way to make them feel more invested than someone being ordered around. But ultimately, accept that some volunteers may have to stop unexpectedly.
If there are certain positions that you feel are deserving of someone’s undivided attention, consider using some of your budget to pay them.
See Decentralised organising in What is organising? *LINK*
Key steps in developing how you organise volunteers:
These are a set of norms or expectations to establish to ensure everyone feels comfortable in online or offline spaces. It’s good to crowdsource these, state them out loud at the beginning of an event or have them posted up on a wall. These tend to be related to assumptions about others, for example assuming best intentions from others, what to do if you have an issue, being aware of who is speaking the most, and creating the space to ask for the accommodations we need.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of any campaign, and you won’t win without them. The more you invest in their experience, through considering their experience, developing their leadership and ensuring they feel agency, purpose and connection, the better your results will be.
Last updated: June 2022