The most important US Presidential campaign in our history is fast approaching and campaigns are going to require an army of volunteers to get out the vote. As a volunteer, I’m concerned!
Covid-19 has upended political campaigns, and it’s going to have a big impact on the volunteer experience. Candidates, right now your volunteer force is in distress. This means not everyone is at their best and able to effectively motivate voters. Many volunteers may refrain from participating at all.
We campaign workers have always understood that by electing you, our situations will improve through future legislation and your representation. That was always enough for us to soldier on making calls, writing letters, knocking on doors. In this Covid-19 environment, it may not be enough to hold it together.
Campaigns will need to find ways to personalize and motivate armies of volunteers working remotely.
Seven changes to consider to maintain volunteer productivity in isolation:
- Impersonal text alert messages are wearing out.
Personalize how you stimulate and energize us to keep making calls. Technology allows you to see and analyze our productivity: how many calls we’ve made and the numbers of attempts we have made to reach people – the great majority of which go to voicemail.
- Keep us apprised and make it fun – at the very least interesting:
We’ll be ever more invested if we know how the campaign is going and if we get a sense of the bigger picture. Treat our effort as if we are important leaders in a concerted major effort. Provide regular updates from campaign staff. Our performance will improve with better training, orientation, ongoing skill building and encouragement.
A healthy dose of competition and progress toward goal attainment will make this activity in isolation a lot more fun. Share the stats including:
• numbers of calls made individually, by teams, by geography, and more;
• progress of calls vis-à-vis goals set;
• other strategies occurring simultaneously such as mailings, signage and advertising which augment our efforts.
- Break the campaign into time-based goals:
Awaiting election day to see how our efforts are paying off is a long time to slog through phoning at our kitchen island. Break the campaign into time-based segments with specific goals. Praise and acknowledge volunteers at the close of each segment. This should increase volunteer productivity, retention and recruitment of new volunteers.
- We need to hear from you the candidate:
We are looking to you for inspiration. Speak to us by video conference a few times throughout this campaign and let us know how our work is making a difference and how we are on track to win. Clarify your positions and the issues so that we are crystal clear and can accurately promote you when we reach out to voters. Just because we have volunteered does not mean that we are prepared to be confident and proficient canvassers.
- Motivate us with your understanding and empathy:
The devastating Coronavirus truth is that many of your constituents and supporters are hurting. It may be job loss, inability to pay bills, caring for children or elderly parents. Don’t overlook pain inflicted by the virus. Modify your check in strategy from “we need you” to “how are you?” Then, brainstorm how we can be more effective in our voter outreach. Let us know how our efforts are making a difference. Empathic listening will go a long way in reinvigorating volunteers.
- Personalize the effort:
Support is an important part of campaigning. Invite volunteers to report on their activities, talk about strategies and “stories from the front”. It’s important to share techniques and enjoy the camaraderie of working with like-minded people. Give us the opportunity to meet, share and hear from other volunteers in person or by video conference. Typically, you only hear from the campaign when being asked to make more calls.
- Invest in staff who will manage the remote worker experience:
This is the work of a senior-level professional. We will benefit from the experience of a professional who excels at training, coaching and retaining volunteers. This professional can train and develop volunteers who can in turn train additional volunteers.
It’s time to reexamine, adapt and modify the way you manage volunteers. It’s going to make a difference in the numbers of people who turn out to the polls in November.