You need help! You can try to run your municipal election alone but chances are it will be exhausting, boring and lonely. Worst of all, running a solo campaign almost always results in a loss.
The life of any campaign is the volunteers. To add this crucial part to your campaign you need attract, engage and retain an awesome team of volunteers.
Attracting volunteers is hard and attracting municipal election volunteers is even harder. Charities can recruit help from people who share a passion in the same cause. Provincial and Federal Campaigns can find volunteers from like-minded people and political party stalwarts. For your municipal campaign you are starting from scratch. Tap into friends and family first – they’ll be the least likely to say “no”, but may not be the most productive. Look for community activists in your neighbourhood who have championed local projects, fought city hall or hosted a wicked street party. These community leaders have volunteer personalities and will give you their best if asked. Asking (a reoccurring theme in campaigning) is the key to volunteer recruitment. If you find yourself at the door of a new supporter and you think they connect with your message, ASK them to volunteer. As soon as you walk away that door is closed.
Now that you have a good crop of volunteers, keep them engaged. Let people know where the holes are in your campaign team and ask them what they would be interested in doing. Your retired neighbour probably does not want to be running your database and your teenage daughter may not be interested in driving around and putting up signs. It’s important to give people meaningful work so they feel like they are contributing to the win. If all a volunteer does is stuff envelopes without input into anything else, that volunteer will probably not be back next weekend.
Be grateful for the hard work your volunteers do for you. All candidates should constantly let their team know how thankful they are to have them. As a general rule I always tell candidates to welcome volunteers with a “thank you” and end the day with another. Actions speak for themselves – manage up your help, throw a volunteer appreciation party, and never let them go hungry. You do not need to feed them steak and beer, however a bottle of water and a couple of slices of pizza go a long way after walking 10 km to distribute campaign literature.
The most important objective of your team is to have fun! These people are spending their spare time on your election. If you keep it fun they’ll keep coming back and may even bring a friend.
I will touch on more key volunteer roles and responsibilities in future posts. The municipal election cycle is going to speed up in the coming weeks. Ontario’s March Break has always been a milestone in campaign kick-offs. The City Campaigner members-only site will be kicking off right alongside these campaigns – more details to come.
Update – Members of the City Campaign Team have access to volunteer templates including job descriptions and sample volunteer appreciation events.