We are Lison Laissus and Oliver Wells, NationBuilder Account Managers based in the London office. Having worked with many political parties and campaigns, we want to share what we’ve learned for people new to the process. This series is a step-by-step journey of a fictional candidate running for office, informed by our shared experience.
We are now 220 days ahead of the election, and it’s time to build and execute my volunteer program. I am more than convinced that a well-run volunteer program has the potential to be a huge benefit to my campaign––my team is quite small and I can’t afford much more staff, but I know that volunteers can do just as good a job as paid staff if I can onboard and train enough of them. However, I’m also mindful that a poorly run volunteer program has the potential to waste many people's time, which is why it’s time to build a solid strategy.
When I was building my campaign plan, I set a goal to recruit 600 volunteers which I think will be the number necessary to conduct the phone banking, content writing, door-to-door and GOTV activities. Therefore the next step to build my program will be to define specific roles people will be able to volunteer for in order to support my campaign.
Defining specific roles people can volunteer for
The first thing I want to be mindful of is that any volunteer work, especially field work, is contributing to the overall goals of my campaign: if the work is distributed, the plan must remain centralised. Every volunteer activity should serve a precise objective and be trackable, otherwise it will lead to a loss of resources and discourage volunteers.
I am also convinced that it is key to take into account the existing skills of potential volunteers. For instance, students might be best at opposition research since they are frequently researching for their own studies. Alternatively, they could run communications on social media since they are more likely to be Internet-savvy. Giving people the option to find a role that suits their skillset is a great way to get more engagement and efficiency from volunteers.
In my case, here are the roles that I have defined:
- Make phone bank calls
- Participate in door-to-door activities (petition recruitment, GOTV)
- Be a social media ambassador
- Manage onboarding for new volunteers
- Write content for my blog
Now that the roles are defined, the next step is to create my dedicated signup page so that supporters can let me know they are interested.
Creating an engaging signup page
To get more supporters onboard, I want my volunteer signup page to be clear, simple and engaging, but also to enable me to collect enough information to facilitate our internal organisation. In NationBuilder, I pick the Volunteer Signup page type, as it has been designed specifically for this purpose and includes a lot of useful features to manage signups.
I really want to keep my database organised as I’m collecting volunteer information, because I know it will be easier to sort people when we will get ready for outreach. After signing-up on my page, volunteers will automatically receive a specific badge on their profile that will allow me to find them easily later. I will also use tags to add more information, especially regarding the roles they expressed their interest in.
The next step is then to enter the specific roles I have defined above, so that people can tell me how they are willing to engage with my campaign. And to make sure someone is looking after them, I will assign a point-person to each volunteer signing-up, because there is nothing worse than having someone sign up to volunteer and nobody ever getting back to them. I have decided to pick Lucy, who is responsible for our volunteer onboarding program.
Speaking of experience, I want to make sure that the process of signing up as a volunteer is as smooth and engaging as possible. I will therefore pick a page on which I want them to land once they have signed up so that they can immediately take further action––I think my event page will be perfect for that. I will also set up an engaging default message for the social share prompt that will pop up immediately after they sign up, to encourage them to share with their friends. And finally, I will make sure the automatic email they receive as a confirmation contains all the information they need, including a point of contact.
Now that it’s all set, what I want to do is define a path for these new volunteers to help manage them and make sure we move them to action.
Moving people up the path of engagement
To drive a strong engagement from my volunteers, I want to make sure we offer them volunteering opportunities, but also, for the most committed ones, the possibility to take on more responsibilities.
To achieve this, I use the Path feature in NationBuilder. First, I define the steps I want them to go through, gradually increasing their engagement. Some of the steps outline actions they need to complete (like signing up on the page), and others define actions my team will need to complete (like proposing a volunteer date). Of course, they don’t necessarily have to go through each step from the bottom to the top: for instance, the people who sign up on my volunteer page will automatically land––because I set the path this way––on step 3 from the following list.
Step 1: Potential volunteer - I will add all the people I think could become volunteers, who I define as my most engaged supporters
Step 2: Ask to volunteer - We will proactively reach out and ask them to sign up
Step 3: Signed up to volunteer - They will land here once they sign up
Step 4: Confirm suitability for role - At this stage, my team will give them a call to confirm they meet the requirements to become volunteers
Step 5: Propose volunteer date - If so, we will share with them some relevant opportunities
Step 6: Attended volunteer event - Here, we want to make sure that they actually took up the opportunity
Step 7: Propose more responsibilities - For the best volunteers, we want to offer a larger role to support the campaign
Step 8: Accept a bigger volunteer role - This is where we’ll track who has committed to be a super volunteer
Here’s what the path looks like once implemented—we can see at a glance what the next steps are for each individual, so that my team can reach out and meet people where they’re at.
With this process is in place, I will not only be able to build relationships with my volunteers, but also allow them to put their enthusiasm and energy toward doing something useful and meaningful.
Foster friendly competition to recruit more volunteers
Since my volunteer recruiting goal is quite high, I know that I will need all the help I can get. So why not launch a friendly competition amongst my existing volunteers to see who will bring in the most people?
The first thing I need to do is create a Leaderboard in NationBuilder, where I will define the number of people to display in the ranking, who will be involved (i.e., volunteers, staff, or all?), and the time frame of the competition. Then, I create a dedicated Leaderboard page on my website to showcase the ranking, and we’re all set!
The last step is to inform my existing volunteers of the competition. I will create an email blast that includes––thanks to a Liquid variable (remember those? I mentioned them in my previous post)––a unique recruiter link. Then, I’ll ask people to share this out with their friends. Each new person who signs up as a volunteer using their link will be recorded as their recruit, which will then show in the Leaderboard. For the winner, the prize will be an invitation to lunch with me - which will give me the opportunity to hear about their experience and potentially adjust the program.
That’s it, my program is ready! I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you soon.
To replicate this campaign in NationBuilder, have a look at the resources below:
- How to recruit volunteers on your website
- Understand default paths
- Create and publish leaderboards
- How recruiters are tracked
For more on how NationBuilder can help emerging candidates and parties, learn how Emmanuel Macron’s party En Marche used it to get 359 candidates elected in 2017.