You’re excited. You’re passionate. You are ready to volunteer for your favorite candidate. You might work at an event, make phone calls or go canvassing. Whatever you’re doing, this is a guide designed to turn a good volunteer into a great volunteer. Many people want to volunteer but perhaps they don’t know what their responsibilities might be or what to expect. Here we will explore what is expected from you and what you should come to expect from your volunteer experience.
1. Arrive Early
Try to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Some events are difficult to find. If you travel a distance to volunteer for an event and are unfamiliar with the area you may become lost. If the event is for a popular candidate you may have trouble finding parking. The event coordinators schedule volunteers to show up at a precise time so that they can assess who has shown up and so they can delegate responsibilities and explain the event. If phone calling or canvassing, your organizer will be training you. If you show up late you can miss out on this information. Staff run on a schedule and are especially busy. The time they schedule for this specific task should be respected so punctuality is key.
2. Make sure you understand your task
Understanding your task is very important. Sometimes you may be doing something alone or with a group. You may at times have multiple tasks. You must be aware at all times. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help if you don’t understand what’s expected of you. If you’re canvassing or making phone calls and you feel like you need training, ask for it.
3. Be Aware
When you’re volunteering at an event, your focus is on the attendees. Always be on the constant lookout for anyone you can help. If you see someone who appears to have trouble with mobility offer assistance immediately. There is almost always special seating available for people with disabilities, please accommodate them. If you’re canvassing pay attention to your surroundings. Finding common ground with a person can help them find the time to talk to you about your candidate.
4. Be Always Vigilant
If you recognize or expect agitators notify staff immediately whether you agree with them or not. In an event in Osage, Iowa there were two agitators recognized from a different candidates forum. Their voice is respected but this is not their forum and they did not pay for it. This event was an outside event and they took full advantage. When Mr. Sanders began speaking they stormed the side of the gates and started screaming. A volunteer held her hand in front of the camera they were filming with and the person holding it grabbed her wrist until they were asked to let go. Please do not put yourself in danger but do not be afraid to report these things.
5. Volunteer Time Is Not Press Time
Please resist the temptation to talk to the press while volunteering. They are there to work as well and if they cannot find someone for whom to speak they might try to find a happy volunteer. Remember you’re there to help the event, not the local news. After the event is over you are free to talk to media if they come to you. And if you run into Mr. Sanders, please do not bug him for a selfie as he is a busy man. Usually he will take a group photo with all the volunteers and talk to them afterwards. Do not try to take your selfie then either, please.
6. Dress Clean And Professionally
Showing up clean and with a smile on your face is also important. This is an actual paying job for the staff, so please show up clean and preferably wearing campaign shirts or buttons. You will be a reflection of what people think of the campaign and literally what they see all day. Dress like you would if you were to go door knocking if it’s an event. If the event is early make sure you have enough coffee in you to make it through the day. Make sure also that you wear comfortable shoes. Your role may require you to be on your feet for several hours with no rest.
7. Pack lite
Only carry on you what you need. That includes medication, your phone, etc. The event coordinators cannot successfully guarantee the security of your belongings so it is best to leave purses and backpacks in the car. Water bottles and drinks are ok to bring along with you as well as snacks but please make sure to not leave a mess behind you. Treat the area as your work-space and keep it tidy.
8. Prepare To Be Uncomfortable
Now, as a volunteer you will have to do things outside your comfort zone. You will have to talk to people, you will have to ask questions, but you will have fun. This is all part of the process. You should expect people you’ve never seen before and if that makes you uncomfortable you will get used to it. If you are working an event realize that most of them are just as excited as you are to be there so dealing with the crowd should be really easy.
9. How To Find More Volunteer Opportunities
If you would like to volunteer and don’t know how to sign up an easy way is to reach out to local progressive groups and volunteers. You could reach out to groups like ours or national groups like Our Revolution. Our Revolution has a national registry and has chapters in every state. If you visit their website you are likely to find one in your area as well as some contact information. If you are polite you are likely to find the information you are looking for.
10. Be An Inspiration To Everyone You See
Your goal as a volunteer is hopefully to inspire them to volunteer. After all, you are hopefully signing up as many of them to volunteer as possible. You want to make it seem fun because it is. Volunteering at an event is a great way to segue into door knocking if you’re nervous. It is much easier than door knocking because all the people are actually coming to you, so inspire them to volunteer just like you did as well.