Introduction to Volunteer Management

Members of Community Voices Heard.Volunteers make up the backbone of your field work – without them, you cannot hope to achieve the scale you need to have an impact.

Unless your voter universe is very small and you’ve got a large staff, you can’t possibly talk to all the voters you need to contact without some help. But the value of volunteers is not only that they build the capacity of your project; recruiting and mobilizing members of the community is a great way to build your organization’s base and teach valuable organizing skills. Henry Serrano has found that Community Voices Heard’s electoral work has been a great tool for getting members out on the doors, organzing their community.

The Goals of Volunteer Management:

  1. Identify people who are willing to volunteer, from a group that includes your targeted voters, membership and members of ally organizations
  2. Make the best use of their time and abilities during the project
  3. Maintain contact with them after the election

That last goal is what sets integrated voter engagement apart from traditional voter turnout projects or political campaigns where volunteers and paid field organizers are quickly acquired and trained – and, more often than not, by the second week of November their relationship with the campaign is history.

There are several tools that help organizations build base and capacity through volunteer management:

Volunteer Training

Much of the success of volunteer management – and ultimately of the project itself – depends on volunteer training. For many volunteers, working on your organization’s voter campaign will be their first contact with both your organization and with political action. The goals and duties of a canvasser or phone-banker are relatively straightforward, which makes an electoral project an excellent opportunity to train people in basic organizing skills, as Henry Serrano observes in the video.

Effective training strikes a balance: on the one hand, you want volunteers to be prepared and confident; on the other, you want to get them quickly out the door or on the phone. Anthony Thigpenn explains that SCOPE’s goal is to ensure that volunteers are comfortable with the material, but not feel as though they need to be “experts” on the issues in order to canvass. We’ll discuss this matter further in the Fieldwork Materials Training section, but first, you’ll need to come up with an estimate of the number of volunteers needed to meet the goals of your project.

Click to hear from an organizer

Henry Serrano talks about one of the benefits of the IVE approach – training community members in basic organizing skills

Henry Serrano: electoral work mobilizes and empowers the community

Anthony Thigpenn says that SCOPE leadership strives to make volunteers feel comfortable not knowing the answers to every question a voter might ask

Anthony Thigpenn: volunteers don't need to be experts to good canvassers