Getting volunteers for your local political campaign is hard.  People are busy.  They have PTA meetings, soccer games, and family 
functions, not to mention jobs to go to and homework to help with.  Today, even more than ten or twenty years ago, people often don’t have time to volunteer on political campaigns.  Even when you find someone who wants to volunteer, you’re not the only game in town.  There may be races up the ticket that would be more “glamorous” to work on, such as senate races or gubernatorial campaigns. 

Don’t be discouraged!  Getting an army of volunteers for your campaign can be done.  In order to recruit volunteers, though, you have to have a plan and recruit smart.  Here are five tips to help you get the volunteers you need to win:

1.  Oh Those College Days

In many ways, college campuses are the ideal place to find volunteers.  On them, you have a small city-size population of energetic students with nothing to do half of their day.  Add to that the fact that political science majors (one of the popular humanities majors on most campuses) are almost always looking for practical political experience, and you can see why campuses are an ideal place to recruit.

In order to sign-up volunteers at your local colleges, first call the College Democrat or Republican club and/or the Political Science Clubs on campus.  Let them know that you are looking for volunteers who will have real responsibility during the campaign, and ask if you can speak to the group or if they will put a notice in their newsletter.

Also, having someone you know on campus set up a table on the quad to hand out literature and sign up volunteers.  You’d be surprised how many students will gladly sign-up at such a table to work on your campaign.  Another possibility is to contact the political science department and offer internships on the campaign for poli. sci. majors.

2.  Organize!

As with every facet of your campaign, starting an organization can be key to recruiting large numbers of volunteers.  The idea behind starting an organization is to recruit a few volunteers and then ask them to multiply themselves.  Here’s how it works:

Start by recruiting a captain in each of a number of geographical areas and/or “group” captains, such as a senior citizen captain, a business captain, etc.  Set recruiting goals for each of these captains: ask each to find 3, 5, or 10 volunteers in their area to work for the campaign.  These captains can be responsible for coordinating the volunteers in their “downline” or the campaign can handle that responsibility.  Either way, one of the tasks these new volunteers can be asked to perform is helping the campaign find another 3, 5, or 10 volunteers to recruit.

3.  Friends and Family First

The most fruitful source of campaign volunteers will always be the candidate’s friends, family, and contacts.  These people know the candidate and they believe in him or her.  No matter how busy they are, they will most likely agree to help the candidate win.  That’s why your first calls to recruit volunteers should always go to the candidate’s personal network.

4.  Busy Work

One of the cardinal sins of volunteer organizing is having volunteers but not giving them anything to do.  Volunteers who don’t feel like they are contributing to the campaign will often stop coming to headquarters and stop being vital volunteers.  When you’ve got volunteers on hand but nothing for them to do, why not have them write letters to other supporters asking them to volunteer?  You could also have volunteers address 5-10 postcards to their own personal contacts asking them to volunteer for the campaign.  This “busy work” will not only help you keep your volunteers working and happy, but should also bring in new volunteers you can use when the campaign really gets going.

5.  Throw a Party

Another great way to have your volunteers help you find more volunteers is by throwing a campaign “party.”  This party could be the grand opening of your headquarters, a volunteer-only pizza party, or any other type of event you can imagine.  Invite each of your volunteers, and encourage them to bring 3 friends.  To make your party even more exciting to volunteers, give them actual VIP tickets they can give to their friends.  At your event, ask the friends to help you win the campaign by volunteering as well.  The grateful guests will often be glad to help your campaign.

Recruiting political volunteers  isn’t easy, but it can be done.  Use the suggestions in this article to help you grow your own volunteer network.  And remember, every volunteer you recruit now and treat well is a volunteer who will be there to help you get re-elected the next time around.