How You Can Help With Candidate Campaigns
Canvassing can be door-to-door or based in a high traffic area like a shopping center. It is based on informed volunteers engaging in conversations with people who might be willing to discuss an issue or a candidate. It is time consuming but campaign research shows that person-to-person interactions are the most effective way to persuade people to change their minds or take an action. For candidates, it is important to establish that you are listening to voters and that their opinions matter. For getting out the vote, it is important to establish that every vote counts and participation in elections is key to making democracy work for all of us. The campaign or issue focused group organizes the canvassing event, provides the materials, and coaches you on how to do it. It is a great way to get some exercise and meet new people! Here’s an article on the effectiveness of canvassing at getting out the vote.
Are you good at talking with people but don’t want to go door-to-door? Making phone calls to targeted audiences can be an effective way to raise awareness of a candidate or an issue. The organizing group provides a script, a list of people to contact, and may even provide a gathering place to do this as a group activity. There is usually an online tool to record the results of each call, e.g. no answer, great discussion, rejection… Either way, it is a form of personal outreach and that is more effective than sending a flyer through the mail.
We’ve all done it from time-to-time, for the school band, the soccer league, or your favorite charity. Campaigns need money, too. For advertising, for research, for supplies, and to cover volunteers’ expenses. Use your experiences and creativity to find ways to ask friends, neighbors, family, and even strangers to contribute money to a very good cause. House parties, golf tournaments, personal letters, car washes, anything you think would attract donors. And you can make a donation yourself!
Host a House Party for a Candidate
Invite friends, neighbors, and family to an informal gathering at your home to meet a candidate. This gives invited guests an opportunity to meet and talk with a candidate without the dynamics of a public gathering. Your invitation would set the expectation that this is a conversation to foster learning about a candidate, not a “sales job” to secure his/her vote. Schedule the event with the candidate’s campaign team and prepare them with information about how many guests and what topics are likely to be most important to them. Then plan your party. This can be as simple as coffee and cake, or as elaborate as a dinner party. You choose!
Postcard and Letter Writing
Would you like to receive a handwritten note or letter describing a candidate and his/her views on an important topic? How about encouragement to go out and vote on election day? Personal appeals have impact and you can contribute by writing these kinds of notes. The campaign may have sample scripts to use, or they may encourage you to “put it into your own words”. You might join an organized event to write notes, or do them at home as you have time. All you need is good penmanship!
IT Skills at All Levels
Are you a user of software as basic as Microsoft Office or a sophisticated software developer? Do you know how to be a system administrator or the “owner” of an account using free-ware? Campaigns need databases of supporters to be built and maintained, mailings of newsletters to go out via internet, web pages to be established and updated, and communications within the team to be supported. Learning how to use a new tool like Mailchimp or Googlegroup is easier than you think! Online tutorials are available for these tools and can be completed in less than an hour. Many support efforts can be done entirely from home during hours that you define. If you have a laptop and a phone…you have a job!
Facebook and Twitter
Social media is a powerful tool for sharing information and reaching audiences that may not be watching broadcast or print media. If you like to create messages or comment on messages created by others, you have a skill that is much in demand. Most issue-focused groups and candidate campaigns have Facebook sites and Twitter feeds. You can assist those groups/candidates with creative writing by submitting suggested posts. Posting their information on your Facebook site or re-tweeting comments that you receive to your network helps to spread the word in a positive way. Coordinate your efforts with the group/candidate so that the intended message is preserved and presents the perspective that helps the cause.
Creative Writing and Graphic Arts
Are you good at designing eye-catching webpages, ads, newsletter mastheads, posters, and banners? Do you have creative writing skills that can transform information into language that inspires and impresses? Issue-focused groups and candidate campaigns need help with designing and producing communications that grab your attention and convey messages rapidly. Volunteer to help by understanding the key messages and helping to create the products that get those messages out to others!
If you know how to plan and organize events, your volunteer skills are needed by every campaign. Events need to be fun, in locations that people can get to easily, and provide attendees ways to connect with each other. The purpose of the event might be to raise awareness of the candidate/issue, meet and train other volunteers, raise funds, plan strategies, or just celebrate a milestone accomplishment. Scheduling, reserving the venue, issuing invitations, collecting RSVPs, event set-up and take-down, and assessing the results are some of the things that need to be done. Bring your skills and create some fun!
Can you be a point of contact that media/press can rely on to ensure that questions are answered, interviews are scheduled, and appointments kept? Can you talk to reporters and arrange for press coverage of key events? Can you write or organize press releases to garner attention by broadcast or print media? This is a role that needs strong organizational skills and the ability to respond in real time so that deadlines are met and news gets out.
Ok – this is the unglamorous part. It is answering emails, maintaining the membership list, organizing meetings, updating web pages, tracking expenses, sending out newsletters, running errands – you know, all that stuff you have to do to manage your own household. It is the key enabling infrastructure that helps every other volunteer do a great job! There are lots of things to do that need to be done by reliable people who will accept an assignment, no matter how small it seems.
Be the liaison between your candidate/issue group and the volunteers eager for assignments. You may be recruiting volunteers at events or in response to emails. Connect these people with other organizers who have jobs to be done and make sure that they receive meaningful assignments and complete them. Keep those volunteers connected by regular outreach and listening to their comments on ways the campaign/issue group can be more effective. All it takes is good people skills and the time to regularly stay in touch. And you will make new friends in the process!
Arrange for a Candidate to Appear at a Community Event
All of us belong to one or more community organizations who would welcome having a candidate come to talk about issues of concern. This helps the candidate get to know a small number of his/her constituents in a setting that fosters discussion and mutual learning. You can help by suggesting to your group that a candidate be invited and arrange for that candidate to come to the meeting. Help the candidate by advising what issues are of concern to the group so that he/she can be thinking about his/her positions on those topics. You will become known as a community influencer by arranging these small group sessions!
Research on Issues/Policy Questions
Ever wondered how candidates know so much (or so little) on a topic of concern? There are people who gather information and prepare summaries for the candidate to review so that they can be efficiently educated on key topics. It does not require a policy expert to do this, simply a person with an inquiring mind and a willingness to do the homework. Candidates with small campaign staffs really need volunteer help to do this. You too can become a policy wonk!
Monitor of State and Local News on Events of Interest
The news media follows the President around and spends a lot of time on endless analysis of the latest policy atrocity. But state and local news items get little coverage, and candidates can miss out on key events that make a difference at the state and local level. The news monitor checks web pages, local news outlets, press releases of key organizations, and attends meetings in your community to identify and highlight the important things your candidate needs to know. It is sort of like a mini-intelligence officer gathering information and sending an intel brief to the campaign. Join the cloak-and-dagger community and have some fun!