Campaign Training Is Key for Volunteers

by Alice McLoughlin (She/Her)

campaign training

Campaign Training for Volunteers Matters for Good Campaign Management

Campaign training can make the difference between a winning and losing campaign—especially training for volunteers. Although it’s important that you have a good candidate, campaign manager, or volunteer coordinator who can gather the volunteers, if those volunteers are not provided with training, they might not be of any help. When volunteers can provide much of your people power on a campaign, it’s important to make sure they know what they’re doing. A simple and effective way to get your volunteers up to speed is to send them to campaign training!

Although we recommend campaign training for both staff and candidates as well, that will be covered in a separate blog post in the future. In this blog, I’d like to discuss how we approach volunteer training.

Your team is only as good as the information provided to them and the training they receive. Information and training can help get the whole team on the same page before the election starts to get busy. It can provide them with knowledge they may not have, such as how to knock on doors, how to speak about certain issues, and how to diffuse a situation with an angry potential constituent. It also gives them foundational knowledge about what their role is and what the role is of everyone else involved in the campaign. Their duties will be clear, and they will be able to effectively carry them out.

When we say you should provide campaign training for volunteers, we don’t mean that you need to spend a fortune sending them to an intense, multi-day program. Although that may be helpful, it’s also not always feasible, and it can be asking a lot of your volunteers to make that kind of commitment. Instead, we recommend that the first time your volunteer does some work for your campaign, you schedule them to come in 30 minutes to an hour before you need them. This time can be dedicated to giving them an overview of your campaign, a description of where you need help in said campaign, and a quick practice session with some tips for their duties, such as running through a phone banking or canvassing script. While giving an overview of your campaign and your needs depends on you, here are a few things you can do to help prepare your volunteers to stay on message when talking to voters:

  1. Have all of your volunteers read through the script multiple times. When having volunteers help with either canvassing or phone banking, it’s important to create a script for them to use to help them answer the questions of voters or stay on message. When they first join your team, have them read this script both out loud and in pairs. This helps to familiarize them with it and can bring up any pronunciation issues they may have with names or words in the script. Knowing how to respond when questioned may help them spread your message more effectively. 
  2. Do quick roleplays! Acting out certain scenarios that volunteers may encounter can help them have responses ready and make your campaign look better. They’ll get a sense of how to stay on message when confronted with something that may deter them, and it also helps to break the ice and make them less nervous when talking to an actual voter.  
  3. Have a FAQ sheet to give volunteers. Prepare answers to common questions, such as “What is candidate X going to do about crime?” This ensures that volunteers are messaging around the issues in a way that agrees with your campaign’s stances and doesn’t leave them making things up when asked those tough issue-specific questions. If you need help developing your stances and message, we recommend checking our article on the Tully message box
  4. Teach your volunteers how to mark up a walk sheet or mobile canvassing system. These are simple ways to help your campaign keep track of which voters you’ve spoken to, to make sure you’re maximizing your reach. It’s not realistic to expect volunteers to be able to help every day or remember exactly who they’ve spoken to, so creating a system to help them can make your data more accurate. When phone banking, if you use an auto-dialer, teach them how to use that system too. 
  5. Make sure volunteers know that they can say, “I don’t know,” to a question. Volunteers are incredibly helpful and can make a huge difference to your campaign, but you can’t expect them to memorize every stance of your candidate. Teaching them that not knowing the answer is okay can help them avoid lying or making things up, which is the last thing a candidate would want to happen. The volunteer can simply take down the person’s question and information and follow up once they have an answer for them. The campaign can follow up as well.
  6. Remind them not to take things personally. They will encounter rude or angry people, and it doesn’t hurt to remind them that this isn’t their fault and they shouldn’t take it personally.

There are many other tips and tricks to running a campaign—check some of them out here. We would love to hear some of your thoughts or answer any of your lingering questions as well—feel free to contact us! For more information on advocacy, campaigns, elections, or just politics in general, please check out the rest of our blog articles.