The Value of Volunteering
(from Larry Walker at HBCU College Life)
- The challenge of a new experience- Every new challenge in life forces you rise to the occasion. Volunteering for a campaign is a unique experience that will help develop your critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. You will be tasked with solving problems that could change the candidate’s poll numbers. Embrace the impossible scenario and watch your confidence rise.
- Campaigns are always in flux- It’s not uncommon for staffers to come and go throughout a campaign. Last weeks’ intern could be tomorrow’s senior staffer. If you work hard, listen intently and understand the issues you will be surprised how quickly you could earn a seat at the table.
- Get to know the candidate- Perhaps you spent time reading and admiring a candidate from afar. If it’s a local campaign volunteering could bring you in contact with the candidate. That experience could change your life and maybe you consider a career in politics.
- Build your confidence- Bright, clever individuals will have opportunities to showcase their skills. Don’t despair if your political career starts off with picking up coffee, packages or ordering sandwiches. Listen to what is happening and pounce on a task that no one else is interesting in completing. It could be your chance to showcase what you learned in that political science class.
- Shape policy- You could become an integral part of the policy team. Eventually your insight could convince the candidate to take a stand on an issue that changes the campaign. Remember “fortune favors the bold.”
- Understanding the political machine- Working on a campaign will prepare you for the future. Developing contacts and specific skills including understanding campaign finance laws will propel your career.
- Establishing contacts- Campaigns are full of over achievers with corporate, non-profit and government contacts. Need a letter of recommendation for graduate or professional school? Looking for a new job? Moving to a new country? Your contact(s) could make life a lot easier.
- Fighting for social justice- Perhaps you witnessed something on campus, home or television that changed the way you see the world. What are you going to do about it? We live in a nation built on democratic principles. Go and change the world.
- Realizing your voice matters- It sounds simple but you don’t realize that what you think and believe can make a difference.
- If you don’t help, who will- Making a difference begins with you. The world needs more change agents. Don’t let apathy prevent you from challenging traditional beliefs.
HOST A MEET AND GREET
Early in the campaign, the candidate needs to increase name recognition among voters almost as much as we need donations. You can invite your neighbors over for coffee on a Saturday morning or wine on a weeknight to meet the candidate. Just make as suggestion and we will let you know how long your event should be, what time works for the candidate, and how many people we would consider a successful event
BECOME AN INFLUENCER IN SOCIAL MEDIA
There’s a famous campaign saying you should know: signs don’t vote. Aside from being obviously true, since signs lack opposable thumbs or rights under the constitution—so far, that is—it means that you should never assume that the quantity of signs you see equals the number of votes the candidate will get. Internet comments don’t vote, either, nor do Facebook posts, tweets, or even funny .gifs. Still, those things play a role. Plus, you can help attract more campaign workers by promoting your events on social media.
WALK THE BLOCKS
…Your Neighborhood or an Area you would like to know.
Be friendly and talk to people. Tell them about the candidate. Tell them you are volunteering, what you are doing, and why you think it matters. Be nice, be friendly, and keep it short, but give them a reason to have a strong positive association with the candidate. You never know, but you might convince someone to vote for the candidate just on the strength of that one interaction.
DRIVE THE CANDIDATE TO EVENTS AND SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
If you’re a good driver and navigator, you can volunteer to drive the candidate to various meetings, debates, and events. This frees up the candidate to make fundraising calls or do other work from the passenger seat. Make sure you’ve got enough gas, know where you are going, and who the contact is (including cell phone number) for the place you are going in case something happens on the way.
To earn votes, campaigns have to connect with voters. Those connections are phone calls, emails, handshakes at events, articles in the newspaper, eyeballs on signs, etc., and even with a tremendous volunteer base, campaigns need to spend money to make these things happen. If you can’t write a big check, consider making a monthly gift of a smaller amount to help with cash flow. And, consider bundling. If you get ten friends to each give $10 a month for 12 months, and the campaign finds ten other people to do that, it adds up.
COLLECT AND DONATE OFFICE SUPPLIES
Every campaign needs printer/copier paper, clipboards, pens, highlighters, dry erase boards and markers, and ink cartridges for printers. We need trash bags, coffee cups, coffee makers, microwaves, and toilet paper, too. And, we need stain pens and laundry wipes. We’ll make a wish list, and ask several volunteers to play “Santa” once or twice during the campaign.
It is critical that everyone working or volunteering for you understands the procedures and laws relating to voter registration. Before being sent out to register people to vote, we need to be certain that each person knows the eligibility requirements for registration and how important it is for registrants to correctly complete the voter registration card.
If volunteers give out incorrect information, you may inadvertently deny a qualified citizen the ability to register to vote or register a person who is not qualified to register to vote. There are criminal penalties for intentionally denying qualified citizens the opportunity to register to vote or for registering someone to vote who is not eligible to register to vote.
Therefore, we will make sure that anyone registering people to vote must review this Guide, especially the section “Who Can Register to Vote in California?”, as well as the Secretary of State’s Frequently Asked Questions.