I’ve never run a political campaign. It has to be 24/7 exhausting and for most, it is volunteer work. Exhausting 24/7 volunteer work. Who does that?? Thousands, I’m told, across the country. The Democrats, often using political machine or sometimes tax dollars (often the same), have run liberal campaigns for decades. They get some volunteers but often can pay their union workers and bus them around. Not so for Republicans. We are grassroots, many of us working part or full-time jobs on top of our volunteer work. We don’t have the luxury of tax dollars laundered through hidden pathways within our political system. We also haven’t had a centralized system orchestrating moves down into the local sector.
So on the right, we “get what we get” in our volunteers. The good thing is their hearts (not pocketbooks) are in for the fight. We’re not mercenaries like the Democrats. The bad thing is we don’t have trained people but rather a lot of eager neophytes to the political process. I’m one of those neophytes. But I’m learning. I’m learning that our side desperately needs organization.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I volunteered to deliver yard signs for a local campaign. We stopped by the headquarters and loaded up our car with signs. We went into the office and got a list of addresses and an apology. The apology was because the list was not organized into cities or sections of cities or even streets. We ventured out anyway and shortly realized how long this venture would take because, not knowing the neighborhoods, we headed back and forth for hours to deliver just a few signs. In this case, a little planning would have gone a long way.
Last weekend, we volunteered for another campaign. We were to canvass neighborhoods. There were donuts, coffee, clipboards and maybe 50+ people filtering in and out of the headquarters early on a Saturday morning. Although we were in the midst of strangers, we found what we thought was an experienced canvasser to accompany us. We were given a clipboard, pens and a list of homes to visit. It was then that the lack of planning and organization started to erode our progress. There were no cities listed on the address banks so we sat for 20 minutes in our car with our GPS trying to locate the right city with the right page. My husband did head back into the office but the people there did not know the cities either and there were several towns in the precinct. We finally found an address match and headed off excited to begin our walk. Unfortunately, the “experienced” volunteer with us was under the impression that the lines drawn around the sections were to be strictly followed and our walk should not include the neighborhoods within the lines. This was not the case but we had no one else to ask so we forged ahead and got to about 15 homes, many of them unresponsive. So we left some literature in doorways.
We were surprised at how little we were able to get accomplished with so few homes, so we headed back to headquarters to get another clipboard. On this second venture, by the time we were able to locate a street that matched a town, we had already spent 30 minutes and then another 30 to finally drive to our first house. The woman who answered the door told us that other volunteers had just done her block. Glancing at another door across the street, we noticed literature stuck in the crease and we were able to confirm her comment when we finally called someone back at the office and were told that yes, we were doing a repeat. Back in the car we headed for a return trip to our start point. There we were told that 7 other people had similar experiences. We had been either on the road or problem-solving for 4 hours at this point so in frustration we headed home. A whole morning misspent. The way I figure it, we were the 8th group to have a wasted morning. If you take 4 hours and estimate a small group could hit about 25 families/homes in an hour, multiply that by 4 and multiply that times 8 groups, you have literally hundreds of voters that were lost. And more than a few frustrated volunteers who might not return.
Relating my story to a couple of volunteer colleagues, I found that I am not alone in my experiences. So I have several suggestions for those that run the campaigns.
1.) Have a leader who is the “go to” person for logistics on the volunteer day. Others may advise only after talking to that person. This person also oversees all of the lists and has underlings (head volunteers) who review each list for accuracy making sure that pages are accurate and that anyone can locate a starting address on a page. There are only TWO lists of each set of addresses–one is marked MASTER and the leader has that list. The other is marked VOLUNTEER and only ONE set of volunteers gets that list.
2.) All volunteers must sign in and leave a cell phone number. New volunteers who are not already on the list and arrive that day must sign in and leave a cell phone number. Volunteers arriving late will get Round #2 lists (see below) and only can leave after getting specific directions.
3.) Arrange the clipboards by sections and cities. Parcel them out to groups and have a checklist of what has gone out, to whom and what is still left for Round #2. Make sure each group has an address starting point.
4.) Have a general meeting with the volunteer troops BEFORE they head out. Assign them to groups with head volunteer contacts. Have the head volunteer in charge of X amount of canvassing groups. The head is also a phone contact connection with at least one cell number per group for two way contact. Make sure each group has a clipboard with addresses. Have them take a few minutes to look over the addresses and packets to make sure they understand what they have. Allow time for questions.Give them directions and advice. Explain everything they are given from lists to addresses to maps. Tell them they are to do ONLY their list of homes and if they finish they can come back in for Round #2. If they abort the mission for any reason in the middle of their journey, they are to call the designated head volunteer to report where they left off.
I know that all of the volunteers–both leaders and worker bees–have the best of intentions. But a quote I once heard applies here: “We judge ourselves by our intentions but others judge us by our actions.” A little bit of organization will go a very long way, save time, frustration and gain voters not to mention keep valuable volunteers from leaving the ranks. We have no time to lose in this fight to save the country and our warriors are ready and willing. They just need direction.