Effectively communicating with political volunteers: 4 tips

Every political campaign relies on volunteers in some capacity. Whether your campaign is entirely run by grassroots volunteers or you just need extra hands to canvass for your candidate, you need a strategy for communicating with volunteers effectively.

Providing logistical details and setting expectations for the scope of volunteer responsibilities is only the beginning. Truly successful volunteer management involves creating a positive, welcoming community where political volunteers feel empowered and energized to support your campaign. This guide covers four communication tips you can use to do so.

Illustration of five people sitting around a table in an office with laptops and papers.

1. Provide regular, clear updates for volunteers.

From recruitment to their final volunteer shift and beyond, your team should be in regular communication with campaign volunteers so they know what to expect and how they can help. Provide plenty of information and resources about your candidate, their platform, and the campaign’s goals from the beginning so volunteers can speak accurately to your campaign when they interact with voters.

Then, use multiple communication channels, such as email, texts, and social media, to communicate key details like:

  • The most urgent volunteer opportunities and needs
  • How to sign up to volunteer
  • Shift information, including location, time, and anything they need to participate
  • How to volunteer from home
  • Major campaign milestones and progress
  • Last-minute changes to strategy, volunteer shifts, or responsibilities
  • Inspirational success stories from the campaign trail

In your message content, stay away from jargon and technical terms volunteers may not be familiar with. This is especially important for newly recruited volunteers who haven’t canvassed or worked with a political campaign before. Keep messages clear by using plain language, step-by-step infographics, and links to pages with more detailed information.

2. Use mobile canvassing and volunteer management tools.

Having the right technology at your fingertips can greatly improve the success of your volunteer communication strategy while saving your team time. Any kind of automated communication tool will help you send highly personalized messages to volunteers more efficiently.

However, there are two types of tools that can be especially beneficial for your political campaign’s volunteer communication efforts:

  • Mobile canvassing apps: If you use volunteers for canvassing, a mobile canvassing app will make everyone’s work easier. Using an app on their phones, your canvassers can access custom voter lists and routes, input data from their conversations, and follow your canvassing scripts. Plus, you can easily stay in touch with volunteers as they go door to door and even see their locations throughout the day.
  • Volunteer management tools: Platforms designed to help you manage volunteers come with plenty of useful communication features in addition to basic volunteer profiles and metric tracking. Some tools allow you to start live chats with volunteers, create volunteer groups, and set up automated leaderboards that communicate volunteer progress in a fun, competitive way. 

When used together, these two campaign tools can elevate your contact with volunteers. For instance, you might create a group of canvassing volunteers in your management app and open up a chat so they can talk through their questions and strategy before the canvassing day. Then, set volunteers up with your mobile canvassing app so they can access everything they need to knock on doors and talk to voters. You might even set up a leaderboard for the most doors knocked on or petition signatures acquired.

3. Fight burnout with proactive communication.

Political burnout has been especially high in recent years, and volunteers who spend large amounts of their free time and energy on politics are prime candidates. The risk of burnout may be especially high among volunteers for grassroots political campaigns who take on large workloads to assist small staff teams. Fortunately, you can use proactive communication with volunteers to combat these risks and keep volunteers feeling energized.

Help your volunteers avoid burnout by being supportive and flexible. Communicate regularly with volunteers to show your support, reminding them to take breaks and ask for what they need. In addition to face-to-face conversations, this might involve sending:

  • Periodic check-in texts to ask how individual volunteers are doing and note any signs of burnout
  • Empowering messages that remind volunteers how pivotal they are to your campaign and the direct impact they have on furthering your goals
  • Options for less intensive opportunities like virtual volunteer work or at-home phone banking

Additionally, emphasize that volunteers can communicate any concerns, challenges, or issues they may have with your volunteer management team. When you welcome new volunteers to the team, give them the contact information of someone they can reach out to at any time. 

If volunteers do communicate a concern or let you know that they’re feeling burnt out, take them seriously and be supportive. Ask them directly what would be the most helpful, whether that’s switching to virtual volunteering or taking a few weeks off from canvassing altogether. Showing volunteers you care about their well-being and are willing to be flexible will strengthen your relationships, making it more likely they return to volunteer again.

4. Encourage conversation between volunteers.

You can support your campaign volunteers and reduce staff time spent on volunteer communication tasks by delegating some of them to seasoned volunteers. Many volunteers may feel more comfortable talking with each other than a volunteer coordinator or staff member, especially if they’re new to political volunteering. Plus, with some training, you can trust that your experienced volunteers will give them the right information and guidance.

To facilitate these conversations, consider creating volunteer teams. Give each team the contact information for one experienced volunteer who can be their go-to point person. Then, encourage teams to start their own group chats or meet up periodically to ask questions, build camaraderie, and help each other through challenges. 

These conversations will not only help reduce the strain on your staff team, but they’ll also make volunteers feel more welcome and provide valuable leadership experience for your lead volunteers. With this experience under their belts, they may want to take on more responsibilities in the future.

Remember not to underestimate the power of volunteer appreciation messages, either. Genuinely thanking your volunteers is vitally important for maintaining positive, lasting relationships that keep volunteers motivated and excited about politics. As you implement these tips, keep gratitude at the heart of your communication strategy.