What It Means to Volunteer for a State Legislative Campaign

The following is an example of what you will probably hear when you become a volunteer for a state legislative race. Details will vary, but the broad theme should remain the same.

Welcome to the campaign!

We’re thrilled to have you. This is our chance to break the GOP supermajority, unlock Gov. Cooper’s veto, and re-establish some political balance in North Carolina.

(Wait, you’re not signed up? You can fix that — no matter where you live in our state or which campaign you want to volunteer for — at the Gameplan website.)

Now let’s talk about what it means to be a volunteer.

First, I sincerely appreciate everyone who is offering to volunteer their expertise in various fields, from communications to graphic design. I’m sure that will come in handy. But please know that what I need from the vast majority of you is one thing: I need you to contact voters.

Here’s how we’re going to win this race. We’ve got a list of approximately 15,000 likely Democratic voters who tend not to vote in off-year elections, like this one.

This voter list is our whole world, our golden ticket, our Apollo Program. If we’re going to accomplish something remarkable — like winning this race — the only way we’re going to do it is by staying focused on the core task of contacting voters.

Let’s say we’ve got 25 solid volunteers and we want to contact each voter on our list three times (which we do!). That means each volunteer is going to have to make 1,800 contacts. That’s 18 days of contacting 100 voters. Totally doable, as long as everyone stays focused.

There are two ways our volunteers are going to contact voters: 1) Call them, 2) Knock on their door.

That’s it. That’s the ballgame.

We had a volunteer last week tell us, “Jeff, I can’t wait to get involved. I know we can win! But here’s the thing: I don’t make phone calls and I don’t knock on doors.”

Well, thanks for your interest, but that’s what it means to be an effective volunteer. It’s mostly a contacting-voters thing.

Here’s a chart that breaks it down:

For those of you who are a little apprehensive about calling or knocking on doors, the good news is that most of the people you’ll be contacting will be friendly and inclined to agree with you. You’re just calling to remind them there’s an election coming up and that we’ve got a candidate who deserves their support.

But the bottom-line is that, frankly, if you want to be an effective volunteer, there’s no way around contacting voters. That’s 99% of what it means to be a volunteer, at least in a state legislative race. Congressional and presidential races have more resources and can use volunteers in several different capacities, but state legislative races are won by focusing almost exclusively on the voter list.

“But Jeff! Shouldn’t volunteers focus on developing strategic communications and innovative tactics for motivating disaffected voters?”

No. They should call the people on the list.

“But what about engaging the grassroots and connecting them to a broadbased political movement?”

Ok, but the grassroots are your volunteers and you’re connecting them to a political movement by asking them to call voters on your behalf.

“But Jeff — what about town halls and rallies and community cookouts?”

Once you’re on track to contact every voter on your list at least three times, if you really think you’ve got spare time and extra money then feel free to have a cookout. Until then, we’ve got calls to make.

That’s what we’re asking from you as volunteers. In exchange, the candidate needs to make sure that the campaign has an efficient system for contacting voters that respects your time.

That’s why we’re going to make sure that 1) We have our voter list before we put you to work, 2) We have a place for you to comfortably make calls (even if it’s our living room!), and 3) We have scripts for you to use so you don’t have to wing it.

If we keep our commitment to you, and you keep our commitment to us, we will shock our opponent with how effective our campaign is — and we’ll win.