Make HQ a “shared workspace”

You are currently reading Step 1 in a five part series, click here for the intro and ToC

Spending a little more on office sq footage, installing ample WiFi, purchasing Goodwill sofas, and supplying endless coffee will foster a massive ROI for a modern campaign.

~34% of the current American workforce fall into the Freelance classification. These folks have jobs that range from graphic designer, to bartender, to data analyst. Campaign supporters who have these roles can provide valuable “on the spot” deliverables if they are working out of the campaign HQ. These services would have either been paid for, been done in a haphazard manner, or ignored altogether.

Let’s look at a scenario.

Your opponent just went on cable news and spouted a bold face lie. It’s 4pm on a Thursday and you want to get something out ASAP.
Folks in the office are all aware of what’s going on, from paid staff to volunteers. The volunteers in your office who assist with research join with students studying graphic design and whip up an infographic calling out your opponent in real time which the social team can then distribute. In this scenario, the campaign has leveraged volunteer support to benefit the race in both speed and costs.

If you think your district doesn’t fit because it isn’t in a young urban setting, research shows that over 50% of this economy is over 35 and 22% are over 55. If you are in a rural district, you probably have a few older lady volunteers knitting socks for Etsy.

Having an office with this welcoming environment can also encourage our favorite traditional volunteers; from the campaign moms and dads who cook the chili and tuck a six pack under their arm; to the retired letter folders. However, since we rarely do in-house mailings now, in my last campaign, we used this team for texting tasks like Hustle. Trust me, it’s hilarious to watch/hear; and they are dynamite at it. You gotta do it!

I can foresee some pushback here from folks who started working on campaigns pre-2016. This structure does open campaigns up to spies and time sucking volunteers. The key is having a point person that serves as a project manager for each task being undertaken by the supporters and running better background checks on volunteers.

As for concern over non-paid staff being at the campaign HQ on a regular basis, managers need to seriously question why they see this as a problem. Campaigns can be volatile environments that promote counterproductive behavior due to stress, fragile egos and poor use of time management. Having supporters around on a regular basis can actually serve as a dearly needed check. Additionally, sensitive information should be shared sensitively, something few campaigns practice. The mantra I learned when I first started rings true today even more than it did then, “if you don’t want to see it on the front page of the Denver Post, don’t put it on paper, in an email, or speak it in mixed company.”

Final point, look at this arrangement through the eyes of your volunteers. Working in the freelance economy can be very depressing. Flexibility and the occasional work from home days are appealing in moderation, but these same benefits can lead to long term depression due to social isolation and a lack of compartmentalization. Political campaigns should be about bringing people together around shared values. Building a coworking space out of your campaign offers a refuge from isolation. There are several co-working spaces in any given city, but they cost money, and it isn’t likely folks will find a bonding element as strong as a political campaign.

In the late ’80s when creating Starbucks, Howard Schultz set out to foster a place he called “The Third Place.” A location between work and home, a place where people could meet and enjoy the company of one another. The byproduct of this approach was to get people to associate their coffee with a positive experience and hopefully share with others. You don’t need to sell overpriced coffee, but try to turn your HQ into your volunteer’s third place, or, in some cases, their second place.

A winning campaign is one where any volunteer can tell their friends with reasonable justification, “the campaign wouldn’t have won without me.” Build a campaign that fosters this type of community and your campaign will be a force to be reckoned with.

Step 2: Empower your volunteer’s skill set