How to manage volunteers online?
Ever since 2008, there has been a growing emphasis on the important roles that social media and grassroots activity play within political and issue based campaigns.
Although there is much to be said for the impact of social media on the success of a campaign and its grassroots activity practice, it is still a 'one to many' digital tool. Even when a supporter shares a status on Facebook to his close circle of friends or tweets his message, there is still a lack of personal intimacy and a shortage of deep discourse which are so badly needed and actually demanded by voters and supporters these days.
How to get effeciency from your volunteers?
So how do candidates and their campaign staff carry out their ongoing messages to their targeted audience in both an efficient (affordable and quick) and productive (personally engage and influential) way?
For achieving maximum effectiveness, the ideal scenario would have candidates personally meet with each one of their targeted audience and also follow-up with the undecided ones. Needless to say this is an unrealistic demand in large campaigns with thousands and millions of voters.
For achieving maximum efficiency, the ideal scenario would be to digitally send candidates' messages to their targeted audience, analyze their feedback and automatically map the different levels of support along a time axe. Two main problems with this approach are the quality of the data received and the impersonal contact conducted by the candidates. The data returned into the system in many cases is also inaccurate at best and untrue at worst. Furthermore, voters demand to receive a dedicated time and place to listen to candidates and to ask their questions. They need to personally sign off on their valued support.
Combining the digital with the personal
So how can candidates combine the personal effectiveness and digital efficiency within their campaign? The solution is by utilizing the most effective conduit of the campaign messages - through their active supporters, or in other words – their Volunteers.
Volunteers are supporters that have chosen to actively act for a campaign and need to be guided by campaign headquarters so they best serve the campaign's goals.
There are two main aspects in understanding how best to manage volunteers.
The first is the psychological dimension of motivating volunteers to maintain and increase their dedication and effort for the campaign.
As opposed to regular paid workers, volunteers (even paid ones) are not subjected to the normal timid of being laid off or simply receiving a negative work review. They have chosen to invest their time and resources for a cause for a limited amount of time. They may choose to invest themselves otherwise if not motivated properly by campaign managers.
The second dimension is the technological dimension of mobilizing volunteers in order to reach maximum effectiveness and efficiency while reaching out to your targeted audience.
Many volunteers wish to actively contribute to the campaign, however they have limited resources to do so. In order to canvass from door to door they need to spend long days walking in sometimes unfriendly weather and many cases volunteers live far away from the targeted canvassing areas.
Online management of the volunteers
In order to call targeted voters they need the technological infrastructure to call and document the answers provided by the voters. This is regularly done at campaign headquarters, however many volunteers live far away and in many cases the headquarters cannot contain all volunteers and need to work with call centers which are efficient but lack productivity since they are paid workers and have no real affiliation and dedication to the campaign's cause.
Campaign managers must focus on placing simple and intuitive technological solutions in the hands of their most dedicated workers – their volunteers. These solutions need to also be fun and motivate them to connect their friends to the campaign and to reach out to further voters. That way they combine the most effective with the most efficient.