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Posts Tagged ‘Volunteer’

Searching for Volunteers

During the campaign my gmail away message often read, “searching for volunteers”.  One simple truth to campaigning is that you can always use more volunteers.  Another one is that recruiting volunteers is not an easy task.  Volunteer recruitment essentially requires convincing a person to do something that he or she was not planning on doing, actively promoting the campaign.  You want a bumper sticker?  Take one…but while you’re here, can you make some phone calls?  You call yourself a conservative?  Then come door-to-door with us today!

By comparison, the Ron Paul campaign was a whole different ball of wax.  Realizing the importance of his candidacy, voters independently created meetup groups to organize and mobilize.  One didn’t have to uncover every rock searching for volunteers for these meetup groups were an ample supply of eager recruits.  However, unlike traditional volunteers, meetup groups were far more resistant to campaign authority. You didn’t have to convince them to volunteer; instead you had to guide them to work with the campaign in proven and productive ways.  Sometimes it was a bit like herding cats.

So where is a good place to look for volunteers?  How about the city and county Republican committees?  After all, these people have shown at least a marginal level of interest and commitment.  Sadly, committees are not a good source of volunteers.  First of all, the average age of committee members are much higher than your average age of volunteers.  Once you reach seventy years old, you’re much less likely to be physically able to go door-to-door.  Second, some people have the mistaken impression that committee membership is sufficient involvement to elect like-minded candidates.  How many undecided voters can you reach in a committee meeting?  Now don’t think that I must hate committees just because I can’t wring them dry for volunteers.  Certainly not!  They are indispensable and many committee leaders are the hardest working, most motivated, and most dependable people you will ever meet.  Seek out the committees for help, but if your search begins and ends there you will be woefully short of help.

Regardless of what most people will tell you, just about everyone has free time that they can devote to the campaign.  Unfortunately, politics is not a high priority for a lot of the working class.  Perhaps they have family concerns, issues with their jobs, or maybe they are jaded and don’t feel that their efforts will have much of an impact on the election.  Therefore, it is best to find a younger demographic, the college and high school students.  I immersed myself in politics during my high school years and spent many an afternoon, evening, and weekend at the local headquarters.  Drawing from the 2006 election, no group worked harder or made a greater impact than the JMU College Republicans.  They selflessly donated vast amounts of time to re-elect Bob Goodlatte and George Allen.  If every CR group across the state were as motivated as JMU was then, imagine what we could accomplish.  With that experience in mind, I had high hopes for the college students of the 93rd.  Now there aren’t any universities within the boundaries of the 93rd, but there are two in neighboring districts:  William & Mary in the 64th, and Christopher Newport in the 94th.

As a William & Mary alumni and a former W&M CR, I eagerly sought help from the WMCRs.  I first met these folks at the annual activities fair, a place where student groups recruit new blood from the incoming freshmen class.  The leadership seemed enthusiastic to be of assistance and we slated Delegate Hamilton to speak at their first meeting.  Several days before the meeting, the ODU bomb dropped.  In truth, the news broke earlier, but I guess it reached the WMCRs then.  As a result, they rescinded our invitation.  I was crestfallen.  I wrote email after email and made many phone calls in hope of restoring their favor.  None proved successful.  Although in retrospect, it may have been foolish, I regarded the William & Mary snub as a great failure, my great failure.  This memory lurked within my conscience throughout the remainder of the campaign.  Once I made uneasy peace with the situation, I read more troubling news out of my alma mater.  In the September 23 issue of The DOG Street Journal, the online publication brought this matter into the public eye.  “There is one local race, Democrat Robin Abbott versus Republican Phil Hamilton for the 93rd District’s Delegate that only the Young Democrats – not the College Republicans – are involved in.” But the article didn’t stop there, oh no.  Further on, the chairman of the WMCRs weighed in.  “’Because of the allegations against Phil Hamilton, we have decided to stay out of that race,’ said Chappell. ‘That was a tough decision for us, but we thought that was in our best interest. We researched that extensively; I talked to the campaign manager. Bob McDonnell has asked him to resign, pretty much every major statewide official [h]as asked Delegate Hamilton to resign. I hope he’s cleared of these allegations, but as long as they’re on the table and they seem pretty credible, we decided to stay out of this one.’”  I could write a good bit about what I thought of this slight, but I’ll leave you to draw the conclusions here.

On the other hand, the Christopher Newport College Republicans were a great boon to the campaign.  The walked, they talked, they attended events.  Although the group never showed up in massive numbers, the constant dedication offered by their chairman and a handful of others was extremely helpful and encouraging.  Both the campaign and myself owe a debt of gratitude to CNUCRs.  Thank you, Cole, and thank you, CNU!  May your group flourish and continue to recruit motivated and hardworking leaders.

But let’s not forget about the high school students, shall we?  During the final weeks and months of the campaign, students from the local high schools trickled in on Saturdays and weeknights.  Although Denbigh Baptist provided the most, they came from just about every local high school in the 93rd and neighboring districts.  Unlike my days at Harrisonburg High, many classes now require their students to be politically active.  Each student in a government class had to volunteer a certain number of hours.  Personally I think the idea is great.  By immersing yourself in politics at an early age, before you can even vote, I think you build a far greater appreciation for the government and civic involvement.  With such embedded ideals, one is far less likely to see voting as a burden as far too many these days do, but as sacred right and a duty to be taken seriously.

The last point I want to make about volunteers in the 93rd concerns competition.  Unlike previous campaigns with which I have dealt, the Hamilton campaign had to compete with not only fellow delegate races, but with the McDonnell, Bolling, Cuccinelli, and RPV efforts as well.  It became a constant struggle to secure volunteers into the Hamilton camp before they pledged themselves to another race.  Although there was some overlap between statewide and delegate races, I still would have preferred far greater coordination.  There were Hamilton volunteers, there were RPV volunteers, and, for the most part, they remained in these separate camps.  Although you can never have enough volunteers, having been the last full-time staffer brought into the Newport News office, I felt that I had gotten too late a start in the volunteer recruitment game.  The RPV had snatched up  many choice volunteers before I arrived.  As such, I felt that I was constantly behind the eight ball.

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I’ve heard a number of people say that we have to elect Bob McDonnell as Governor and we have to retain the House of Delegates.  Of course we do, but my question to you is, what are you prepared to do about it?  Do?  Well, they answer back; I’m planning to vote for them.  Now don’t get me wrong, voting is a critical component to any candidate’s success.  But, if you really cared, shouldn’t you be doing more?

Some activists donate their money.  Funding is one of the two most important means of support of campaigns.  Want to donate to Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Senator Ken Cuccinelli, Delegate Matt Lohr, or any of the other candidates?  My advice is to head over to RedStormPAC and donate today.  But what is RedStorm?  According to their website, “RedStormPAC is an independent political action committee (PAC) whose mission is to support conservative candidates with an avenue for small dollar donations, organized by committed conservative activists who want to help fellow conservatives utilize the ‘long tail’ of online fundraising.”  In addition, “100% of every contribution is passed directly to the candidate or organization. You donate $100, the candidate will get $100 and RedStormPAC processes the transaction at-cost to itself.” Simplicity itself.  As we don’t have much time left, every dollar could make the difference.

Assuming you have already done so (or you don’t have the funds to donate), we arrive at the second campaign lifeblood, volunteering.  Personally, I’ve been volunteering since high school.  The reasons for volunteering varies:  you have a personal connection with the candidate, you want to advance your political ideology, you expect some sort of quid-pro-quo advancement, or you’re helping out a friend or relative who is engaged for one of the other three reasons.  Whatever your reason for getting involved, the most important thing is to go out there and relentlessly advance your candidate and his or her principles.

Campaigns never have sufficient money or volunteers but an increase in one can offset a lack of the other.  Additional funding can be used to hire additional staff to promote the ground game or deliver extra ads to the voters.  More volunteers offer a low cost method to perform vital campaign functions: phone banking, door-to-door, mass mailings, usually for a handful of pizzas.  So, the take-home message is to get involved whether through donations or volunteerism, or both.  Although voting is very important, if you truly care, it is not enough.  With less than 30 days until election, now is the time to open your checkbook.  Stop by the campaign headquarters of your local delegate or the RPV and put in some quality hours.  Although it is poor grammar, don’t you think you should put your time (or money) where your mouth is?

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