7 Easy Steps to the Perfect Volunteer Briefing
Is Your Volunteer Briefing a Recipe for Failure?
Running a grassroots campaign means you're going to rely on a lot on volunteers. They're likely to be the fuel for your voter-contact operations. Giving them a proper volunteer briefing is critical but often overlooked.
Campaigns spend a lot of time recruiting volunteers but not enough effort into preparing them. Let's take a second and dwell on how crazy that is...
Your volunteers are a major interface between your campaign and your voters. You've spent tons of time recruiting them so they can be effective ambassadors when canvassing. But you are "too busy" to prepare them before deploying them to contact voters.
Ounce of Preparation = Pound of Cure
This is going to result in wasting time answering calls from volunteers. Questions they should never have thought up, because you briefed them. Worse yet, their performance with voters will suffer!
I get that you're busy, but there's no excuse to send volunteers out unprepared. The fact is that with a little forethought, you can predict 99% of their needs. There are some campaign problems you can't prepare for, but this isn't one of them.
The best way to prepare volunteers and reduce problems door-to-door is with an good briefing packet. Give it to every one of your volunteers and see your success sky-rocket!
Download Your Cheat-Sheet!
This post and the accompanying video explain how to build the perfect walker brief. But we've also created an example that you can download and use as a template. It's a mock-up that gives you an idea of the style, length and substance involved.
Feel free to download it and copy as much as you desire!
7 Key Ingredients in Your Walker Brief
More information, to a point, is a good thing. Your goal is to equip a volunteer with everything they need to be a low-maintenance member of your team on day one.
1. Thank You Note from the Candidate
There are plenty of different motivations that drive volunteers. But one sure fire way to kill their drive is to make them feel unappreciated. Begin your volunteer briefing with a letter from the candidate thanking them for their support.
It's an easy way to remind volunteers that you prize them. Few things are harder than making a volunteer feel appreciated once their opinion has soured. This letter, while a small thing to draft, is a powerful preventative tool.
2. Canvassing Program Overview
You don't want these guys to be robots when they're going door to door. The best way to ensure that is to trust them with information. Let them know how you want them to operate, including the WHY.
This section is where you give them perspective. Talk about the type of voters they'll be talking to. Let them know your dress-code preferences. How you trying to frame your opponent. What do you want voters to remember about your candidate?
Some campaigns feel a little shy about putting some of this in writing. What if these details fall into the wrong hands? You don't want opponents knowing the secret sauce recipe, do you?
The idea isn't to hand walk-ins an uber-secret strategy memo. Download our Cheat-Sheet to see what I put in mine. Include information that your opponent should be able to deduce, or already knows.
3. Your Candidate On the Issues
Volunteers need to know what your candidate believes. They already know enough to support your candidate, but may not know enough to speak on his/her behalf.
If a volunteer isn't clear on a candidate's response to a question, they'll default to a guess or their own personal opinion. Either way, it's not likely to be the right answer. That's a pretty good way to turn a good voter contact into a bad day.
You should provide volunteers with the top issues that they're likely to hear questions on and the candidate's response. Two or three sentences on the hot-topics or FAQ's that voters have. That's some great insurance against a volunteer going rogue!
4. Canvassing App Instructions
The right apps can super-charge your campaign. If you're still using pen and paper to track canvassing results, you're doing it wrong.
Smart phones are everywhere, data-enabled tablets are getting cheaper. Using a program like Campaign Sidekick to deploy, track and analyze your results is the way to go. Stay away from pen/paper if at all possible!
Training volunteers on the app should be easy, but it's still a good idea to equip them with instructions. A quick guide to the app's use and common trouble-shooting ideas can go a long way to cutting down on your headaches.
5. Show them the Survey
Volunteers shouldn't be reading a survey or script verbatim. But if you want them to sound natural and feel comfortable, they need to have easy access to the script. Don't rely on them reading it inside the app to prepare. Give them a copy so they can study it before they start knocking or refer to it between doors.
Check out this video we did on why you should help your volunteers go OFF-Script!
6. Block-Walking Checklist
It's so easy to forget important details when you're heading out the door to block-walk. I've knocked tens of thousands of doors but I'm embarrassed how often I forget sunscreen or water. Forgetting an umbrella is always a great way for me to conjure a thunderstorm. Make block-walking pleasant by including an easy checklist in your volunteer briefing.
Don't worry about covering every eventuality but hit the high-notes. Comfortable shoes, check the weather, full phone battery, etc.
7. Campaign Contact Information
If a volunteer needs to get ahold of you, it should be as easy as possible. You don't want them searching through their email inbox for your phone number. Worse yet, what happens of their phone dies?
Your volunteer briefing needs to include a regular and emergency campaign contact. Also include the physical address of the campaign headquarters, if applicable.
A Good Volunteer Briefing Will Supercharge Your Canvassing
I've helped manage hundreds of canvassing operations and overseen the knocking of hundreds of thousands of doors. One of the most valuable lessons I've learned is that a good volunteer briefing is absolute gold!
This document is simple to the campaign but the results are extraordinary. A strong volunteer briefing document will increase volunteer' confidence and show your appreciation.
Don't Forget Your Volunteer Briefing Cheat Sheet!
Wouldn't it be nice if you could copy my work instead of writing your own volunteer briefing? We thought so too! Click below to download our volunteer briefing cheat sheet. You'll get to use the same template I use every time I kickoff a new canvassing effort!
Also published on Medium.