I was chatting recently with a candidate I worked for and I reminisced briefly about our first meeting when I traveled to meet him and his volunteers. I mentioned the twelve incredible people who were at his office that evening and how tremendous they all were and the amazing things they have done because of their involvement in his campaign. That wasn't an isolated situation however. As I travel around the state and cover and observe campaigns, groups, and organized efforts I am amazed at the power of people to get involved and do significant things.
I think every community has unbelievable assets that are being tapped and remain untapped. One of my beliefs is that no volunteer or individual cannot bring something to an organized effort. Everyone has some talent or ability which can be used in the collective effort. This is the essence of collective organizing: identifying and using those individual talents, abilities and opportunities. Too often we miss these however.
I'm someone who loves to steal good ideas from others and I saw one in 2006 that I believe every Volunteer Coordinator needs to implement: a volunteer questionaire which asks what unique or special talents, qualifications and abilities each volunteer has to offer. I credit the Chris Carney Congressional campaign for this gem. I don't know if Andrew Eldridge-Martin, his 2006 campaign manager is the person to credit, but he was in charge so he gets it.
How many political campaigns even think to make a volunteer questionaire? Use it to discover who you have on your effort and what skills they bring to the table. I assure you, you will be amazed. You then, obviously, must utilize those unique skills. When I covered the Carney campaign during their final GOTV push I amazed and amused at one uniquely talented staffer: she entertained the crowds with a warm up act of juggling and amusing banter. It turns out she'd been in a circus at one time. I asked her how they knew she possessed such an intrinsic skill and she replied that they asked what special skills each staffer and volunteer had when they came on board the campaign.
This is such an obvious thing to do yet how often do we do it? Political campaigns are hectic operations with staff working 15-20 hour days. We under utilize one of our most finite resources however: people. A campaign has three assets, time, money and people. A manager has to maximize every single one of these assets and people are invaluable, especially volunteers. A simple questionaire with some simple queries can make all the difference.