The Dos and Don’ts of Campaign Volunteering


Tess Dorman and Calvin Kanz

     Campaign season is around the corner. During the 2018 midterm election cycle, we had the opportunity to volunteer with Abby Finkenauer’s congressional campaign and learned a lot along the way. Volunteering for a political campaign leads to experience and countless opportunities to expand your political awareness. Here are a few things that might be relevant if you’re interested in volunteering this upcoming year:

Remember: what you’re doing is proven to be effective.

Door-to-door conversations, or “canvassing,” is the most worthwhile method of voter activation and influencing the change you want. Volunteering for a campaign will almost certainly include this type of activity, and there are a few things you should know about it. Canvassing means meeting people. Some can turn out to be the most interesting and kind people you’ve met, and a good amount of the others can be rude and abrasive. Don’t take it personally; you are making change. Also, canvassing can become sluggish in non-ideal conditions or when you’re not feeling motivated. Encourage a like-minded friend to work on the campaign and go canvassing with you: it’s the best motivation available. Phone calls, voter registration, and office work also make sure the campaign reaches as many voters as possible and functions well; they are essential tasks.

Keep learning.

It’s easy to make a lot of missteps canvassing, and that’s okay! You’ll have campaign organizers to lean on. Maintain a good relationship with your organizers. They’re here to help you: they have expertise and will always be happy to answer your questions. Our organizer, Andrew, introduced us to all sorts of new techniques, such as hard asks. Don’t be afraid to use “hard asks.” (A hard ask is a persuasive technique which uses specifics to define what you want in the form of a question. Use “When can you make it in next?” instead of “Will you be back?” which implies that you’re expected to return.) Your organizers are always willing to answer your questions and help you improve.

Be prepared.

Although it may seem like common sense, make sure you know at least the basics about your candidate. If you’re volunteering solely because you’re “liberal” or “conservative.” you will not be best equipped to answer questions or persuade voters to your candidate. One immensely helpful practice is to identify three or four main issues that inspire you about your candidate. Many voters will answer the door and be unaware of the issues or the candidates, and having a few main issues to delve into greatly improves your chance of being seen as genuine and trustworthy. For example, as volunteers for the Democratic Party, we often used education, healthcare, agricultural, and environmental issues to explain our interests to voters. These issues should be prominent and important but not deeply controversial, so as not to offend anyone. Besides the mental aspects of preparedness, always make sure to be physically prepared as well. If you’ll be in the office, bring a phone charger in case you need to make a call. If you’ll be outside, bring a water bottle, umbrella, and clothing suitable for the daily weather conditions. Being prepared is a great relief in the case that your phone dies or you encounter unexpected precipitation.

Stay positive.

If you’re passionate enough to volunteer in a political campaign, you have the motivation it takes to make the change. Canvassing is a breakneck course in human relations, and exceeding your comfort zone often yields surprisingly positive results. Don’t be inhibited by your initial anxieties. It always pays to maintain a positive attitude and be polite to everyone you meet, regardless of their own proficiency (or lack thereof) at human interaction. It’s demanding work, but absolutely achievable. Enthusiastic participation in democracy can pay off, as it certainly did with Abby.


Campaign volunteering may very well be the most difficult and exhausting task you’ll ever put yourself through, but trust us, it can also be extremely rewarding. There is no better feeling than sitting in your living room on election night and watching the news outlets declare your candidate the winner. All the hard work you put into the campaign paid off. Even if your candidate doesn’t win, it’s still a rewarding feeling knowing you did your part and fought for what you believed in. Following this advice will allow you to have a successful campaign season while taking your own safety into consideration. We wish you the best of luck with your campaigning! Have fun! Be safe! Make a difference!