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Volunteers Still Matter in 95 Out Of 100 Campaigns

Despite his inability to achieve the Democratic Nomination for President for Howard Dean, Joe Trippi showed the importance of volunteers to political campaigns in the new millennium. Joe devised an Internet strategy to recruit new people to Dean's campaign for the presidency and to make a virtual unknown former governor from a small state into a contender.

The volunteers in their orange hats blanketed the states of Iowa and New Hampshire to carry forth the Dean message. They contacted hundreds of thousands who otherwise would have heard little concerning Howard Dean.

Most professional campaign managers would rather contract for services than use volunteers. They would rather use automated telephone calling services than volunteers. They would rather use specialty mail services rather than volunteers to coordinate small personal mailings. In point of fact, many professional managers consider volunteers to be a waste of time and a hindrance to the campaign.

While this attitude may well serve the campaign managers and consultants in many local campaigns, volunteers can and do make a difference in the outcome of elections.

One of the most practical aspects of the Internet is its ability to assist in the recruit of volunteers for the campaign.

To recruit volunteers, we use a host of different inducements. We promise the young men and women that this will be their entry into politics. We tell them that they will meet people of the opposite sex who share their views, values, and beliefs.

Before the advent of the totally professional campaign, we published a campaign newsletter which provided information concerning our campaign and our candidate. We included information on people involved in the campaign which meant that we publicized our volunteers. We would include photographs of both a good looking female and a good looking male to convince other young singles that they should become involved in the campaign

We produced the campaign newsletter on a Gestetner stencil maker and a Gestetner mimeograph machine. Since my entry into politics was as an audio/visual specialist, I would shoot the photographs and produce the grainy screed prints which we used to make the stencil. If we worked carefully in the production of the newsletter, we could make between 1,500 and 2,500 copies from each stencil.

Unlike the late Twentieth Century campaigns which shunned volunteers, the new millennium requires a new cadre of volunteers to become part of a fund raising army. This army both contributes funds and raises funds from its friends and associates in extremely small increments. The online newsletter helps you to recruit this army.

When an individual signs up for the online campaign newsletter, he is taking the initial step towards joining your campaign. If the campaign newsletter projects a successful campaign gathering momentum towards an electoral victory, more volunteers will take an interest in the campaign. Success breeds success.

Let your photographs help tell the story of your campaign. I once staged a photograph in my living room to give the impression that the news media believed that our advocacy campaign was of paramount importance. I setup photograph lights and as many professional microphones as I could lay my hands on in front of our spokesperson. When I shot the photograph I made certain to capture one of the lights on its stand in the foreground of the picture. Had I not know better I would have thought that this was a photograph from a major news conference.

If you stage an event and no one shows up, use intimate photographs of the candidate interacting with only one or two individuals. Tightly frame the photograph to catch the interaction of the people. Make certain that there is eye-to-eye contact.

The other option is to use the graphically illustrative photograph. If your candidate is fighting the water pollution created by the major contributor to your opponent. Put together a background and some test tubes and have your candidate looking at the water with a scientist in a white laboratory jacket. The important thing is to think creatively, if you have the numbers of volunteers make certain to show the numbers. Remember, you want to break the spirit of your competitors who will be looking at your newsletter.

The Online Newsletter Signup Form

A few years ago I sent my client (a major Los Angeles lobbying firm) a note criticizing the website of James Hahn for its failure to include a separate newsletter signup form. My client forwarded this to the campaign whose web designer took umbrage with my remarks. He told me that people could signup for the campaign newsletter when they filled out a complete volunteer form. I could not get him to see the point that not everyone is ready to volunteer to help you. You have to gradually suck them in.

The purpose the online campaign newsletter signup form is to bring people who are not ready to commit to your campaign a step closer to the campaign. This is why the only information that you should request to signup for the online campaign newsletter is a first name, middle initial, last name, and a valid email address. In point of fact they can use a phony name and a hotmail address because I do not care. If they represent my opponent's campaign, I want to scare them to death. If they represent someone who does not want to commit, I want them to see my campaign and to convince them that they want to join the winners. In every online campaign newsletter, I want to include a volunteer signup form and a contribution form.

I recommend against putting direct pressure on individuals who have signed up for the newsletter to contribute to the campaign or to volunteer. The forms included in the campaign newsletter are enough pressure. There is no need to antagonize the person who just wants to learn more about you.

In the recent Democratic primary election, I signed up for the campaign newsletter of all the major candidates. What I received in return was the daily pitch for money from each of the major candidates. Since they could produce these pitches at extremely low costs, the campaign managers and consultants did exactly that in the hope of extracting every dollar possible for the campaign.

A well thought out campaign newsletter designed to draw me into the campaign would have been far more effective. Deliver it only once or twice a week. Neither I nor anyone else is going to make a daily contribution to the candidate.

When you design your form, make certain that you obtain as much information as possible about the individual. Look for hidden skills that can assist your candidate. My son Brian, who is a piano performance major at the University of Utah, often tries to volunteer to perform on behalf of liberal Democrats. Even though he has performed for a number of national organizations, no candidate has ever taken him up on his offer to perform at a fundraiser or other event.