It’s a myth that there are legions of people doing political work. In my congressional district of approximately a million people there are about 300 reliable volunteers in for the long term and another 500 or so who show up during campaigns and a few more in the weeks before an election to help out. And Minnesota’s third CD is consistently one of the most effective in the country.

And, as it is in every volunteer organization, a very few people do a great deal of the work.

Sometimes volunteering is simply showing up at a town hall or a rally, or maintaining a website, or cooking for hungry campaign staffers. Other times it is working closely with a candidate day after day or producing a video or writing press releases and yes, contacting voters by phone or in person. There are tasks for the gregarious talkers and shut ins; for the the tech nerd and and the technophobe.

Of course, as election day gets closer and closer, more and more volunteers will be asked to do voter contact. Voter contact is how we win elections and it simply must be done. Let’s face facts though, not everyone is cut out for phone calling and door knocking. So where will you fit?

Well, what kind of person are you?

Your skill set

On the theory that you’ll be happiest doing what you do best, make a list of your skills. If you are an accountant, be a treasurer. Salespeople make great voter contact people. Writers can create press releases or flyers. Office workers can do any number of needed tasks around a campaign office. Some volunteers just cook nutritious chow for hungry volunteers who often live for months on potato chips and pop! Kjnmow what your skill set is and communicate it to leaders and staffers.

Your commitment

You need to make a decision as to how much time you are willing to offer. Think carefully about it. Be up front about your decision with others. Once you’ve made up your mind and taken on a task, meet your commitments. You might find as you make friends and gain experience, that you’d like to do more.

Be proactive and creative.

Since other volunteers also have jobs and a family, they may not have a great deal of time to contact you or think about what you could be doing. If you gave someone your name and said you’d help out and have not been called, don’t be steamed -call them and ask what you can do. If you have a brilliant idea and wonder why your organization is not doing it, it is likely because no one either thought of it (unlikely) or volunteered to take it on (almost certain!). This is when you say “I’d like to (fill in the blank).” Chances are that local leaders will 1) be overjoyed, 2) thankful and 3) relieved!

Here’s an outline of tasks and who might do them

Affiliate

I’ve chosen this word to describe someone who wants to help, but cannot commit to a great deal of time or ongoing participation. An affiliate might take on a specific task from time to time. Often affiliates are neglected by parties and campaigns because, frankly, it is a lot of work to keep track of what volunteers will do what work -especially when the volunteer coordinator (if there is one at all) is a volunteer herself! Affiliates might:

stuff envelopes

cook for hungry campaign staffers (almost always college students)

Pass on fliers or e-mails from opposition candidates

sign petitions -online or otherwise

show up at a rally

write a letter to a legislator or a newspaper

design a flyer

record or videotape an event

Stay at Home/ Shut In

Taking ona recurring task that cam be done from home is a great way to volunteer without having to leave children or work behind. Many folks who cannot get around can also help. Stay at Homes amy

Moderate an online discussion group

maintain a webpage

Act as treasurer for a party organization or campaign

Worker

Someone who will join a campaign or party organization as an ongoing volunteer.

Join a campaign as a regular volunteer

Door knock and phone call

Leader

Leaders are always needed and are hard to find. This is usually because leadership requires a longer term committment. But if you like to build an porganization

Be an officer in a local party unti

organize fundraisers and other events

strategize long and short term

lead a team

Gregarious and outgoing

Chances are you are fairly well educated, stay on top of the issues and love to talk. You may be in a profession, like sales, that relies on persuasion. You are most needed in voter contact, especially during the persuasion phase. Door knocking puts you in touch with voters face to face where you can use your skills to help a voter over to our side.If you have strong phone skills you’ll want to let the campaign volunteer coordinator know. You’ll also make a great leader, fundraiser or campaign staffer.