Organising campaigns using volunteers

Charles Glover, ALDC Development Officer (Mayoral Campaigns), tells us about organising campaigns using volunteers and uses examples from his experience supporting the West Midlands mayoral campaign.

Reaching an audience of two million people needs a different approach to communicating than we are used to in wards, divisions and constituencies. Our mayoral candidates have huge electorates they are attempting to engage with. The scale of the task needs to be recognised in the organisational structure.

In the Liberal Democrats this organisational challenge is compounded by our reliance on volunteers over paid staff. This is a strength in many ways as we are less likely to live in a staff bubble and are more connected to our communities, but means that we need to adopt an organisational structure which is flexible enough to appeal to and accommodate volunteer helpers in key positions.

Our mayoral campaigns are developing their structure in response to their increased understanding of the sheer number of tasks and scale of communication needed to have impact.

In West Midlands there are scores of people involved, and nearly all are volunteers. They have responded by developing an open and clear organisational structure.

Their key principles are:

  1. A small enough core team that progress can be made at meetings.
  2. Fewer meetings for volunteers who are not core team members so they can get on with delivering their responsibilities.
  3. Improved internal communication so everyone feels in the loop.
  4. Campaigns take a matrix structure – so empower people to work together directly by sharing their contact details and responsibilities.
  5. Bitesize jobs. Split the roles down or create teams for larger jobs so that volunteers are not overwhelmed. This helps retain volunteers.
  6. Clear reporting to a core team member so the leadership team is kept informed.
  7. Set terms of reference for each of the core team members so they understand how their role fits into the shared goals of the campaign.
  8. A structure that grows and shrinks to match the resource available and the demands upon it.

The West Midlands’ organogram (from December, with the names changed) shows the responsibilities and roles the campaign team feels are important.

The organogram has place holders for jobs they still need to recruit for and it identifies people that still need to be asked. When talking to volunteers they have used the organogram to explain much more clearly what they are expecting of the volunteer and what support they will receive from fellow team members. Jobs can be modified, split, grouped or people can volunteer for more than one as appropriate.

The core team can remain constant whilst their columns of volunteers change throughout the campaign. This means volunteers can choose different roles at different points in the campaign. Continuity is maintained by core team members reporting the progress of those in their column. The core team member decides how to manage their sub-team.

A modified version of this approach is now being used in Greater Manchester to increase the number of volunteers and build a more influential campaign.

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