ADVICE: Building the Campaign Team

ALDC exists to provide the advice, resources and training you need to get elected and make a difference for your community. As well as the information you can get from our advice line or from our development officers, we also offer an FAQ section on our website with over 200 of the most common questions answered. Below we’ve included our FAQ answer about building your team.

Remember you can get help with your plans for developing and increasing the members in your team at our Kickstart weekends. You can book now for the our Autumn Kickstart – 24-26 November 2017.

Campaign Team: Building the Team

Everyone recognises that to win you need enough people to deliver a winning campaign plan. What is equally important is that you have an engaged core team who have specific roles and responsibilities and deliver them.

Who should be in your core team?

In a general election year with local elections as well on the same day the ‘team’ needs to cover at least the parliamentary constituency in geography – some may widen this to principal local authority boundaries particularly where the party has reorganised on this basis.

The core team should include:

  • Your area’s PPCs and their agents
  • The local election candidates for target wards and their agents
  • Any other elected councillors within the boundaries

It is a coalition of the willing so all those who are active and commit to the plan and equally have some buy in.

Building a coalition of the willing

Start by getting together as big a group of activists as you can muster to a meeting – make it as attractive as possible. So an easy to get to venue, lay on food if you can. Look professional and use a credible “objective” external facilitator if you can. This helps when stark realities need to be faced and/or new technique embraced.

Take them through the problems and challenges and then get collective agreement on what we need to aim at achieving in 2017 and beyond.

Think of the challenges at all levels

  • PCC
  • General Election
  • Principal local authorities
  • Parish/town and community councils
  • Euros

Maximise participation in the meeting and get as much “buy in” to the plan that emerges as possible.

This may take more than one meeting. But hopefully you can come away with a plan for 2017/2020 that includes measurable targets and responsibilities accepted.

Get candidates, both PPCs and local election to accept their responsibilities to deliver the plan and targets. This could be done via a candidate contract, but however it is done it needs to be crystal clear who is responsible for what and when.

It is normal to expect local election candidates to lead the team in their area and to take responsibility for its delivery in their ‘patch’.

Those with responsibilities to deliver an element of the plan would then be invited to monthly meetings (weekly in the later stages of the campaign) where the plan is monitored for progress, problems identified, tackled and training and good practice disseminated.

So much of your voter contact, literature delivery and recruitment targets might be covered by target candidates on an area basis.

This might leave a number of other key roles to be filled.

The first thing to do is encourage your local and general election candidates and agents to approach existing activists to take on specified roles. Election campaigns are built around candidates, building and leading the team is part of their role.

Try to pick ‘do-ers’ for the core team – even if they don’t have the full skill set or a lot of time, they may well be the most effective.

Developing the wider team and delegating

For a bigger campaign, each core team member needs to be a team builder in their own right, getting people to work with them, so delegating and developing skills are important not only for the Candidate and Campaign Manager when dealing with the core team, but also so that the core team can cascade those skills and help the wider team grow.

Knowing people’s skills and interests is essential to delegate, as is mentoring and encouragement – and provision of the right tools and skills. Start small if in doubt – see if the person takes to the role before you give out a major task which you may then have to take away if it does not work. Successful delegation takes time, but it is key to the success of the core team.

There is no hard and fast formula for the composition of a wider winning campaign team. The exact set up will vary from constituency to constituency or ward to ward depending on individual circumstances. Set out in a separate article are some roles that need to be filled. It is up to the core team to decide how best to achieve this. It’s a useful list to remind you all the areas the need to either covered or consciously ignored!

On many smaller campaign teams one person will be responsible for more than one role. For example, the agent often oversees media and literature, acting as the overall campaign manager. Often one person can combine overseeing the postal vote operation with polling day organisation in a single Get Out The Vote operation.

Try to avoid ‘cloning’ where the core team becomes a clique of people of similar age, gender, ethnicity, or personal resource. It might lead to less disagreement but it will make it harder to mine the diverse pool of talent in your area and you will lose out on some good ideas.

Ten top team building tips

  • Thank the team frequently
  • Have clear agreed objectives and tasks so success is obvious
  • Keep meetings short and action focused
  • Celebrate success
  • Show why each job is important – how their action has made a difference
  • Go for regular commitments to keep the team working together
  • Keep in touch – collect team email addresses and mobile numbers – text is great for short encouraging messages and reminding people about activities
  • Thank them again!
  • Welcome new members
  • Always make it fun – and NEVER moan about what has not happened!

Developing team spirit

Team spirit is important – most, if not everyone, will be a volunteer and any employed staff will be giving more than they are contracted to – so enjoyment, achievement and personal development need to be part of the deal.

Great teams enjoy working together and have clear common goals. It is worth talking these through from the start and not assuming everyone is in it for exactly the same reason. Great teams also establish clearly defined roles, work with targets and, above all, celebrate success!

Make volunteering a social experience

Most people are sociable creatures and it is more likely that the people who volunteer for your campaign are going to prefer the company of others to working alone. Therefore, do everything you can to make volunteering a social experience. For example, we should never have a helper sitting on their own (unless they asked to!). It is also useful to schedule your helpers so they generally work with the same people so they get to know them – at the very least you should avoid putting people in a situation where they don’t know anybody!

The obvious thing to do is to combine the “useful” bits of volunteering with the “fun” parts. The trip to the pub after canvassing is important, but you should do whatever suits your group of volunteers, after all it’s all for them. Remember to be inclusive – not everyone wants a trip to the pub, it might be a club – or it might be the local tea shop or garden centre!

Make all helpers part of the ‘inside team’

Everyone wants to belong and nobody wants to feel excluded. It’s important that your helpers feel that they’re part of the team and we must always avoid giving the impression that there are parts of the campaign that they are excluded from. Of course, there are parts of the plan that we don’t share widely but it’s important that this isn’t waved in the volunteers’ faces – signs that say “No Entry” or “Campaign Team Only” are not helpful. It’s easy to make your helpers feel that they’re on the inside without actually being reckless with confidential information. For example, emails to your helpers labelled “Important Campaign Update” can give as much insight as you feel comfortable with and will still make people reading them feel involved. It’s even better if you can get enough of your helpers in one place to give them a briefing in person.

Say thank you

If making it fun is the main thing, then this is a close second. Saying thank you is free and easy, and by “say” we literally need to “say” it. Of course you can buy cards or cakes to show your appreciation (and you should probably do that too) but just saying the words when a volunteer comes to help and when they leave will make sure they feel appreciated.

Using social media to ask for help and maintain motivation

Over 50% of people in the UK use Facebook at least once a month, according to current usage statistics. It’s certainly a great place to engage with your members and volunteers – provided you remember to use other means of communication too, as plenty of folk will still prefer a phone call or a personal visit.

There can be some reluctance to engage in more open use of social media, but this must be weighed against the advantages of quick and easy communication, reaching more potential supporters and helpers and generating a sense of excitement and activity.

Do not be afraid to tweet where you have been talking to voters because then “the opposition will know” – so will many potential voters, and they want to know you are out there listening and communicating. If you’re delivering your ward every month and canvassing lots of people, any alert opposition will know what you’re doing anyway!

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