Glyn Preston, our new development officer for Wales, gives us some tips on recruiting new volunteers.
The Swansea & Gower Local Party had a successful local election campaign this May, gaining four seats from Labour in what was a very difficult election for Labour-facing areas. Their success in the local elections was – in part – down to their ability to recruit and retain deliverers and volunteers. I spoke to Mike O’Carroll, local Campaign Chair, about what Swansea have done to build a bigger team.
Keeping in touch with residents is hard work. In Swansea, we aim to deliver a Focus every 6-10 weeks in our held and target wards. Our candidates and key activists are always very busy, and so we want their time to be spent out of the doorstep, canvassing, rather than delivering leaflets. That’s why it is imperative we recruit a network of volunteers and deliverers.
Top Tips for recruiting volunteers
The most important thing to do in order to recruit volunteers, is to ask every time.
We aim to do this every time we canvass; it’s important to check that you’re using a script that includes that question. We have also run special canvassing sessions that are particularly focused on recruiting volunteers – the volunteer prospect pools on Connect (Tier 1 and 2) are really good for this. We always try to include options for people to volunteer on our leaflets too.
In Swansea, most of our deliverers are not party members. Some of them don’t even support the Liberal Democrats, just their local councillor, but they’re still a valuable part of our campaigning team.
If someone volunteers to deliver, we try and make sure that we have the first delivery with them as soon as possible, before they can change their mind! We also use WhatsApp to keep in touch with our deliverers and ask them to let us know when they have completed the delivery – this is crucial as a proportion of the volunteers who you recruit will be unreliable for various reasons.
Lastly on retention, and probably the most important thing you can do to retain volunteers, is that we always take every opportunity to thank our volunteers. We invite volunteers to our social events, and try to make them feel part of a team.
Building and maintaining a delivery network is always a work in progress. In Swansea, where (currently) there is a low base of Lib Dem support, it’s always hard to find volunteers. We don’t yet have 100% coverage in any of our wards, but every single volunteer is a delivery walk that our candidates/activists do not have to do. We couldn’t have made the gains we did in May without a volunteer delivery network, and it’s a key priority of ours ahead of the next Senedd elections.
If you have any tips about recruiting volunteers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can continue to share best practice.