TIPS FOR TEAMS,By Louise Annarino,September 11,2012

10 Sep

TIPS FOR TEAMS,By Louise Annarino,September 10, 2012

 

I remember the guiding principles behind Obama neighborhood teams in 2008: Respect, Empower, Include. They still hold true. If you are one of the thousands of grass-roots organizers building a neighborhood team, ask yourself if the step you are about to take, or if what is being asked of you, meets that criteria.

 

Respect your volunteers.Respecting those you are recruiting means listening to them,accepting them for who they are and what they feel able to do for the team. It is not they who must bend to you,but you who must bend to them. They don’t feel comfortable making phone calls? Let them organize a food brigade to keep volunteers hydrated and fed, make coffee,clean out the refrigerator. They fear going door-to-door? Let them put together yard signs, restock shelves, sit at a voter registration table in front of the library, shred scrap paper, enter data.

 

Nothing someone is willing to do is too little; everyone has something to offer. New volunteers can accompany well-seasoned canvassers, holding the clipboard and marking responses, leaving the other person free to carry the conversation. Before long, the new person may offer a comment. after a few more houses they may find themselves eager to engage in discussion. Before long, they may say,”I think I can take the other side of the street”, or not. Most of the time the reason someone is reluctant to do canvassing or calling is because they have never experienced it. It is scary. The point is, let volunteers proceed at their own pace, no matter who insists otherwise.

 

Yes, I know this is a presidential race. Organizers and volunteers are always racing from one event or project to the next. Paid staff must report their numbers for the day, and want volunteers to stay on task. But, volunteers will remain in the community,long after staff have left. These are the persons you will call on for the next campaign and the one after that. Show them the respect they deserve if you want them to stay on your team, for this election and next year’s.

 

Empower your volunteers. Delegate.Delegate.Delegate. Believe me there will be plenty for you to do. The most important things for the team leader to do include: participate in every task you ask of the team, listen and act upon ideas of team members, share new information widely, anticipate new directions and directives from staff, prepare your team for new expectations, defend your teams needs, find ways to reward your team for their efforts, assure team of efficacy of their efforts, and recruit more volunteers. You will never have enough.

 

If your team feels empowered, each member will be able to take on one another’s role, including yours. Each team member becomes a leader. Each team member will recruit new members; they will train, inform and lead them in the specific projects you assigned them. This makes their efforts easier to accomplish and more likely to succeed. Such success encourages your team to expand its efforts in ways staff cannot imagine, and may not condone. Never mind. Just keep empowering your team and you’ll have great numbers to report every night.

 

Include your volunteers in every activity of team. Cross-train everyone, share efforts, keep all informed of each other’s efforts. Create a newsletter to report outcomes of canvasses,phone banks, “tableing” events etc. Make sure each team member has access to the perks of a campaign such as volunteer opportunities at candidate appearances,special training events, access to celebrities and surrogates etc. They should hear all new information from you first,never feel you kept info from them.

 

I would add one more item: protect your team. Never ask them to do an unsafe activity. Canvass in pairs, report in on a regular basis, call for assistance and respond immediately to any concern they may have. Never ask them to do something they consider a waste of time or plain silly, no matter who asks it of you. Do not let them be bombarded by paid staff asking them to do something useless. Employees must do the useless from time-to-time, especially when bosses are so far removed from the current situation they face. That is what paid staff must expect. Volunteers have no such obligation. Asked to use their precious volunteer time for what they consider a waste of time might make them feel so disrespected, un-empowered, and un-included in the campaign that they quit it altogether. Better to protect each team member than to lose the team.

 

Neighborhood teams are like family.Expect some discontent at times.Be prepared to settle squabbles. Lead.Lead.Lead with love and affection. Trust one another. Defend one another. Hope with one another. Be strong surrogates for each other and for your candidate. President Obama says we give him hope. He trusts us. Let’s not let our team mates down. Let’s not let him down.

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