3. The architect (in his own mind)
Diagnosis: This Karl Rove wannabe is the consummate political junkie that desperately wants to be on the staff. He’s typically convinced himself that if he were in charge, the campaign would be on a straight path to victory.
Benefits: There aren’t many. They probably know all the insider terminology, and will employ industry terms like “micro targeting” unnecessarily in conversation. If they are local, they may have a body of knowledge on past races and major players that could be useful.
Risks: Architects view themselves as strategists, not grunt workers, so they are generally long on advice and short on actual help. Because they put themselves before the campaign, it is difficult to get them to be team players.
Prescription: Pair them up with a tolerant fellow volunteer and a GPS device and let them drive and pontificate while their partner knocks on doors.
4. The eager beaver
Diagnosis: The eager beaver is the loyal foot soldier without the experience. Generally high school or college kids, these volunteers are enthusiastic and all about helping the cause in any way they can.
Benefits: Eager beavers are energetic, personable and open to instruction. They will likely be thrilled just to be a part of the campaign and are willing to do anything asked of them.
Risks: With all teenagers, the tendency to be flaky goes with the territory. As a result, they will occasionally no-show when club meetings, sports practice and trouble borrowing the car get in the way. Eager beavers tend to glamorize the staff, so they can be pesky. But at the end of day it’s worth spending five minutes of your time chatting them up if it results in 500 phone calls.
Prescription: Although they require a bit more time and effort on your part, these volunteers will be among your best. Try to recruit them early by staking out local college campuses or posting on social networking sites, and then get them to recruit their friends. Eager beavers tend to be friendly and outgoing, so they're great for direct voter contact.
5. The resume builder
Diagnosis: The resume builder is often similar in age and outward appearance to the eager beaver, but is involved with the campaign for an entirely different reason. He or she is in it primarily to pad their resume. Generally college kids or recent graduates, resume builders are typically competent and tend to be comparatively reliable since they are looking to get a recommendation for their efforts.
Benefits: The resume builders are easy to understand, because their motivation is clear. Agree with it or not, you know what they’re in it for.
Risks: Resume builders’ self-interested approach will be off-putting to true-believer types.
Prescription: Make it clear what’s in it for them, and they will do what you need done. Resume builders are all about the bottom line. If they seem dissatisfied with the work they’re doing, offer them a title promotion to sweeten the deal. They will generally clean toilets as long as they get to put deputy something-or-other on their resume.
Each volunteer is obviously a unique individual, but many of them can be categorized. The sooner you figure out what they’re looking to get out of the experience, the easier it will be to develop the tools to get what you need out of them. After all, if your campaign can’t motivate people who are already supporters, how can you expect to influence voters?
Amelia Chassé is an account director at Hynes Communications, where she advises political campaigns, corporations and advocacy organizations on new media strategy. A veteran of campaigns at the state, local and presidential levels, she currently resides in New Hampshire.