Volunteer management 101: a guide for political campaigns

March 11, 2024 | Brandon Blumenherst
A group of volunteers in blue shirts are gathering and chatting in a park.

Across the political landscape, successful campaigns rely largely on the help of passionate volunteers. These supporters help organizers canvass, fundraise, make calls, and more.

That’s why having a comprehensive volunteer management strategy is so important for mobilizing and retaining the supporters who power your political campaign. Managing volunteers requires time and effort, but putting in the work to cultivate these relationships will go far in helping you build a loyal support base that paves the way to victory.

In this guide, we’ll explore the volunteer management process and everything that goes into building a strong coalition of volunteers for your campaign.

What is volunteer management?

Volunteer management involves strategically recruiting, engaging, and retaining volunteers for an organization or political campaign.

In particular, volunteer management focuses on strengthening and maintaining relationships with volunteers to retain their valuable support in the long run. By empowering volunteers to assume leadership positions or other responsibilities, you can mobilize more support and drive action for your campaign.

Why is volunteer management important for political campaigns?

Political campaign managers have many responsibilities, from designing the campaign’s strategy to monitoring public perception of the candidate and so much more. They may not have time to interact with each volunteer who contributes to the campaign’s success, even though every volunteer’s support is instrumental.

This is where volunteer management comes in. Whether it’s handled by a single volunteer coordinator or a team, these individuals give volunteers the direction, support, and appreciation they need to assist with key campaign activities. 

Without effective volunteer management, your campaign risks losing essential support and getting overwhelmed with responsibilities that your staff can’t manage alone.

The volunteer management process

Effective volunteer management centers around recruitment, engagement, and retention

If you’re starting from scratch, recruitment is a necessary first step toward building your volunteer base. However, if you have existing supporters already, you can start engaging them with new volunteering opportunities to deepen their relationship with your campaign. Explore each stage in more detail below.


Recruitment is the process of identifying potential new volunteers and convincing them to take action to support your campaign. Recruitment activities help grow your volunteer base and the variety of volunteer skill sets you have at your disposal.

The recruitment process typically involves:

  • Defining volunteer roles and responsibilities.
  • Creating and sharing a volunteer registration page on your website.
  • Leveraging multiple communication channels to promote your opportunities to potential volunteers.
  • Screening volunteers to ensure they’re a good fit for your campaign and the roles they signed up for.

To recruit volunteers successfully, promote volunteering opportunities that speak to the motivations of your target audience. Put yourself in potential volunteers’ shoes, and write compelling calls to action (CTAs) that empower them to join your campaign and take an active role in the political process.


After recruiting volunteers or tapping into your existing support base, it’s up to your campaign staff to keep them engaged

Effective volunteer management involves developing relationships with volunteers through engaging interactions that make them feel like valued members of your team. Your campaign’s engagement efforts might include:

  • Reaching out consistently to check in with volunteers and provide support.
  • Sharing new opportunities to get involved.
  • Encouraging volunteers to participate more regularly through specific activities they enjoy.
  • Offering to train dedicated volunteers for more advanced opportunities, like taking a leadership role in your campaign’s distributed organizing structure.

Ideally, you should increase your volunteers’ level of engagement over time by providing them with positive experiences and connecting with them often. 

Remember to respect the time and energy that each volunteer can give to your campaign. While some volunteers may always be looking for additional ways to act, many others have a limited capacity to help. Respecting the boundaries set by your volunteers will help your campaign decrease the risk of burnout and losing volunteers. 


The final aspect of volunteer management is showing your volunteers enough appreciation and support that they stay engaged with your campaign long-term. 

Volunteer retention focuses on building strong, respectful relationships with your volunteers and sharing appreciation for their hard work. Sending them thank-you messages after completing volunteer shifts can go a long way, but you can also branch out by giving them small gifts or hosting volunteer appreciation events. Anything that shows them how important they are to your campaign will help you strengthen relationships and retain more volunteers.

Key volunteer management best practices to follow

Optimizing each part of the volunteer management process takes experience, but you can get a head start by following these expert volunteer management best practices:

Make it easy to volunteer

Remove as many barriers to action as you can so volunteers can participate easily and often. This means streamlining your volunteer registration form, including direct links to sign up in your communications, and leveraging tools like canvassing apps and virtual phone banking software to improve the volunteer experience.

Automate your communications

Using campaign technology like digital outreach automation tools can help your team save time, boost efficiency, and personalize volunteer communications to improve relationship building. Automate a series of emails designed to connect with volunteers and provide them with all the information they need to succeed in their roles.

Collect volunteer feedback often

Asking for feedback shows volunteers that their opinions matter and provides your campaign with actionable insight into how you can better engage and retain your volunteers. Collect feedback in person on canvassing days or at events, or send out regular online surveys volunteers can fill out to share their experiences with your campaign.

Show your appreciation in multiple ways

From thank-you text messages to appreciation gifts and social media shoutouts, there are countless ways you can prove to your volunteers that you value their dedication. Create a volunteer appreciation plan that mixes both public and private recognition ideas to appeal to different preferences.

Using volunteer management software

Leveraging dedicated volunteer management software makes it much easier to efficiently and effectively manage your relationship with volunteers, all from a centralized solution. 

Whether your campaign has a dozen volunteers or thousands, volunteer management software will help you engage volunteers, track their participation, and present opportunities to empower up-and-coming volunteer leaders.

Features to look for:

If you don’t have a volunteer management solution already, research a few options and ensure they have the following essential features:

  • Scheduling: Your software should enable you to schedule volunteers for shifts, see scheduled activities at a glance, and send shift reminders to volunteers.
  • Volunteer participation tracking: Volunteer profiles show you details about a volunteer’s previous participation, their contact information, and any recorded preferences or interests.
  • Outreach tools: You should be able to send targeted emails and texts to communicate with potential and active volunteers.
  • Reporting: See metrics like the number of active volunteers you have, retention rates, total volunteer hours, and more.

In addition to general volunteer management software, consider solutions that can improve certain aspects of the volunteer management process, too. This might include canvassing apps, phone and text banking tools, event management software, and more. Ideally, any additional tools you use should integrate with your volunteer management platform to keep your data centralized.

Leveraging VAN and Mobilize for volunteer management

Our industry-leading organizing platforms, VAN and Mobilize, work together to help you easily recruit and engage volunteers, track their involvement, and streamline volunteer management processes. 

Mobilize, our events management and volunteer recruitment platform, has powered over 22 million volunteer actions since 2018. With a network of over six million volunteers, Mobilize has built-in features and workflow automations that help you recruit more volunteers, send follow-up messages to decrease no-shows and ask for post-event feedback, and increase event sign-ups by up to 40%. 

Mobilize offers time-saving, impactful features to help you build your volunteer base and engage your existing supporters. Some key features include:   

  • Promotions: Promotions allow you to ask like-minded campaigns and organizations to promote your actions on Mobilize and vice versa. If approved, your event will be shown in that organization’s Mobilize feed, potentially increasing attendance at future events and building your supporter list. 
  • Weekly automated newsletter: Your campaign’s volunteer opportunities are shared with your supporters through a customizable email newsletter every week. 
  • Suggested events and bring-a-friend prompts: After signing up for an event, Mobilize suggests other events volunteers can sign up for with just one tap. Your campaign can choose events to highlight, or Mobilize will fill them in for you. Mobilize also asks volunteers to invite their friends to the event or action to help garner more support. 
  • Follow-up messages: Mobilize can also automatically send reminder messages to scheduled attendees to remind them of upcoming volunteer events to help decrease no-shows. The platform also sends follow-up messages to attendees after the event to gather feedback so you can make future events or actions even better.

Mobilize also offers a VAN integration that makes it easy to employ Mobilize’s features and automations while still recording valuable volunteer information into a centralized volunteer database like VAN.

In VAN, My Campaign includes a specialized volunteer management dashboard that identifies active and lapsed volunteers in addition to “hot leads” to focus your recruitment efforts.

Create events and online sign-up forms to track attendance totals and add new supporters to your events. My Campaign allows you to build and track relationships with your volunteers, making it easy to act on that data in the future. For instance, if you want to reach out to supporters who volunteered for your campaign in the past but haven’t recently, you can easily pull that list in My Campaign using your past volunteer data (even if it was sent over from Mobilize). 

Streamline volunteer management with NGP VAN platforms!

With thoughtful volunteer management strategies and intuitive platforms, you can build and sustain an empowered volunteer base that drives your campaign — and you don’t have to do it alone. As the leading technology provider for Democratic and progressive campaigns and political organizations, NGP VAN is here to help you manage volunteers more effectively. Request a demo to explore our tools and see how we can help your campaign.