While preparing a lesson for my Sunday School class, I came across some words which I believe best explain some of the elements of a successful campaign. Paraphrasing heavily from my source material, faith in our cause provides the focus for my campaign and it is in the proper caring for the campaign’s volunteers—the engine of the campaign—that is an essential ingredient for a successful outcome.
I am always mindful of the sacrifices that my volunteers make of their time and resources and the risks they take in today’s partisan political climate of openly suporting our campaign.
It’s a sad commentary that so much of current political discourse consists of the demonizing of a candidate; it’s not sufficient to express your opposition to a viewpoint but you have to also find some evil motive behind his opinion. If you support that candidate, then you are just as bad as he or she is.
That alone would cause most people to hesitate to become involved in a political campaign. Plus there are all other normal challenges of life. One of my volunteers has to make decisions for her elderly parents, one of whom has dementia; others are in the middle of renovating their home; still another has medical issues that affect his mobility and availability. Many are in school and hold part time jobs. Some have children.
None of them are salaried, there are no per diem reimbursements for using their cars or for the meals they consume while out campaigning. There is no prospect of a job or some special benefit accrued from all their hard work.
In reality, there is no guarantee of victory. The lucky ones get a polo shirt for being members of the staff but they are not personalized. For most the only material souvenir they’ll get from their time on the campaign is a Mike for Chairman t-shirt and we already know the gag line that goes with that.
Volunteers remind me of the words of Theodore Roosevelt in his speech about citizenship in a republic. It is the person “who is actually in the arena…. (and) knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
In short, volunteers are motivated for reasons for which they selflessly give of themselves. How we harness this energy is a leadership and managerial responsibility for our campaign team. Somehow we have to identify the gifts and talents of our volunteers and find a way to fit them in.
Once engaged they have to be kept informed of the direction of the campaign so that we are all singing from the same sheet of music. Many of them have to be encouraged to do things that are outside their comfort zones. All of them have to believe that they are special.
They are a microcosm of the world that a Chairman will govern. How well the candidate works with his team is a great indicator of how well he will lead later.
During my Marine Corps career I learned that you lead people and manage things. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you. You have to train them, trust them, and empower them. I came to love my Marines because of what they stood for and what they accomplished. Their biggest fear was that they would let their team down.
I love my volunteers for the same reason. For they understand that that the joy is not always in the destination but in the journey and the many great friendships and stories that will come from it. They are already winners…and so am I for being among them.