By Joshua Daniel Pratt (originally published in Virginians for America First)
I have been a community activist and volunteering on political campaigns since 1994. It is hard to believe that 25+ years have gone by. I think back on the campaigns that I worked on over the years, and in the many capacities I have served in different regions across our great nation, and I have seen what a great volunteer looks like.
How to be a great volunteer starts with enthusiasm. It is the ‘spark’ that every great volunteer has. Enthusiasm is from the Greek enthousiasmós, ‘to be infused with God’. According to Merriam Webster, “enthusiasm was primarily employed to refer to beliefs or passions that related to religion. By the beginning of the 18th century, however, the word began to be used to describe having strong feelings or interest in secular matters.”
For each individual the manifestation of that spark looks unique, maybe even challenging to define at times, but when it is there, you know it. I have observed some great volunteers who have the spark. There are many characteristics of a great volunteer that I have noted through the years. I want to share with you 7 characteristics that come to the top of my list. This list is not exhaustive, it is more of a primer or a starting ground that any volunteer can use to better their service to the cause.
7 ESSENCES OF THE CHARACTER OF A GREAT VOLUNTEER
Hangs in there
Because all great volunteers have enthusiasm they want to do something, and at times their passion is ‘do it now.’ Hanging on to that drive, and not losing it while the campaign is in ‘hurry up and wait’ mode can be frustrating. A great volunteer understands that a campaign has times when there is run, run, run and times when they are standing by. The hang in thereness is complimentary to not being easily crushed. All campaigns have pressure - it is a battle, and like war there are skirmishes, and full assaults. Hanging in there when the going is tough is an excellent quality in a volunteer.
2. Does their tasks with excellence
Volunteers are tasked with many duties in a campaign. It is the essentials of a campaign to have volunteers who have taken on tasks and complete them. Every successful campaign had a volunteer corps that performed their duties with excellence. There will be efforts that fall short of the goal, sure. The volunteer who does their best, and still falls short of a goal, should feel nothing but accomplishment for in doing their tasks they did it with their best efforts. Excellence is the goal, and every attempt at excellence in the service of the campaign advances the entirety of the movement. It has been said, “many small streams make a mighty river.”
3. Knows the issues and policies of the campaign
When a person volunteers for a campaign and their service is accepted, they become a representative of the campaign. The implications here are large. One important implication is that a volunteer ‘will know’ the policies and issues. Others will want to know what you as a volunteer believe in and why they should become a part of the cause. It is possible for a volunteer to know very well, and be able to articulate what the campaign stands for. Generally speaking, most do. It is that passion for the issues that makes great volunteers thrive and forms the deepest of connections to the group. Each member of the team has a common cause, a vision of what needs to be done, and the ability to express that understanding to others is another quality of a great volunteer.
4. Understands that the campaign is a battle (and the enemy is crafty.)
Scripture tells us “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities”; the meaning of this is a campaign, a war. The word campaign means a “connected series of military operations forming a distinct phase of a war.” And: to take part in a series of activities meant to produce a particular result: ‘They campaigned for a new library.’
Whether it is a blitz, cause, crusade, drive, juggernaut, movement, or a push, a campaign is the taking of what someone else has. A campaign is offensive. Yes, there is defense in a campaign and the importance of defensive measures and tactics are essential. Vince Lombardi said, “The best defense is a good offense.” Therefore, a campaign must be taking territory and advancing constantly to the victory.
A great volunteer always has this in the forethought, the understanding that an opposing force, an adversary, is working to stop the advancement of the cause by the advancement of their cause.
In the advancement of conservative values the war has an enemy that seeks to steal, kill and destroy. ‘Like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.’ The enemy will make every effort to disrupt the service and try to discourage the volunteer from participating in the campaign.
5. Keep personal relationships in an orderly manner
This cannot be emphasized enough: Relationships matter. There are relationships inside the campaign and outside the campaign that need to be managed so as to not cause undo stressors on the volunteer. A great volunteer doesn’t bring their personal relations into the campaign. A reason being a campaign has direction and purpose to move forward and when a volunteer has tensions in their home it directly affects their campaign relationships and efforts within the team.
A great volunteer can separate inside from outside relationships and manage their relationships so they do not cross over personal and professional lines. Also, a great volunteer must be aware that inside the campaign new relationships will form and these relationships will become forever imprinted on a person - some are lasting friendships, some become professional associates, others move on. All in all, the campaign has the goal of victory and any relationship that can interfere -whether that be stressors at home, stressors in the campaign, campaign romance, personality conflicts -all relationships must be kept in the proper perspective to preserve the family and protect the integrity of the campaign.
6. Has excellent communication with leadership
Communication is important to the volunteer. Knowing what is going to happen is important. Leadership has the responsibility to keep the volunteer informed. A great volunteer knows that searching out information is more productive than just waiting for it to be given. In that, a volunteer can be a reminder to leadership to communicate more.
The volunteer establishing the line of communication with the campaign has always worked out to be the most efficient. Some prefer text, others email, etc. Some great volunteers have dedicated cell phones for the campaign business. It is up to the volunteer to let the team know what is best for them, and to participate in all corporate communications.
When I got started in campaigns faxing was the standard. Today, the ability to communicate is overwhelming. Face to face meetings can happen from anywhere in the world. We have access to information sharing like never before. Pick which is best for you, and in time learn the forms that are emerging. Every campaign I have seen had the most advanced communications. If the information you need as a volunteer can be easily accessed, then you will be a great volunteer.
7. Knows when to say ‘enough’, and does
I have seen in every campaign volunteer burnout. To varying degrees, some volunteers hit a wall and say ‘enough’. The reasons vary from person to person but there are a common few. One reason is being asked to do too much. In most campaigns the need for volunteers and workload can be too much for the few who show up to help out. Deadlines, events, GOTV - every volunteer I have worked with has had a similar experience of ‘this is too much’. Knowing when to say you need a break, a step back, to take a breather, and then acting on that is healthy. I have seen good volunteers take that moment and then be able to restart and be reinvigorated. The super stars I have seen have always put their family first.
It is my belief that when we are enthused we are infused with the Spirit of God. When we show enthusiasm, the spark, we’re showing the proper appreciation for the wonderful world in which we live. It is gratitude revealed.
This spark manifests in many different forms, scripturally these are called talents, and gifts of the Spirit. To be enthused is the common quality of all who love what they do and do it with excellence for the service of others. Volunteerism happens in many forms - religious, civic, hospitality, cause of political interest, charities, etc. - it is truly universal. The service a volunteer provides to a campaign is difficult to put a value on, and yet the volunteers who follow a strong moral code of conduct, who hang in there and grow with the campaign generally turn out to become great campaign volunteers who are priceless.
Joshua Daniel Pratt holds a degree in Political Science from Arizona State University (1998) and three master’s degrees from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (2009). Joshua has served on political campaigns, in many capacities, since 1994. He is a graduate of the Leadership Institute’s Campaign Manager School. Joshua has trained conservative activists across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Joshua is a conservative, community activist, an original intent constitutionalist, and a lover of all things good.
 “Enthusiasm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enthusiasm. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.  Ephesians 6:12 KJV  “Campaign.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/campaign. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.