Today I had a once in a lifetime experience…I stood on the College Green and
listened to the President of the United States address the students and faculty of Ohio University as well as the community members of Athens Ohio. While standing on the green watching President Obama speak was an experience I will never forget, spending the day as a grassroots volunteer for the Obama for America Organization was invaluable educational experience. One of the topics of discussion in my Nonprofit Management class was how to effectively utilize volunteers. According to our readings and class discussion there are three key items that make an organization successful creating a positive volunteer experience. I am pleased to report that during my day with the Obama for America Organization I experienced all three.
The first element that marks a successful organization is that they use their
volunteers to their strengths. During my rally volunteer experience, the Obama for
America staff needed assistance in a number of areas. I helped park VIPs, invited
people in line to attend the vote early rally which was happening following day, assisted community members in finding the line which corresponded with their ticket color and helped keep order while everyone made it to the metal detectors. When I was moved from the parking crew to join the field-organizing volunteers who were passing out flyers and soliciting for volunteers, the Obama for America employees noticed that I worked well with the crowd and requested that I assist them with controlling the lines of people. It would be an understatement to say that there was a lot going on for the employees of the organization, and the fact that they took notice of something that I was doing well shows how dedicated they are to their volunteers.
The Obama for America organization went out of their way during my day of
volunteering to make me feel like I was a part of the staff, which is the second element of successful volunteer management my nonprofit class identified. From the moment I showed up at orientation I had essentially accepted a position with the organization and was expected to maintain the standards of Obama for America. I was asked not to speak with the press, work alongside the secret service and local police and treated the ticketholders with respect. I have never worked with any type of campaign before, so getting hands on experience as a grassroots rally worker was extremely useful to help narrow down what I want to do when I grow up. Even though I had a great day of volunteering-and while I never say never-I can honestly say that being any type of campaign organizer has been crossed off the list of potential professions.
The final component that demonstrates a successful organization is showing
your volunteers that you appreciate them. I feel like the respect the Obama for America Organization showed me throughout the day demonstrates how much they appreciate their volunteers. They also demonstrated their appreciation by allowing me to watch President Obama speak from the press area, which is something I will never experience a second time.