The past three weeks, I was given the opportunity to work as a volunteer alongside the Indiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity to support Governor Pence’s proposed 10% income tax cut. I put close to twelve hundred miles on my van and probably walked thirty miles (while literature dropping) during the time I spent with them. The majority of the time I spent, I participated in both targeted and saturation literature dropping, something that sounds rudimentary, but has many finer points. I learned valuable lessons during my involvement which, although occasionally targeted at literature dropping and canvassing, can be applied to many other facets of campaigns.
Take care of your feet: In the first week, I was wearing worn out shoes and socks and not taking care to keep my feet dry. As a result, I sustained blisters which slowed me down in the subsequent days of walking. This is one of the small details that makes a huge difference. Number and effectiveness should be stamped in the minds of every political activist or campaign volunteer. While I was seeking to remedy my blisters and keep from applying pressure to them, I wasn’t able to hit as many doors. In a game where one call to a legislator can make the difference in the passage of the legislation you are working for, your effectiveness is blunted. My advice is to do the following: wear shoes that are broken in but not broken down, wear socks that are new and provide enough cushion, use insoles where possible, and (one of the biggest aids) put talcum powder in your socks before you put them on. Doing this effectively blunts moisture and acts as a friction prevention tool. I neglected to take care of my feet and in doing so wasn’t able to do as much as I could have.
If you must work out, do it lightly: The night before I lit-dropped Rushville, a friend at the Y convinced me to do a high-intensity calisthenics circuit workout. Bad decision. I woke up the next day and every forward motion of my quadriceps was an effort. This did not bode well for walking up and down stairs. If you must work out, only do something your muscles have become accustomed to.
Where possible, drop literature at the door: From what I observed, people will notice literature better if it’s tucked into the door or door frame. Certainly, dissemination of literature given your time limitations or external factors (German shepherds in the yard) might necessitate dropping in newspaper boxes, but this can be easily overlooked by residents, or as I learned during windy days, blow out and thus be wasted. It need be noted that in the axiom of number and effectiveness, effectiveness is half of the equation.
Be flexible: If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time in all of the political campaigns and more recently from the AFP work I’ve done, it’s that you cannot be picky about your accommodations or what you eat. Doing so will only serve to annoy others you work alongside and diminish morale, especially when the campaign is long term and if there are budgetary limitations.
Be receptive of anyone who is willing to work with you: Everyone has something to contribute if they’re willing to phonebank, canvass, lit drop, or serve as an ambassador to groups who share a similar interest. This is yet another thing that you cannot be picky about. Generally, those willing to volunteer have worked campaigns or been involved with similar work. They also give you considerable flexibility, especially if they come with a vehicle. Working campaigns where you must be in multiple towns on the same day means that one can never have enough modes of transportation. They also increase the effectiveness of your canvassing or lit-dropping by allowing more neighborhoods to be covered considerably faster.
Inclement weather: In my last week of work with AFP, there were multiple times I had to walk in heavy rain. This is something I learned to accept. Your top priority is certainly keeping the literature and materials dry (which can be done with a simple plastic bag), but you should also take care of yourself by having warm clothing, ponchos, and extra clothing, where applicable.
While these tips seem very minute in nature, they make a world of difference, especially in the light of the the number and effectiveness axiom. The big picture is comprised of small details like these; don’t overlook them.