Volunteering for My First Campaign

Nov 27

Written by Mariah Kerns

While my husband has stories of accompanying his mother to the caucus as a child, I grew up in a household where neither of my parents were even registered to vote. They were the kind of people who drew the curtains closed and turned off the lights when they saw volunteers knocking doors on our street, so you can see why I was hesitant to knock doors myself. I had been raised to see campaigns, and the devoted staffers and volunteers who run them, as a nuisance.

I started by writing postcards. These, at least, were easy enough for people to dispose of, like my parents always did. I wouldn’t have to experience the humiliation of a phone line going dead or a door slamming in my face and I wouldn’t be bothering people too much. Writing postcards introduced me to some incredible volunteers who encouraged me to come phonebank. Swayed by their enthusiasm (and the free candy), I decided to give it a shot.

Phonebanking was easier than I thought it would be, and I ended up having some lengthy phone conversations about the issues facing our country. It was amazing to connect with people on such a deep level. Finally, I agreed to knock doors. I was pleasantly surprised by the generosity of my neighbors. Many took the time to talk to a stranger with a clipboard about their deepest hopes and fears for America. Some even invited us into their home.

That’s not to say that every interaction is amazing. Even the best can be draining, especially for an introvert. I’ve had to learn to say no at times to make sure I’m not overextending myself, and I have been fortunate to volunteer for the most incredible organizer who is very understanding. She’s shown me that there are ways for people of all abilities to get involved. If you, like I was, are nervous about interacting with people directly, you can volunteer behind the scenes doing something like data entry. Don’t have a few hours to spare over the weekend to knock doors? Ask an organizer to train you how to phonebank from home in your spare time.

Volunteering has brought me closer to the very community I love the most, and to the people who make my community feel special. It has also given me the greatest opportunities to make professional connections and to improve upon my professional skillsets. No matter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, I am proud to have devoted some of my time to meeting new people, engaging with my community, and discussing the many issues that affect our everyday lives.