Building a small army of volunteers – Where to next?

Posted: 29th October 2010 By Kenneth Jeyaretnam

In the last few months The RP has held two concentrated recruitment drives with the aim of building the team of volunteers we need to follow through on our election campaign. The task is not as straightforward as it sounds, this being Singapore after all. Most politicians elsewhere in the globe can rely on a large force of university students volunteering in their long holidays. Recruiting volunteers for a political campaign in other countries is seen as a science and an art. It is hardly surprising as these volunteers are crucial to any campaign and can make or break a political organisation.  Having recruited a volunteer army, professional managers are usually paid large sums of money to get the best out of the volunteers politically, identify their skills, asses their motivation and match them to the most suitable tasks.  In RP we have to rely on the more long term members , themselves volunteering  selflessly, to come forward and manage the new faces and make them welcome.

This approach seems to work and a wonderful and energising sense of camaraderie emerged at the events. One truth also become evident to those of us involved in the planning and was obvious to the attendees too. It would seem that the haze of fear in the local climate is finally being replaced with the clear skies of activism. Each event saw a huge crowd of new faces show up and the excitement was palpable.  For part 1 we were seriously worried that we wouldn’t have enough space and party members turned up at Smith Street HQ early in the day to start organising.  In the end we did manage to squeeze everyone in, meet everyone and match them to the area they were interested in.  But this was  only achieved by taking groups of volunteers off to separate corners of the building following a member and a clip board and one group was even moved out to the Vietnamese Coffee shop downstairs. I couldn’t help but notice that a very long line of people followed Ms Nicole and her clip board around like a line of conga dancers at a 70’s disco. But I’m sure this was just because her area of responsibility -Press handling and speech writing, naturally attracts a great deal of interest.

If you have ever wondered how many people it takes to put up a poster, or how many posters are needed in a campaign or even how many hours the government gives you for the task   then James our Campaign veteran was on hand to supply the answers. In addition to James, Jeisilan who is not only a Team RP candidate but also our party organising secretary shared his experiences of door-to-door visits, the problems of the people we met and how we collect and sort data gathered from these visits. I spoke about  RP in the larger picture, introducing our core policies to a new audience, the rationale behind our strategy of gunning for GRCs and  the need to stand up to the fear.  We signed  up several new members on the spot including one young woman who joined,  offered her considerable expertise and had changed her Facebook identity name to ‘voting RP’ before I got home.

For part two I was able to take a step back as our team headed by Candidate Alec Tok, an award winning film director, set out to repeat a successful formula and were helped by the people recruited in part 1.  Again a crowd of new faces showed up.  Our candidates spoke about the dedicated teams they need. Nicole spoke of the need for writers. Jeisilan and Theng Wei spoke about the outreach campaign which had stepped up again and James, who is also our Treasurer, gave us the bad news about funding.  Eve, a Party member, cornerstone of the Women’s Wing and a lawyer responsible for running the Party’s free legal clinic talked to us about the work there aided by Justin.  Jafri  who also joined as a member after  part 1 now stepped up and gave an inspiring talk. Then the cream on the cake was undoubtedly Tony who as a member of CEC and key TeamRP candidate gave an impassioned speech. This time we took on 20 new signed up members in addition to the volunteers.

For no reason that I could immediately discern part 1 attracted almost exclusively volunteers wishing to work in media areas both new and print or design whereas Part 2 brought in a crowd of volunteers just willing to put themselves out there on the campaign trail. Reflecting on the reason for the difference within the space of a couple of months I came up with a few ideas. Maybe for part 2 the new media expertise garnered in part 1 was more effective at putting out our call for walkabout volunteers. Maybe we are just getting better at this. Or maybe the climate of fear is behind us and JBJ’s dream of waking the people up from their slumber is finally coming to pass.

Those of you who have noticed an obviously pregnant lady in the photos of our walkabouts recently, should know that she and her husband both first attended part 1, then started joining  walkabouts and returned to part 2 to sign up as members.  This is typical of the level of enthusiasm amongst volunteers that we now see.  Thanks to all our new recruits and members we have been able to step up our weekly outreach to three times a week.  An amazing output in itself but we are now attracting teams of 10- 20 volunteers and members backing the candidates each time.  This enables us to split into groups building a much more effective campaigning force which is able to select and quantify local and national issues by ward and identify and target those voters in each area likely to be swing voters. We are also able to identify areas of need, help out families in distress and refer people to our free legal clinic. Naturally the more people we have the more newsletters get sold, bringing in some much needed funds.

More importantly the constituents are sitting up and taking notice. These days they expect us and know who we are when we come knocking on their doors.  Since part 2 we have started to set up dedicated pages on Facebook for each constituency that we intend to contest so please do check out West Coast GRC, Hong Kah GRC and Chua Chu Kang. There is no doubt then that RP is well on its way to the targeted 120 to 150 souls needed for the campaign.

Where does that leave us now? Well now we have attracted the volunteers we have to retain them and make the experience fun and sociable, as well as vital. Amazingly where once we didn’t have enough helpers for our candidates we now face a real risk of running short of candidates for our helpers.  So you can guess what I’m going to say next. Our next drive may have to be Stand Up!, rather than Wake up so that we can recruit more candidates from outside the party and persuade those within the party, sitting on the fence, to take the plunge. I have high hopes that our Women’s Wing will bring forth some new candidates.

And then of course we should let James our Treasurer have the last word.  Once you have your small army you need your war chest. But I’m not too worried about that as we now have a small army of keen writers who can help us to put out a successful mail shot plea for funds and donations. And we shouldn’t forget our women. The RP Women’s Wing will soon be organising a fun evening and fund raising event.  With our small army and our Women’s Wing behind us, and our candidates standing up at the front, the future for RP looks bright.

2 Responses to Building a small army of volunteers – Where to next?

swiool on

President Obama used “Yes, We Can!”. President Ma (Taiwan) used “Are u ready?”. . Hope u would have an election campaign slogan.

Anthony Ho on

How about “We want our country back, say no to autocratic rule”.

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