Project Wonderful

Thursday, August 23, 2012

17 Decorating Ideas for a Field Office

Example of an election day countdown.

Stolen from a facebook friend's wall.

One of the best wall calendars I have ever seen!

One of my cardinal rules for running a good volunteer program is that your office should be like a kindergarten classroom. It should be neat and organized, there should be plenty of snacks and of course, lots of colorful things up on the fall. It may sound trite, but when you provide a fun, celebratory environment, volunteers will have more energy and want to be in there, which means more and higher quality shifts for you!

It's not always easy to find creative and inexpensive ways to decorate a large space. Inspired by a question submitted to my tumblr, here are 17 ways to spice up the walls of your field office:

1) Rock Star Volunteer Wall I want to change this from a "way" to decorate your office to mandatory. A volunteer wall is a great way to make your volunteers feel valued AND it can take up a lot of space. You can set whatever benchmark you want for someone to qualify as a "rock star volunteer." It could be someone who has a regular shift every week, someone who has helped recruit other volunteers, or someone who has knocked a certain number of doors cumulatively. There are lots of way to make your volunteer wall look fun and special. You can cut out gold stars and write your volunteers' names on them, you can put them as leaves on a tree. Once in a lakeside community I put volunteers' names on sailboats and placed them in some "water" I painted on the wall. The sky's the limit! (Oooh! Or you could also make the sky!)

2) Meet Our Team As with the rock start volunteer wall, there are many creative and customizable ways to do this project. Print out pictures of your office staff, interns, and even neighborhood team leaders and/or statewide staff if you like. Under each photo put the person's name, role on the campaign and whatever fun facts you think your volunteers might be interested to know. (Hometown? College? Why they support your candidate? Favorite Ice Cream flavor?) One benefit to a "meet the team" display is that your volunteers have a way of recognizing and knowing the names of everyone who can help them in the office. It's also a great way for volunteers to find previously undiscovered common ground with staff members which can help cement your personal connection.

3) Big quotes from the candidate If your candidate is particularly dynamic, giant quotes painted or hung on the wall can help volunteers remain fired up about working for him. You don't have to be a national celebrity name to pull this off. For example, if I were working for Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach's campaign I would put up "If you have to stop people from voting to win elections, your ideas suck." (Seriously, Pennsylvania Republican party!)

4) Countdown What field office would be complete without a good ol' fashioned countdown to election day? I know this is the subject of controversy in the campaign community but I always count election day as Day 0. A countdown calendar helps you create a sense of urgency. I like to use giant poster-sized post it paper and re-use two sets of numerals 0-9.

5) I support the candidate because... Along with the volunteer wall, this is one of my favorites because it's a great way to remind volunteers why they're doing their hard work AND help give them a sense of ownership of the office is to print out sheets of paper that say "I support candidate X because__________" and then have a spot to fill in their reason for working for your candidate. As long as reasons are inoffensive you can hang anything from "I support Congresswoman Lastname because my body is my choice." to "I support Congresswoman Lastname because she saved my business from being foreclosed on." Simple, effective, and a great injection of postive energy.

6) Local mascot for candidate banners A fun intern project! Get a long roll of butcher paper (*Pro Tip* many local papers will give you rolls of white newsprint that is used to back newspaper for free) and have your interns paint a giant local sports team for candidate banner. When I worked in Iowa City, we capitalized on the Hawkeyes for Edwards theme, but you can do it with any local high school too. Takes up space, is bright and colorful and adds to the sense that this is this community's office.

7) Thank You posters These take less than five minutes to create. Right when anyone walks in and at least once in the phone bank area, I always have a homemade poster that simply says "Thank you! We couldn't do this without you!" or "We love our volunteers!!!" Have I stressed enough yet how important it is to make your volunteers feel valued?

8) Map of the state I don't mean the maps you keep in up to help you determine Congressional/State Senate district lines. I mean a big colorful map that shows where all the field offices are or (in the case of a national race) where the candidate has been or is going. This is another way to help put your volunteer operation in the greater campaign context and emphasize the role that your local operation has to play.

9) Phone call/Doorknock/ID thermometer It doesn't have to be a thermometer and probably shouldn't. For example, if you are running for citywide office in New York, you may want to print out a copy of the Empire State Building and fill it as your volunteers identify supporters. Not only is this a fun visual but it creates goals for your volunteers to shoot for AND helps show them how those 10-15 positive IDs they made are contributing to overall progress!

10) Phone banking codes As a best practice, your phone and data volunteers should always have a copy of the codes within eye shot, so why not save the paper of printing them out with each call packet and keep your codes proudly and prominently displayed?

11) 10 ways to help Every supporter who walks into your office should be asked to help the campaign in some way, and then asked and asked again until you find some way for them to be involved. My standard field office has a "10 ways to help" poster right inside the front door with needs listed in order of priority. Every campaign is different, but in general I include: 1) Become a Precinct Captain/Neighborhood Team Leader 2) Host a Canvass 3)Knock Some Doors 4)Make Some Calls 5)Enter Data 6) Write a Letter to the Editor 7)Host a Debate Watch Party 8) Feed Our Volunteers 9)Donate to the Campaign and 10)Bring a Friend!

12) What happens with my IDs? I have a friend who recently volunteered on a campaign for the first time and left with a distaste for the experience. When I asked why, one of her major complaints was that the organizer in charge didn't explain where her work fit into the broader context. When I explained what happened with voter contact ID's she told me she would have been much more likely to return if she had had that information. Moral of the story: This project takes a little time to put together but is an extremely useful info graphic for your voter contact vols. It's basically a flow chart showing your universe and what what happens with each type of voter who is ID'd (For example: 4's and 5's are kicked out, 1's go into GOTV Universe, 2's and 3's go back into the original universe, potential vols are followed up with and those with questions get a follow up from the campaign.) I once made a giant Sesame Street themed one of these for a city council race. I still consider it to be my piece de resistance de office decoration.

13) Bunting, American flags and steamers. Can be purchased at the dollar store, require little assembly and add an old timey political vibe to your office. As a bonus, you can tear them down off the wall and bring them to a campaign rally on a moment's notice.

14) Placards
Free from the campaign and add a professional and cohesive vibe, plus see above.

15) Constituent group for candidate...
Nurses for Hillary. Women for Hillary. Farmers for Hillary. You get the idea. Pick a group of people, add a for + your candidate and a colorful picture and you have an instant wall decoration. Now host a phone bank specifically for that group. (Seniors for Hillary Senior to Senior phone bank anyone?) Repeat.

16) Cut outs of Silly Things. Your office needs to be fun for you too, and heaven knows we all go a little crazy after being cooped up with the same people day in and day out. As long as your place isn't crawling with irrelevant material, there's no reason you can't infuse a little of your own personality by putting up a poster of Ryan Gosling with a word bubble about how he can't wait to go knock some doors or Tim Gunn reminding your organizers to make it work! (See the ninja turtle above)

17) Calendar When is the next debate? What times do you have phone banks? When are where is your next town hall? Calendars can be decorate, informative and reassure volunteers that something is always going on. My favorite twist on the campaign calendar is featured above where "Can't get this day back" adds a delightful sense of urgency.

Phew, well! I set out to come up with 17 ideas, but now that I'm through writing that, I continue to brainstorm (a spot to sign up for GOTV shifts, issue talking points, pictures from past events...) You now have no excuse for blank walls in your field office ever again. Hope this helped!

Peace, Love and Giant Sign In Sheets,