#StateOfEnrollment: North Carolina Training Weekend of Action: Getting Your Volunteers Ready for a Big Push

By Christopher Mendoza

Strategy: Unifying and motivating your volunteer base to lead up to a big push of activity

Where and when it was used: Multiple events statewide, North Carolina, Weekend of February 22

Notable metrics:  Three training events statewide, 150 attendees, 280 volunteer shifts filled for the month of March

Volunteers form the foundation of any grassroots organization, and Enroll America’s Get Covered America campaign is no exception. They do the necessary groundwork to help the uninsured find out how to connect to their new health insurance options, including making hundreds of phone calls, tabling at community events for hours, clip-boarding at high-traffic areas, and knocking on doors whenever needed. They epitomize the character and soul of Get Covered America.

Volunteers allow for the field program to reach more consumers than they would have just by relying on a fixed number of paid staffers  By recruiting an increasing number of volunteers leading up to and throughout open enrollment, Get Covered America increased the rate of its consumer engagement – and ultimately was able to have over 635,000 conversations with people looking for health insurance.

One key way GCA fostered that growth in volunteer recruitment was by promoting strategically timed periods of action, including a special “Training Weekend of Action” to prepare and recruit volunteers for the last month of open enrollment. Those action periods (marked in red below) caused spikes in volunteer recruitment and attendance.

Volunteer and Shift Growth

The Training Weekend of Action primed our volunteers to dig in during the last weeks of open enrollment.

To get ready for the final month of the enrollment period, volunteers across the country came together to learn new skills and identify best practices. I visited North Carolina to help out with their training events the weekend of February 22 and saw how attendees spanned all demographics and truly exhibited the reach and diversity of our volunteer core. They came together from far and wide to learn how to best use their skills to help the uninsured get covered. From first-timers looking to get started to longtime pros interested in sharing best practices and recruiting more team members, everyone I saw was passionate about making a difference during the last month of open enrollment.

As soon as people arrived at their training locations, they were briefed on what the volunteer program had already accomplished and how much it had grown. Attendees were excited to see the increase in activity since we started this program and eager to learn ways to reach even more consumers in the field before the open enrollment period came to a close.

It was integral to bring everyone up to speed on what had been accomplished and what needed to be achieved in the coming month, as everyone had varying levels of experience. It was easy to see based on attendance and levels of excitement that our volunteers were game for the challenge.

After the initial briefing came an all-day training where volunteers learned the basics of phone-banking as well as the ins and outs of tabling and clip-boarding to collect contact information from consumers looking for health insurance. The veteran volunteers took charge by creating events for March on the spot and inviting the newer recruits to participate in them.

In one day,  the number of our events for March nearly tripled while shifts and commitments from all volunteers grew exponentially. It was an exciting day for volunteers and our organization as we started to truly see the possibilities of our outreach –  and realized that we’d only just scratched the surface and there was so much more we could do.

At the end of each event that weekend, volunteers knew they were in for a great month. They were focused at the task ahead and now had a clear roadmap to follow on how to achieve even greater heights.

Best practices to replicate:

  • Use training events as an opportunity to have all your volunteers celebrate the work they’ve accomplished. There is no accomplishment too small to highlight.
  • Unite your volunteer base to the task at hand. Use these kinds of weekends of action to realign your volunteers’ priorities if necessary and re-center their focus on what needs to be done
  • BE SPECIFIC! This may be your only shot to have this many volunteers in a room, so be specific in what you are asking them to do and why.
  • Make the hard ask, whatever that hard ask may be.  This is the time to put words into action. Have a clear set of next steps and events so volunteers can put their new skills to use. You may want to empower a great local volunteer to lead on this.
  • Be thankful. The phrase “thank you” can never be said enough. When volunteers are the lifeblood of your organization, they should know that the effort they are making is appreciated. If there is one thing there is no overkill for, it’s saying “thank you” in hundreds of different ways.
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