Why Volunteer? How Knocking Doors Helps Win Elections and Much More

Neal Morgan, 2008 Obama For America Youth Vote Field Organizer

Obama For America 2008 Field Organizer Neal Morgan returned from 16 days as a volunteer on the Hillary Clinton / Democratic coordinated campaign in Nevada with fresh evidence of the impact one volunteer can have on turnout in a battleground state and yet another affirmation of the importance - for winning close elections, for the self, for neighbors and communities near and far - of knocking on doors.

For a presidential election campaign, the ground game is the one tactic consistently found to be  effective in turning out voters. A field program is only as good as its volunteer army: to move the needle in key states (see Obama 2008) it takes large numbers of well-trained and committed volunteers. A problem persists - and was on display in the '16 Democratic campaigns - that of the very many who want, at least in the abstract, to actively engage and are able to volunteer, very few actually do. Neal believes this is in part due to a failure of campaigns to effectively communicate the value(s) of volunteering to potential volunteers. 

In this talk, he will explain from an insider's perspective how a field program works and describe in detail the crucial role of the the volunteer in the systematic, data-driven fight for votes through direct contact that can make the difference in close elections. Drawing on experiences from the past three presidential election cycles, he'll share what it's like to be a part of a campaign as a field organizer and volunteer, reflecting love and reverence for the work itself; the many positive outcomes of which one can only truly know once they're in it.

The goal is that all in attendance will: 

1) better understand the inner-workings of an election campaign field program;
2) understand their real value as a volunteer, and the many benefits of doing the work; 
3) know that one need be nothing more than what and who they are to work within their constraints to jump in and impact an election; and
4) know that volunteering, for Neal and everyone he's known, has been fulfilling and fun, opened doors to new opportunities, and, importantly, created new and lasting friendships.

Discussion info:
Neal helps Democratic campaigns but this discussion can be non-partisan as requested.
There's no powerpoint - it's a discussion, so bring your questions!
Related materials for interested attendees are online - the URL will be given at the discussion - or can be printed and distributed as handouts when requested prior for those who don't have gadgets and/or internet access.


In addition to organizing, Neal is a musician and writer; a former museum educator and art docent; taught a college course in 2001 and has given series of talks and lectures since 2012. He enjoys working with young people and speaking with groups. From his first day on a life-changing trip to volunteer for Obama in Iowa in late 2007, while running over ice with frozen snot between houses to secure caucus support for Barack, Neal Morgan developed a special reverence and love for canvassing. Since that time, over the course of thousands of doors knocked, voters registered, phone calls made and scores of volunteers recruited and trained as a battleground state Youth Vote Field Organizer for the "game-changing" '08 OFA campaign, Neal's understanding and conviction of the micro (net votes gained), macro (positive effects on society from civic engagement) and meta-level (fellowship) importance of the work has only deepened, as has his respect and appreciation for a good field program and for the staff and fellow volunteers that join together to do what it takes to win. He currently lives in Berkeley, CA. 

Full resume here