April 03, 2017

Take the Leap - Volunteer

You’ve decided you want to make a difference — to do your part for democracy, even while living abroad. But where to begin? We talked with Democrats Abroad team leaders Hilary Bown from Germany, and Heidi Burch from Canada to ask what you might find yourself doing if you decide to volunteer with Democrats Abroad.

Both leaders emphasized that it really depends on the potential volunteer. “There are so many ways for volunteers in our network to be active politically,” says Bown, who leads the Global Action team for DA and was just re-elected Vice Chair for Democrats Abroad Germany. “We’re trying to tease out all of those options and help people work on what’s easiest and most productive for them.”

Burch, a co-chair for the Get Out the Vote team who was also recently elected Vice Chair for her country committee, detailed some of the options. They ranged from talking with people at local events, to phone banking, to putting your marketing skills to work writing emails to members. She noted that phone banking requires the least amount of commitment; you can call voters from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, and choose the amount of time you spend doing it.

For anyone interested in a more organizational approach, there are also plenty of those roles too. “One thing that we’d like to grow around the world is study abroad outreach,” says Burch, offering one example. “Anyone interested in coordinating outreach activity to study abroad programs, helping create guides to working with these programs for country committees, this is a bigger project but something we’re looking for people for right now.”

If you’re looking for success stories within the Democrats Abroad organization, Burch and Bown are both good inspiration.

“I became involved in 2008 during the Global Presidential Primary,” says Bown. “I was just a volunteer at the chapter level, working events.”

Burch, on the other hand, jumped right in at the organizational level. “Democrats Abroad needed someone who could help coordinate volunteers,” she says. “I thought, well, I’m good at organizing, I’ll help out with that.”

“Get in touch, let us know what your skills are, what you’re interested in doing, and we’ll find something for you to do — because there’s a lot to be done...”

Burch also noted that as a voter in a California district where Democrats are almost certain to win, working on Get Out the Vote allows her to help swing state voters send their ballots in.

If there’s any one thing you should know about the organization, it’s that it’s easy to get involved. “Get in touch, let us know what your skills are, what you’re interested in doing, and we’ll find something for you to do — because there’s a lot to be done,” says Burch. “There’s a whole menu of things that people can do,” adds Bown. “And even if you don’t live near a local chapter, we’re here to help you organize your own events and political get togethers.” There's even a section of the Democrats Abroad website - Take Action - dedicated to helping activists get organized.

Both leaders have gradually taken on more responsibility to reach the positions they are in now. But volunteering doesn’t have to take lots of your time, and it can make a big difference — even if your efforts just help convince another couple of Democrats abroad to vote.

“It’s really great that people are so motivated,” says Burch. “Unfortunately it’s because of Trump … now things are scary and people want to help, so that’s the good and the bad.”

And just remember — any volunteering you do with Democrats Abroad will be in the service of one overarching goal: getting more Democrats elected to local, state, and federal offices across the country.

“The number one thing that everyone needs to do is vote in every election and vote all the way down the ballot,” says Bown. “We need to win all of these races and we need to take back Congress in 2018.”

For a list of volunteer options, visit Democrats Abroad’s volunteer page and sign up today. 

Story by Lani Seelinger, a DA Communications Team volunteer.