FARGO — Ask any introverted friend to knock on a stranger's door to campaign for a political candidate and two things are bound to happen: You'll hear a resounding "no", and they'll avoid you next time you see them at the grocery store. ("Boy, Karen seems to be spending a lot of time studying labels in the dog food aisle.")
But the truth is, with less than a year to go until Election Day 2020, there are things even the most introverted among us can do to get involved in the political process. Political organizations, from left to right, have an abundance of volunteer opportunities open to the young and old, introverted and extroverted, veteran candidates or political newbies.
"There is no need for any kind of experience. There's always something you can do," said Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, who now represents Fargo's District 46 in the North Dakota House.
She says if you're interested in volunteering, one of the first things you should do is decide if you want to get involved at the federal, state or local level.
Yes 63% No 20% No sure 17%
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"You don't have to agree with all of the candidates in one particular party," she says. "You can get involved as close to one candidate or the scale of the whole party as much or as little as you'd like to do."
And she says it's just a lot of fun.
"I know next year when I end up door-knocking, we'll have people come out on a Saturday," Roers Jones says. "We'll probably have a breakfast and doughnuts and wrap up with pizza at the end. It's an opportunity for camaraderie. You have to get people excited if you want people to spend the day with you."
Athena Gracyk, with the Clay County Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, agrees.
"It is great fun!" she says, adding that they make it easy for people to get involved.
They'll teach you how to effectively speak with people about your candidate when door-knocking or making phone calls. But if that's not in your comfort zone, there are plenty of other less out-there ways to get involved.
"We always need people to enter data," she says. "If you have computer skills or you know how to create digital art, if you have an interest in social media, we need people to help with all of those things."
Gracyk says they'd love to have younger people, especially high school and college students, help with areas where older volunteers might not feel comfortable, including social media platforms outside of Facebook.
Both Roers Jones and Gracyk say you can volunteer as little or as much as you'd like, and it's a productive way to let your voice be heard.
"A lot of people are upset about different political issues or different political people, and you can worry yourself sick about it, but it's more effective to take action and get involved," Gracyk says.
With a discouraging nationwide number of voters turning out to vote in the 2016 presidential election — 55.4 percent, the lowest number in 20 years — political parties are in a fight against apathy.
"Everything in our culture revolves around the political process and the lawmakers who create laws for us," Gracyk says. "So you might not care about politics, but politics cares about you. And it will have a direct effect on your life."
Ideas for extroverts
Phone-banking/door-knocking: This is the lifeblood of many political operations, but also among the most intimidating ways to get involved, even for outgoing people. But both Roers Jones and Gracyk say people are very nice most of the time. If they don't want to talk to you, they won't answer the door. Volunteers seldom run into anyone who is hostile.
Walking in a parade: Get some exercise, sneak a Tootsie Roll or two. Parade-walking is a fun way to get involved.
Handing out flyers: Many political campaigns will have workers passing out campaign materials at events. Like door-knocking, you don't usually run into nasty people. They just won't take your flyers.
Be a campaign office greeter: Think about these people as the receptionist or hostess of the campaign office. They'll welcome you to work and help you figure out what to do and where to go.
Run for office yourself: This is the ultimate way to show how serious you are about getting involved. And while it's more common for an extrovert to take the plunge, some very successful candidates, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, consider themselves introverts. (FYI, among the most extroverted presidents? Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.)
Ideas for introverts
Enter data: The amount of data that goes into a campaign operation can be staggering. Someone needs to organize and process it. This is a great job for someone who loves to dive into a project and not be bothered by unnecessary conversation.
Stuff envelopes/do mailings: Think about all of the campaign materials you find in your mailbox every week or even every day the closer you get to Election Day. Someone has to get those in the mail.
Bring food: Gracyk says at the Clay County DFL, they like to practice what she calls "radical hospitality." They want people to enjoy being there. Like Roers Jones buying pizza and doughnuts for her workers, Gracyk says they also want to feed their workers. So if you'd like to donate food or beverages for the office, that is welcome as well.
Writing/design: Campaigns often need people to write and design campaign materials or write paid endorsement letters. This is perfect for introverted creative types.
Help with social media: Social media is a great way to reach people, particularly younger voters. But campaign staffs can skew older. You can help design websites or create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more.
Ideas for both
Donate money: Cash is king. You might not have the time or inclination to volunteer to a campaign or a candidate, but they'll take your donations.
Vote: Both Roers Jones and Gracyk say getting out and voting is the most important thing you can do. Both North Dakota and Minnesota make it pretty easy to do with step-by-step instructions from the secretary of state offices.