September Staff Note: My first time volunteering

September 28, 2023

Marcella Buser, Futurewise State Organizer, getting interviewed for a student group's campaign in 2018

I want to share the story of how I first got involved in advocacy. As Futurewise’s State Organizer, my job revolves around asking people to get involved, or get more involved, but I’ve been on the answering end as well. I wasn’t eager to join any movement, but I’m glad I did. I hope my journey will encourage you to join me for the 2024 legislative campaign.

I remember the first time I volunteered on a campaign. It was a plastic pollution campaign run by a student group, and I had signed up to collect petitions. I had no intention of volunteering more than that; I was busy enjoying my college experience, making new friends, and balancing my job and coursework. And besides, I didn’t feel like I could make a significant enough impact on the issue to even matter. I couldn't fathom how a single person could collect enough petitions to persuade local leaders to take action.

However, I decided to give it a shot and signed up for a single shift. Armed with my clipboard, I smiled and waved at a passing student. Initially, she didn’t look thrilled as she paused her music to listen, but as soon as I started talking about plastic pollution and how we were combating it, her demeanor transformed. She nodded along, eagerly signing the petition and checking the box to volunteer before I could finish talking, and continued on her way.

Was it that easy? I wondered if, just because I was there, she would get a call to volunteer and gather twice as many petitions as I did. I had to find out, so I signed up for another petitioning shift.

That one shift turned into a whole year of volunteering, and taking on leadership in the campaign, and eventually a career in organizing. That one person I petitioned was the beginning of it all— I never realized the extent of the power I had. I would never be able to collect enough petitions on my own to convince city council to vote a certain way, but if I recruited friends who recruited their roommates who brought their dog, together we could build enough support that couldn’t be ignored. And if we kept doing that, we could collect hundreds of petitions, educate thousands of people, and inspire even more to reach out to their elected officials so that we could make an impact. And we did; we won that campaign that following year.

I think about this experience a lot. It’s hard to know your exact impact on any given campaign, but how many people wouldn’t have heard about our campaign, or wouldn’t have gotten a call because I wasn’t there? How many of them will end up getting more involved, like I did all those years ago? That’s what motivates me to wave at that next passerby, or make that next phone call.

I’m sharing this story because Futurewise is launching our 2024 Legislative campaign: Connecting Communities in the upcoming weeks, and we’re looking for volunteers to get involved.

While emails to elected officials, signing in pro and con, and other weekly actions are vital, we also need volunteers to help build our campaign team. I urge you to take that step to volunteer, carve out an hour or two in your week to be a part of the campaign. Even small actions, like talking to one person at Salmon Days, or getting your friend to come with you can ripple out to create a powerful movement for change. If you want to learn more, fill out this form here to get involved. If you’re ready to take action, you see our upcoming events and sign up here. I look forward to getting to work alongside you this year!

- Marcella Buser, Futurewise State Organizer