To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Business, Politics & Society

Mobilizing Volunteers

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 12:49 min

An expert in “the ground game,” Karl teaches how to use volunteers to reach potential voters during your campaign. David and Karl also discuss why volunteering can be an excellent entry point into working on campaigns.

David Axelrod and Karl Rove
Teach Campaign Strategy and Messaging
Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.
Get Started


Now we're going to talk about the ground game. So what the heck is it? Well, it's the phrase we use generally to apply to the efforts in a campaign to mobilize volunteers and to put them to work in the campaign. Now, what do we put them to work on? Well, that depends. You've got a number of opportunities. You can use volunteers to help identify other potential supporters and to generate support among groups that are likely to be for you. This is like, for example, recruit a volunteer. Ask him to host a house party. They invite their friends and neighbors, most of whom are probably likely to be inclined to be for you. And your candidate shows up. Your candidate gives a brief talk, shakes hands, gets to know people, asks people for their support. Who will volunteer for me? Who's willing to maybe consider a small contribution? And off you go. And the more important parts are to develop other volunteers in order to persuade people and then to motivate those people. Remember, what we talked a lot about here is about the two groups that you want to focus on in a campaign, the people who are capable of being persuaded to be for you. They're not in your column today. But if you keep in touch with them and keep talking to them, they'll be for you. And then we're talking about people who might be for you or be persuaded to be for you who are less likely to vote unless you keep talking to them and giving them encouragement, support, and help in getting out to vote. Those are the people we're talking about. Now, the candidate can talk to them. But think about the ability to have somebody talk to them whom they might actually know or come to have a relationship with. Think how powerful that would be. So that's what the ground game ultimately is designed to do. As we think about the phasing of our ground game activities, there are four different phases. There's the early recruitment of volunteers. You may want to have a phone bank, for example, or a walk program in the spring that's aimed at people who are already hardcore volunteers. That is to say, you may want to be focused on calling people or knocking on the doors of people who are primary voters and previous volunteers in previous campaigns, all with the idea of saying, would you like to get involved in our campaign? That happens in, say, the late spring, maybe at the latest the early summer. You'd then want to begin doing walk programs at some time during the summer and early fall, maybe not at the height of the summer's heat. But you want to be in a place where before kids go back to school, you've begun to do some walk programs. Always great to do it during the summer because you can get students who are off for the summer to help on some weekends. And the object there is to begin to work on the persuadables, the people who are up for grabs in the election but need more information. And speaking of information, when you contact them, it's not simply to say, ...

What it takes to win elections

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I wanted a better understanding of election cycle/ campaign and this was the best.

Social Entrepreneurship Instructor curious about how campaigns work and influence our community of learners

Very enjoyable, interesting, and thought provoking.

Awesome. I love both of these guys. I learned so much.


Henry T.

What company did he say support Geofencing? Fundware? I couldn't seem to find it.

Ulanda C.

The ground game sets the tone for true committed carries beyond words. You will have people calling like crazy to help handout the lit! Great discussion guys!

A fellow student

Sometimes young people need to know that they are important and can be a major part of a campaign. It may be more important to show how a person can take part in politics than it is to impart your ideas.


Interesting. Me too.. I was a volunteer behind a desk, five years ago for a presidential race. And now i'm a deputy director to handle a nation wide campaing. Never cross my mind that i'll ever get here..