How to Delegate Tasks

Last Updated 11/12/19

Table of Contents

  1. Why Delegate Tasks?
  2. General Tips
  3. Special Challenges with Fight Prison Slavery Support Tasks (and how to overcome them)
  4. Example of in-person delegation of Task
  5. Example of online delegation of task
  1. Why Delegate Tasks?

Delegating tasks is crucial to effective organizing. Organizing isn’t about someone committing a superhuman amount of time to prove they’re a good person for wanting change, organizing is about making change. To do that it’s important to bring new people into the effort, to have people take on specific commitments that scales up the amount of activity the organization can do. Good organizers make other people into organizers, and make themselves replaceable. 

2. General Tips 

Tips and advice on delegating tasks to different people. Taken from

Be specific…

It’s easy to give someone a vague assignment (“You take care of publicity”) only to find out later that what they understood this to mean is very different from what you intended. People need to know what tasks they’re responsible for and what the finished product should look like. Example: “Prepare a press release and send it to the local newspapers, TV and radio one month before the event.”

. …but don’t micromanage

Tell them enough so they understand what’s expected of them, but not so much that they have no chance to think for themselves. Leaving the person room to make some independent decisions lets them choose a style of doing things that suits them best. It makes them feel respected and trusted and part of the team. It builds a greater sense of pride and ownership in the project, and it gives them a chance to develop their skills and confidence. They might not do the outstanding job that you think you would have, but it might still be good enough–and the benefits to the person doing it are probably worth the tradeoff. So learn to let go!

Agree on deadlines

Make sure the person understands when they can expect things they need from other people, when their part of the task needs to be done, and how this fits in with the larger timeline for the whole project.

Follow up

Check back with the person you’ve delegated to, to find out how it’s going. Ask if any questions have come up since you last talked. Make sure they have what they need to do the job, and that they’re getting the necessary assistance and cooperation from others. Sometimes people are reluctant to admit they didn’t understand something, or that they’re having trouble. Asking gives them an opening and permission to say so. It’s also a way of finding out if someone simply isn’t doing the job, before it’s too late.

Match assignments with people’s skills…

Some people write well, but hate to talk on the phone. Some people can schmooze anything out of anybody, while others would rather do anything besides ask for donations. Find out what people are good at, and what they like to do, and make the most of it.

6. …but don’t let people get typecast against their will

People with particular skills (artistic, computer, etc.) often get stuck with the same jobs over and over, because they do them so well. If they like it that way, that may be fine (although you might want to encourage them to stretch a bit and do something unfamiliar once in a while). But they may be more than ready for a change–and someone else may be just waiting for a chance to do “their” job.

Make sure assignments get handed out fairly and realistically

Most groups have at least one workhorse who tends to take on too much–sometimes to the point of exhaustion and burnout. Another problem is the person who gets carried away with the enthusiasm of a moment and volunteers for things, then finds her/himself unable to follow through. Encourage people to take a realistic look at their workload and abilities, and to take on the jobs they can reasonably handle.

Give accurate and honest feedback

People want to know how they’re doing, and they deserve your honest opinion. Praise effort and good work, but also let them know where they might have done better. Encourage risk-taking and growth by treating mistakes and less-than-successful efforts as a chance to learn and do better next time.

3. Special Challenges with Fighting Prison Slavery Support Tasks (and how to overcome them)

Organizing is always a challenge. There are moments when things move quickly, and long periods that are more of a slog. In every environment there is a danger of outreach and withdrawal. Yet there are some additional challenges when in comes to delegating tasks in the context of IWOC/Fighting Prison Slavery. 

*Technical aspects: the prison system is massive and opaque. Communicating with people on what needs to be done and the reason for it can run into challenges of specialized knowledge, counter-intuitive assumptions and tasks that seem too difficult to do or arbitrary. 

*Emotional budren: fighting prison slavery involves dealing with an extensive system of torture. That is going to be stressful for people who don’t have direct experience with prison conditions. It will be doubly stressful, and potentially triggering, for people who have experienced life in prison. 

To meet the technical challenges, take the time to carefully define terms and be conscious of how much you’re using acronyms. Set aside space for people to ask questions to understand a particular task and why it is significant, don’t rush things. To meet the emotional challenges, provide a variety of options for people to do, including things beyond correspondence with incarcerated people or higher stress stuff. There are more technical things (like data entry or mass mailings) that are important and generally are less emotionally draining, make sure people know that these are options. 

4. Example of in-person delegation of Task

During the October 5, 2019 IWOC meeting, someone attended for the first time, calling in to the formal meeting. As a new person he didn’t contribute much to the conversation, but asked clarifying questions a few times. During the end of the meeting, as people were going around and saying what they planned to do over the next two weeks, a more experienced IWOC member saw he hadn’t taken on any tasks, and asked if he would like to help respond to prison emails. They briefly talked about what this would involve, and made plans to talk more to go over best process for this work in the near future. 

5. Example of online delegation of task

This is an example of a conversation on facebook messenger that happened in early 2018, connected with Milwaukee IWOC’s Columbia Campaign. A member of IWOC looked at facebook event for people interested in IWOC event, and copy-pasted an inquiry to many people. Some responded, this it the resulting conversation. Key points are meeting people where they’re at, specific asks, and clear deadline.

IWOC Member: 

Saw on facebook you were interested in the event today on fighting toxic regulations at Columbia Correctional.  Sorry you couldn’t make it. Here’s a handout that was presented at the event, [attach] information we’ve received from incarcerated people at Columbia about their current conditions.

Would you be able to help support this campaign? We need people on the outside with outreach, increach, research and pressure.


I will help to the extent possible. I can’t open the link atm because I’m on my phone. What would you like help with?

IWOC Member:

Probably research would be the most useful at the present, do you want me to send you a specific task to do over the next two weeks? Remind me of the best email to use for you?


Sure! I’m great at research in general. Not sure I will be on this particular topic. My email is *****.

IWOC Member:

Neat. I’ll email you something soon.

IWOC Member:[email to Person]

Can you help support the campaign against new arbitrary and toxic
regulations at Columbia Correctional with a research task? Could you
help by looking through internet searches, newspaper articles, find
out any information possible on the security director of Columbia, Lucas Weber?

This research would really help the effort, because it helps us to
figure out context, dig up dirt that might be useful to expose, and do
more effective powermapping.

Let me know if you can or can’t do this, and if you have any
questions. You can reach me by email or by text at ***-***-****.

Can you do this and send me what you have in a week?