Every year, education is listed as a top concern for voters. This comes as no surprise, as there are over 13,000 school districts and approximately 83,000 school board members in the United States. Over 97% of those local school board members are elected, leaving just a small number of districts with appointed members. This year (2023) approximately 9,000 school districts across 35 states are holding regular school board elections.
Even though education is consistently reported as being on our voter radar, turnout rates for school board elections remain low. One reason for the low turnout could be the differing dates for school board and general elections. Some have advocated for combining school board and budget elections with other local and state election dates to take advantage of higher turnout rates. Still, no changes have made in this direction to date.
The best way to secure a school board position is to motivate your supporters to get out and vote. Candidates need to display passion for their community and education. They must exemplify the ability to work with others and bridge conflicts. They should prove how they plan to seek out the best interest of the students and the community as a whole.
Here are some things to keep in mind while planning your successful school board campaign:
1. Make sure your logo speaks to your voters
Keep it simple. The color and font choices you make should represent what you stand for. Consider leaving partisan politics out of the discussion. Most voters are interested in someone who will put their children first. That is their primary concern. They want their school board to listen, care and give their children every possible advantage.
2. Create your platform and message, social media accounts and content calendar
What do you want to stand for? Find your passion and focus on it! Take the time to learn and understand teachers’ every day struggles, and what is going on in your school district specifically. Set up your social media accounts and create your content calendar to ensure consistency in your messaging regarding these issues.
3. Fundraising and budgeting for print and digital programs
It is important to have a solid financial plan to fund your campaign efforts and materials. Start by building a strong base of grassroots donors that includes your family and friends, as well as colleagues and other community members. From there, grow your support by developing a strong mix of print and digital media that presents consistent, multi-channel messaging. This should include a website, active social media and email accounts, yard signs, direct mail and lit cards.
4. Take some great campaign photos for your campaign materials
Appearance matters when it comes to campaign materials, so plan ahead. Will you hire a professional photographer or use a high quality cell phone? Either way, be sure to carefully think about what you will wear. Pick something that is comfortable and represents you, but still looks good on camera. Remember to get some action shots, too. If anyone else appears in your photos with you, be sure to let them know what you may use the images for, and get their written permission to do so.
5. Build a cohesive field team
Every great leader is backed by a great team, and your campaign run is no different! At the very least you will need a campaign manager, a treasurer, and a press secretary. (A candidate should NOT serve in any of these roles.) The rest of your team can be made up of volunteers. If you have a large number of volunteers, it may also be helpful to have someone on your team serving as a volunteer coordinator.
Once your team is in place, it is important that everyone is on the same page. From handing out lit cards and signs, to email messaging and social media posting, be sure that all forms of interaction stay cohesive and appropriately represent your message. This is especially important when selecting team members who will be going door to door and visiting with voters. After all, door knocking is great for local races, and provides excellent firsthand feedback from voters. Bottom line, if any new messaging develops during your campaign, be sure to update everything to keep on brand!
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