The school board campaign is the foundation for everything that comes after: maximizing tax dollars, representing community interests, and, above all, enhancing student experiences. Though running an effective campaign can make the difference between winning and losing, it can also have an impact beyond the election.
School board campaigns tell the community what they can expect of each school board member: what issues they’ll tackle and how they’ll aim to reform the student experience. Because communities can use campaign promises as a way to gauge success, it’s essential to run a school board campaign that not only resonates with the community but is also true to the candidate’s ambitions.
Here’s how to run (and win!) an authentic campaign for the school board.
How to Campaign for School Board
Campaigning for the school board isn’t just about posters, flyers and public appearances — though those tools all have their place. Instead, it starts with the candidate identifying their reasons for running and doing the research, so they know how to keep their campaign compliant with local rules and regulations.
Though parents or prior educators may seem like good school board members, anyone can run for school board, provided they’re passionate about students and education and ready and willing to turn student needs and community expectations into strong school district policies.
6 Steps to Develop a School Board Campaign
Becoming a school board member involves one thing: winning the election. But it’s not as simple as it seems. To win their campaign, the candidate must first understand why they’re running so they can effectively speak to these issues come campaign time.
The foundation of a winning school board campaign includes:
- Researching campaign rules: Start the campaign on the right foot by following all federal, state and local regulations. Candidates should ensure they submit the correct forms, pay the correct fees and meet the right deadlines. Typical requirements include intention statements and economic interest statements.
- Determining eligibility: Caring about the school district isn’t enough to make a candidate eligible. Eligibility may vary from district to district, but it often requires that candidates are registered voters, residents of the school district, have at least a high school diploma, can pass a background check and aren’t currently employed by the district.
- Outlining responsibilities: Before running, candidates should ensure they can fulfill the position’s responsibilities. Consider factors like campaign costs, time commitments and compatibility with fellow board members.
- Defining your reasons for running: A candidate’s reasons for running will be the foundation for their campaign messaging. This might start with their passions, but it should also include research into problems facing the district, solutions the district has already tried and how successful those solutions have been.
- Setting a budget: Campaign expenses can quickly add up since budgets need to cover everything from websites to radio ads to flyers. Candidates should establish a budget early, so they know which tactics they can afford and how much they should aim to fundraise.
- Recruiting a campaign team: When it comes to school board campaigns, teamwork really does make the dream work. Hire a campaign manager, treasurer and press secretary, at a minimum, but consider bringing on teams of volunteers as well. More feet on the street means greater reach for the campaign; something candidates will need to win.
School Board Campaign Ideas
The fun begins after candidates have established their goals and compliance with election rules. But getting creative doesn’t mean that all data goes out the window. It’s important to remember that every part of the campaign should connect with voters. Addressing the issues that affect voters most can help pave the way to a winning campaign, regardless of the campaign collateral each candidate distributes.
The campaign slogan may be the first thing voters learn about a candidate’s campaign. Slogans should be unique and set the candidate apart from other potential school board members. Keep it short and sweet, but remember to address key voter concerns.
Some examples of effective slogans:
- Putting Students First
- With Kelly on the board, you won’t be ignored.
- A Leader Who Listens
A logo is the campaign’s calling card: a simple visual that will bring the campaign to mind for any voter who sees it. Along with the slogan, the logo is a quick and effective way that candidates can connect with their voters. Common logos include an apple, a graduation cap or a star, all of which are popular icons in the classroom and, as a result, easily relatable to a school board campaign.
When the candidate isn’t present, voters can still connect with them through the campaign website. Think of the website as the virtual campaign office; it should include slogans, key messages and issues, as well as any information on how voters can further connect with the candidate. Keep the website up to date so voters can familiarize themselves with the candidate at any time.
Campaign Flyers and Signs
School board campaign signs and flyers are a great way to help voters put a face to a name. Signs and flyers should be clear and easy to read, favoring simple fonts and graphics. Flyers can include more information than signs, such as the campaign slogan and other vital messages.
Campaign volunteers can hang flyers up around town, but they’re also great to hand out following any appearances, so voters know how to stay connected. On the other hand, signs are great for placing on lawns or in the windows of local businesses; ensure supporters have the signs they need to help promote the candidate.
Campaign ads aren’t always the most popular part of a campaign, but they can be an effective way to reach voters. Engaging ads consider the audience, so they should speak to voter concerns and also be as native as possible to the platform on which they appear. Options for campaign ads include radio ads, TV ads, newspaper ads and digital ads, including on search engines and social media.
Be a Winning School Board Member Even After the Campaign Ends
Though a school board campaign is a rite of passage for any school board member, the truth is that it’s just the beginning. Effective school board members usually communicate well during the campaign, but whether or not they’re successful is based solely on how they conduct themselves once they’re on the board. That doesn’t mean they have to go it alone.
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