One of the great things about democracy is that anyone can run for office - but just because someone can run, it doesn’t mean they are ready to run. First-time candidates often lack the knowledge to know how much time and energy is required to run a campaign.
That is why we wanted to take the time to help guide you through the various phases of a campaign. Yes, every campaign will be a little bit different, but by having a few sign posts along your path you can save yourself a lot of headaches and frustration.
For each section, we will break down what your campaign should be doing from an administrative, financial, field, and communications standpoint so that you can come one step closer to victory.
When to start: The Sooner the Better!
The desire can come from anywhere: Friends have said: “you should run for office!”, you have talked to your loved ones in passing that you want to run, or a current elected official has encouraged you to get more involved. However it happens, all you know now is that you have the fire in your belly and you are ready to serve.
In the pre-planning stage, you will want to spend the majority of your time building relationships with people in your community and keeping up to date on the issues that could potentially come up during your race.
Attending events and meetings in your community is a great way to start a foundation for your campaign.
These events include City Council meetings, school boards, community fairs and festivals, church groups, etc. By going to events, you will soon start to identify potential friends and allies when you do decide to run that could easily be converted into donors and volunteers - and having these initial relationships will only make the starting months of your formal campaign easier.
There are two added benefits to showing your face: exposure and legitimacy. By attending community and city council meetings, writing letters to the editor, (respectfully) commenting on local issues on social media, and joining political, government, and/or social clubs in your area, you begin to show people that you care about the community and that you have something important to say.
Keeping up on the issues is also vital.
Make sure that you are exposed to a wide range of opinions and ideas that, as a future candidate and (hopefully) policymaker, you will be expected to respond to. Do yourself the favor of reading news sources that you don’t generally agree with. Though it may be frustrating and difficult to do so, it is one of the easiest ways to find out how your potential opponents feel on any given topic, expose you to issues you may not have considered before, and allow you to think of potential responses when things comes up on the campaign trail - after all, it is better to be surprised and upset while in the comfort of your own home when compared to being on stage during a debate.
In short, pay attention.
If you truly want to represent people, you have to be exposed to people.
The pre-planning stage is also a good time to start doing the legwork related to a campaign that doesn’t require some sort of financial commitment. For example, it costs money to buy stationary, but it is free to call printing companies to find out how much it costs to print the stuff; it costs money to access the voter file, but that same office probably is in charge of free to access campaign finance records - such records are a valuable tool for identifying potential donors; it costs money to hire staff, but it is free to start asking around to see who might be interested.
Effective pre-planning will lead to an effective campaign launch, and an effective campaign launch means that you will be spending less time on nuts and bolts and more time doing what you need to do - campaigning!
So, you have talked it over with your family and friends, and you decide that the next election is your time.
Check out all the phases of a campaign below!