While School Board campaigns have long been critical political races for our communities, they have recently been brought into focus in the national spotlight due to hot-button issues such as COVID safety protocols, gun violence, and systemic racism. Voters and political strategists are focused on electing school board members who will shape educational and safety standards for children across the country. Organizations like Emily’s List and Run For Something, who have been working for years to get candidates ready to run for office, have shifted to focus specifically on school board races. With tens of thousands of school board candidates running this cycle, we wanted to share some tips on targeting voters in your school board race.
1. Focus on Vote History over Party Registration
The majority of school boards throughout the country are nonpartisan. In an increasingly polarized electorate, focusing on policy over party will widen your reach and allow you to speak to your entire community. So, as you start to target your voters and future constituents, you should focus on talking to all voters – not just the registered Democrats in your district. A better scope for voter targeting may be the frequency with which constituents vote.
2. Persuade over Motivate
If you have ever volunteered for a political campaign, you may have heard potential voters categorized into “persuasion” or “motivation” classes. These categories are somewhat self-explanatory – “persuasion” voters need to be convinced to choose a candidate, while “motivation” voters are already inclined to choose that candidate and just need to be encouraged to vote. The type of voters targeted by a campaign will have a big impact on messaging. A “persuasion” campaign will focus on policies and personality – communicating a candidate’s core values and how they will benefit the community. A “motivation” campaign will have messaging focused on getting out the vote. For a School Board campaign, we recommend prioritizing outreach to persuasion voters early in the campaign. For many parents, the school board is critical to their everyday life – they don’t need to be convinced to vote in the school board elections. Instead, you want to reach them with a persuasive argument about why you are the best choice for their community.
3. Focus, focus, focus
School boards are important to so many of your neighbors and parents in your community; they impact resources for schools in the present and opportunities for children in the future. It’s important for your school board campaign to not get bogged down in traditional partisan politics while staying confident in your views and policy positions.
Identify the pressing issues within the school system that matter most to your community and stick with them – don’t get distracted by hot button national issues. Once you finish a conversation with a voter, record notes from that conversation in your VAN account or anywhere else you can track conversations. As patterns of concern from voters arise, you can use your notes to understand which messaging might work for your voters and what to stress in your paid communications, like your mail pieces or your digital ads.
School board campaigns present a great strategic opportunity for seasoned politicos and first time candidates alike to make a tangible impact in their communities. This is an opportunity to put forward a creative, pragmatic vision for your community’s schools and in turn your community’s children. We can’t wait to help you get there!