Beyond Your Base (BYB) has put together an informative 10-part series leading up to Election Day that brings together some of the most important campaign lessons that members of the BYB team have learned throughout the past 28 years. These “Lessons Learned” provide a behind the-scenes look at strategies employed by citizen-led campaign committees that were highly successful, including helpful case studies. We’re sharing highlights from the first five lessons below. Click on the title to download the full PDF.
Money, message, and messengers are key to successful referendum campaigns. As a case study, this lesson examines New Trier Township High School District 203 in Illinois, where their leadership’s unwavering commitment to listen to all community stakeholders, and take action accordingly, led to the passage of an $89 million bond referendum.
Lesson #2: Election Day is not on Election Day.
Did you know that approximately four-fifths of the states allow early, in-person voting? That's why it's critical that campaigns identify when and how voters can vote, segment voters based on when they will likely vote based on historical voter data (if available) and create unique timelines to target each voter segment. This lesson highlights Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 in Illinois, where the campaign committee’s efforts to accelerate the campaign timeline resulted in the passage of a $36.3 million bond measure.
This lesson shows—with careful planning and a robust public information program—campaign committees can build long-term taxpayer trust AND deliver success at the polls. Kirtland Community College in Michigan serves as an illustrative example of where efforts to engage taxpayers ultimately resulted in construction of a new Health Sciences Education Center and critical funding for the Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC).
Lesson #4: Voters look for quick cues on how to vote.
What is one of the most visited pages on a campaign website? From whom should campaign committees seek an endorsement? Why are endorsements for tax-related referenda so critical? Assembling an effective collection of endorsements and editorial support is an essential component of persuading voters. St. Vrain Valley School District’s citizen-led campaign committees in Colorado have worked overtime to build long lists of endorsers. Since 2008, SVVSD has passed four ballot measures that have provided more than $800 million in funding.
Lesson #5: Microtargeting is difficult. Do it anyway.
Highly customized campaign approaches are more complicated, labor intensive and expensive than blanket canvassing strategies. However, assuming time, resources and data are available, it’s worth it.
That’s why collecting and strategically using both public opinion research and demographic voter data can help a referendum campaign optimize messaging for key audiences. A campaign committee advocating for Weld County School District RE-3J in Colorado customized campaign mailers based on the information needs of each community within the district. The campaign committee’s efforts to implement microtargeting strategies was rewarded with strong support at the ballot box for BOTH an operating referendum and bond measure.