Raising Money, Winning Votes

Nov. 1, 2000
For success at the ballot box, schools need to have the right people running their campaigns.

For success at the ballot box, schools need to have the right people running their campaigns.

Your school district is preparing for a bond-issue election and has to choose between two kinds of fund-raising chairpersons: One bakes 100 pies, sells them for $5 each and makes $500 for the campaign in the first month. The other candidate has lunch with 10 local businesspeople and asks them each for $1,000. He raises $10,000 before the campaign kicks off. Both work very hard and are enthusiastic about the campaign, so which one do you select as your campaign's fundraising chairperson?

Obviously, the second person will become a much more effective chairperson. He or she has the resources and the knowledge to bring in large donations. The first person's hard work and availability are desperately needed, but he or she may be more useful for soliciting votes rather than dollars.

Each fundraising effort requires people with certain qualities to ensure a successful campaign. Placing the right people in the right positions will make the difference. When searching for your campaign chairs, here are some characteristics to seek out.

Central committee chairperson A central committee chairperson is responsible for organizing a campaign, but not running it. He or she is the leader of the central committee, which is made up of chairs from all other committees. The chairperson builds a large campaign committee of hundreds and maintains the direction of the campaign.

The chairperson will need to make a significant time commitment. Choose someone who is dedicated to the success of the campaign. The position requires a motivator and a delegator. This person must also be a hardworking, effective organizer and a popular community leader.

Effective leaders of other organizations or businesses are potential candidates for central committee chairperson. Also, consider appointing leaders of successful organizations, such as the Booster Club, PTO or Lions Club. If these qualities are not found in one person, choose two people as co-chairs. If popular, dynamic individuals are interested but cannot give a large amount of time, they can serve as honorary chairs.

Central committee The central committee is responsible for specific elements of the campaign, such as treasurer, fund-raising, publicity, data entry, legal, secretary and any others pertinent to your district.

A treasurer keeps books, budgets and assets, pays the bills and files necessary papers. The workload for this position typically will be light throughout the campaign. Find someone who is knowledgeable about finances. The ability to use computer programs will greatly decrease work and increase accuracy. Consider someone who has already served as a campaign treasurer.

A fundraising chairperson raises cash and in-kind donations before and during the campaign. This job requires an active, successful person. He or she must be comfortable talking with businesspeople to solicit sizeable funds ($500 or more). This person should be able to target industries and potential large donors. He or she also must be able to organize small groups to solicit smaller donations. The position is not extremely time-consuming, but does require planning and delegation. Look for the president of a leading bank or other company or organization. In short, choose someone people find difficult to refuse.

A publicity chairperson provides information, engenders interest and motivates a positive vote. His or her work will be divided into two subcommittees - information and events. The information group includes projects such as news releases, door hangers, flyers, ads and signs. These are formatted and printed prior to the campaign kickoff. Events include the kickoff event, town meetings, coffees, speeches at local clubs and any other campaign-related gatherings. The publicity committee provides event speakers and is responsible for slides, multimedia presentations and training.

Before the campaign kickoff, the information subcommittee has the majority of the work. Both subcommittees are busy once the campaign is underway.

The publicity chair needs management skills and a clear understanding of advertising. This person must be able to coordinate numerous tasks simultaneously. Look for someone who has publicized successful events such as political, sports or charity events. Another option is a business leader whose business might be small but well-known.

A data chairperson manages information that enables the campaign to run effectively. This person trains people to enter data and oversees the construction of the campaign's website. The chair will lead a team in establishing a database of voters and updating it throughout the campaign. This database can be used to determine which strategies are working, when you have enough votes, and where you need to target time and money. Sorting data into fields will help each of the campaign committees. For instance, sorting by supportive community members can identify who should receive yard signs and "Remember to Vote" phone calls.

This position typically requires a few hours of work per week. Look for a clear, scientific thinker with computer knowledge, such as someone who has developed a successful database for an organization or business.

A legal adviser will provide guidance on legal issues and prepare documents. The time commitment is minimal. This person should be an attorney. The firm that represents the school on other issues may wish to volunteer to do this work pro bono. If not, ask its leading competitor.

A secretary handles meeting minutes and coordinates meetings and announcements. This job requires a significant time commitment because he or she should attend all official campaign meetings. The secretary must be organized and willing to commit time and energy to the campaign. Clerical skills or experience is necessary.

Regional committee In larger districts, well-organized campaigns operate with regional committees. Regional committees are responsible for campaigning in their designated area of the district. With resources from the central committee, each regional committee targets its own area and campaigns according to its own needs.

A regional chairperson (one per area) is responsible for his or her area. This person coordinates the efforts to gain voters for the levy by organizing the area committee. This person also sets up subcommittees for phone calls or door-to-door campaign literature.

This person should be organized and dedicated to finding strategies for winning all the voters in his or her area.

Once you have decided which person is best for each position, ask him or her to become a chairperson. Invite him or her to meet for brunch or lunch. Do not begin by asking if the person is in favor of the campaign - assume he or she is a school supporter. Be persistent; ask reluctant candidates what would persuade them to take the job. Explain how the district will benefit by passing the bond issue and how the prospective chairperson would aid the cause.

Each of these people plays a vital role in the campaign. By choosing chairpersons based on time availability, public image, interest and qualifications, your district will have an organized and successful campaign.

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