Commentary & Analysis

So You Want to Run a Campaign

If you’re like me, you’re super fired up about electoral reform right now. The democracy reform movement is gaining lots of steam, with advocates organizing dozens of campaigns related to voting methods, gerrymandering, campaign finance, and more in the last few years.

Maybe, like me, you’re feeling inspired by the electoral reform initiatives you’re seeing pop up all around you, and you wish you could do more. What can you do to advocate for approval voting?

One thing you can do is run a campaign in your own community. Starting an advocacy campaign can seem overwhelming, but the good news is that there are lots of resources out there to help you!

Online Tools

  • Check out our Advocacy & Elections Toolkit! We’ve created postcards you can send to your local legislator or your people in your community, educational flyers and brochures, a letter-to-the-editor template, and even sample approval voting ballots.
  • Join our Discord Channel to connect with other reformers motivated to bring fairer, more representative elections to their communities. They can help you conduct research about local laws or help you figure out how to plan your advocacy.
  • Take a look at Ballotpedia and your local Secretary of State’s website for rules around ballot initiatives, home rule charters, and other local ordinances related to voting and elections.
  • Learn more from DemocracyU and its online toolkit that provides information, policy best-practices, and resources for citizens and policymakers who want to be a part of the reform movement

Community Organizing Resources

If you’d like to run a campaign or organize your community around approval voting, we’d recommend you check out some of the following resources to learn the basics of organizing:

Fundraising Resources

Running a campaign, unfortunately, does cost money. If you’re interested in running your own campaign, you’ll have to locate funding sources and make sure you’re following the relevant tax and campaign finance regulations. Luckily, we’ve got a couple resources to help you fund your advocacy.

First, you’ll want to figure out how much you’ll need to raise. This tool from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center offers some great questions you should consider as you’re coming up with that number.

After you set your budget, it’s time to start fundraising. The folks at BISC also have a nice, short introduction to that. Check it out.

As the folks from BISC point out, often times funding for ballot initiatives comes from a few large stakeholders. We recommend using Joan Garry’s How to Find Donors handout to brainstorm a list of stakeholders you already know who may be able to help.

However, there are still ways to raise money from smaller donors to fund your advocacy campaign. You’ll just need to do a bit more digging. Check out Raising More with Less by Amy Eisenstein for a short, practical guide to fundaising.

Each of these resources are great introductions for new fundraisers. Raising money might seem scary, but armed with a little bit of knowledge, you’ll be able to tackle fundraising for your campaign with confidence!

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Of course, reading a few articles and books won’t teach you everything you need to know about running a campaign. The whole process will be a learning experience for you no matter how much preparation you do.

So, reach out to people in your community who may have some experience with organizing and get their advice. Meet with your local League of Women Voters or other stakeholder groups to see if they’ll get on board or can offer resources. Building networks and earning buy-in from prominent community members is key!

The Election Science staff is also always willing to lend an ear and some guidance. Feel free to shoot us an email, and we’ll do our best to help.

If you’d like to chat more about starting a campaign or an advocacy chapter in your community, email our Director of Campaigns & Advocacy, Chris Raleigh, at chris@electionscience.org.

For more information about fundraising, contact our Director of Philanthropy, Kirsten Elliott, at kirsten@electionscience.org.

Want to leave the campaigning to us? Consider making a gift to help us run more approval voting education campaigns across the country.