Blazing the Trail to Election Day
Fifth in a series focused on preparing for Election Day.
Engaging Your Networks to Create Buzz
Pete Rafle – Vice President, and Stephanie Zarecky – Senior Account Executive
With Election Day just over six months away, Spitfire continues our series on ways for nonprofits to leverage opportunities during campaign season. Our previous article focused on cultivating relationships with candidates and key partners. As you continue to develop those relationships, consider the following low-cost ideas to engage your networks to put your issues front and center.
- Ask your supporters to submit questions to candidate debates. You can do this in two ways: push out a question that your members can ask at candidate forums, or use this opportunity as an engagement tool by polling your membership on questions they most want the candidates to answer (e.g., “Help us choose a candidate question – what is the most pressing question candidates need to answer on women’s health today?”). Ask them to submit their questions via video on YouTube or on Facebook to generate more buzz. Then select the top questions to submit to organizers of upcoming candidate debates. You can also ask your members to contact the debate organizers directly to send the message that this is an important issue to voters.
- Create a candidate question guide. To avoid getting lost in the campaign rhetoric, choose one of your top priority issues and draft five to seven questions that will help assess if a candidate is supportive on this key issue for your organization. Feature the questions on a one-pager, along with brief information and facts that provide background on the issue. Share this one-pager with your supporters and ask them to post the questions on the candidates’ Facebook pages, tweet the questions to their friends, and ask the candidates the questions at town hall meetings or other events.
- Leverage an existing film or other opportunity. Look for creative opportunities – like an upcoming film or television series – to get your members (and others) talking about your issues. For example, as an excellent tie-in for those working on global women’s issues, journalist Nick Kristof’s book, “Half the Sky,” will be aired as a special on PBS this fall, and the film Gasland creates a platform for groups to talk about fracking. Partner with a local venue to host a viewing of a film related to your work, and create a guide to talk through the important questions raised in the film that should also be asked of the candidates. Or, how about hosting home-viewing parties of Mad Men with questions on progress since the series’ time period (for African Americans and women, in public health, etc.) and the leadership you’d like to see from elected officials to ensure progress continues? Explore similar opportunities for your organization as a relatively low-resource way to create more relevance for your issues during election season.
For these and any other election-related activities, be sure you understand the relevant legal guidelines for your organization. The Alliance for Justice offers guidance for nonprofits to follow the IRS and FEC rules. Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice – there are a wide range of things your organization can do to promote issues during the election cycle, but we recommend you consult with a lawyer if you have questions.
By A Web Design