Election years are a great time to raise awareness about policy issues impacting kids and families, not only with candidates running for office, but also with the media and your fellow community members. Below is an excerpt from our Advocating for Change guide about ways you can advocate for children this election year. We also have a recording of an election advocacy training we did a few years back, if you would like to do a deeper dive.
From Advocating for Change:
Election and Ballot Advocacy
Election years provide a lot of opportunities to advocate for your goal. People are paying more attention to policies. And potential elected officials are much more open to having conversations with the people they may represent. Note: if you’re doing election advocacy as a nonprofit, you have to be very careful. Like with all nonprofit advocacy, laws apply, but there are even more rules during election years. Find out more about the dos and don’ts at Bolder Advocacy.
When to Use
If your problem and goal are affected by decisions made by elected officials. If you have a large base of supporters you want to engage. If you want to ensure your issue is being discussed by candidates.
Ways to Use
Host/attend a candidate forum — candidate forums are a great way to make issues you care about part of the conversation during the election. Create a Voters’ Guide — You can write a basic flyer for voters about your goal and suggest questions people can ask candidates to find out where they stand on the issue. Some groups write longer guides that also include candidate’s responses to questionnaires or a list of candidates to support (this is not something a 501(c)3 nonprofit can do). A voters’ guide increases the likelihood of your issues being discussed at a range of election events.
Propose a ballot initiative — instead of trying to get a specific piece of legislation passed through the legislature, you can petition to have an initiative or constitutional amendment added to the ballot that would leave it to the voters to decide on. These take a lot of work and resources, though, and we could write an entire advocacy guide just on proposing ballot measures.
So, if another group is leading efforts on an initiative that you support, consider connecting with them and ask how you can help.
Other Actions You Can Take as an Individual (But Not as a 501(c)3 Nonprofit)
- Run for office
- Volunteer on a campaign
- Endorse a candidate
- Donate to a campaign or party
Running a ballot initiative or constitutional amendment campaign is very time-consuming and expensive. You must collect tens of thousands of signatures to get the measure on the ballot. That takes a lot of people power and money. Then promoting the initiative throughout the state and gaining support can be equally challenging, both locally and statewide. If this is a route you would like to take, consider partnering with like-minded organizations that may have funded initiatives like yours.
See the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website for information on the laws regarding ballot initiatives.
For best practices for running ballot measure campaigns, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center has helpful resources for advocates.