Thinking about running for office? If so, you have come to the right place and we are here to help you design a path to victory!
If you are considering a run for office or you have already decided to run and you’re not sure where to get started, here are a few resources that will help point you in the right direction.
- So You Think You Want to Run? – National Democratic Training Committee
Still deciding whether running for office is right for you? At the very beginning stages of your campaign? This course is right for you. This course will help you decide whether you should run for office, what you want to run for, and when. You’ll outline your campaign’s timeline, map out what areas you need to develop to be a successful candidate, and create your candidate training plan.
- Running for Office: Beginners Guide – Run for Something
This 11 page guide helps you decide what office to run for and how to get started.
- Setting Up Your Campaign: Step by Step – Run for Something
This 15 page guide covers several very important pieces of setting up your campaign including: Appointing a Treasurer, Statement of Candidacy and other Documents, Requesting an EIN, Opening a Bank Account, Fundamentals of Campaign Financial Disclosures.
- Guide to Hiring a Campaign Manager – Arena
This tool includes a 5 page document that outlines the common role of a campaign manager and a few interview questions to ask a potential hire as well as a one page Skills Test candidates can ask the applicant to complete in the final round.
- Campaign Roles & Responsibilities –
This document gives you a quick rundown of key campaign roles and responsibilities.
Looking for additional resources? Check these out:
Thinking About Running?! – Run for Something
This page includes a compilation of resources to help you get your campaign started.
A strong message will help your campaign to recruit volunteers, secure donors, and persuade political influencers and validators to throw their support behind you. Here are some great resources for message development from the Democratic universe.
- Looking for a little inspiration?
Watch President Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (18:47)
- Crafting Your Message – National Democratic Training Committee – 45 minute training
National Democratic Training Committee in partnership with Vote Run Lead created this training to help candidates craft a message for your campaign and stump speech. This training utilizes a combination of videos, examples and worksheets.
- Developing Your Message – The Arena Institute – 8 page worksheet
This training includes an intro video and 8 page worksheet that walks you through 7 steps to develop your core message. The steps include your Personal Story, Core Values, Composing your Core Message, Creating a Message Box, Tailoring Your Message for Key Audiences, Preparing a FAQ and finally Writing Your Message Guide.
- The Little Black Book – Media and Messaging – People for the American Way Foundation
This 62 page manual created by Young People For walks you through ways to work with the media and provides a sample press release, sample media advisory, sample op-ed and more.
Targeting for an electoral campaign is a process that allows you to identify how many votes you need and where to find them. Every campaign has a win number (the number of votes you need to win). Once you determine this number, the campaign then uses a “voter file” to determine where the votes will come from. Here are some resources to help you determine how many votes you need and which voters you will target during your campaign.
- Targeting Voters – NDTC
You should take this course as you’re getting ready to start building your lists for canvasses, phone banks, direct mail, or any other voter contact method. This course will take you through 4 videos and takes about 45 minutes to complete. You’ll want to have your vote goal (the number of votes you plan to obtain to win) calculated before the course.
- Votebuilder 101 – National Democratic Training Committee
This course will introduce you to the basic functions of VoteBuilder, the software Democratic campaigns across the country use to organize their voter contact efforts. This course will use simulations to guide you through the strategy and tools you will use to get the most out of VoteBuilder. You will also learn when you need your own VoteBuilder account, and how to access it. You can move through the course chronologically or choose the section you wish to learn more about. If your campaign would like to set up access to Votebuilder, submit a request to our Data Team.
Campaigns start by asking, “How much will this cost?” This should be a relatively detailed process because each component of the plan must be itemized and assigned a realistic cost: staff, office, travel, fundraising, mail, advertising, field expenses, and anything else the campaign will spend money on. Here are a few tools to help you put a workable budget together for your campaign.
- Budget & Financial Compliance – NDTC
Take this course before you start raising or spending money to make sure you’re following applicable laws from day one. It’ll be most useful if you’ve already calculated your vote goal and know how many people your budget needs to let you talk to.
- Campaign Budget – Arena
This tool includes a template that goes month-by-month or week by week, and allows you to customize the different phases of your campaign spending. It also helps you track incoming fundraising dollars and cash on hand.
The fundraising component of your campaign plan sets goals for targeting and soliciting donors and details various fundraising scenarios. Making a plan for fundraising will make sure that the time spent on your budget was time well spent. Here are a few resources to help you with fundraising.
- Building Your Network: Donors, Volunteers & Validators – NDTC
This course teaches you how to start organizing and growing your network by creating and organizing your lists. Take this course as soon as you decide to run–or even while you’re still considering your options–because it’s never too early to start growing and organizing your network.
- Writing Your Fundraising Plan – NDTC
In this course, you will write your campaign’s fundraising plan, a detailed list of the revenue sources you will rely on to hit your fundraising (and therefore budget) goals. After you complete this course, you’ll have a fundraising plan and the groundwork laid to raise your first contributions. You should have a budget in place before starting this course.
- Raising Money – NDTC
Take this course when you are ready to implement fundraising tactics for your campaign. If you’re already fundraising, but struggling to meet your goals in a particular area, this course will provide best practices and tools to up your game. Resources include: Making the Ask – Prep Sheet, Sample Follow Up Emails & List of National PACs
- Making an Effective Fundraising Pitch – Run for Something
This 3 page document provides pointers for making an effective fundraising pitch including making a good first impression, tailoring your ask to your audience and keeping it simple.
- Making the Ask – NDTC
The formula taught in this course gives you the tools to make successful asks which cultivate the things your campaign needs to succeed: money, volunteer time, and voters. You’ll walk away with resources to prepare you for making the ask.
The field component of your campaign plan should include details on how the campaign will build relationships in communities in the earliest days, not waiting until the final few weeks. The plan should include information on how the campaign will reach out to constituents, how it will use the targeting data to conduct strategic canvassing and phone banking, and how it will identify and persuade its target audience. It should also have a plan for the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) program.
So, you need to find out how many votes you need to win, determine who you will target to get the votes and what your message will be to these voters and then make sure these voters actually cast their votes for you once voting begins during the final days or Get Out the Vote (GOTV) phase of the campaign.
- Sample Field Plan – NDTC
This 7 page document gives you a view into what a completed field plan should look like.
- Field Tactics – NDTC
In this course, you will prepare your campaign to have one-on-one conversations with voters through canvassing (i.e., knocking on voters’ doors) and phone banking (i.e., calling voters). By the end of this course, you will be ready to have these conversations yourself, and train volunteers to do the same. This course utilizes a combination of videos, worksheets and articles. The estimated time to complete the course is 45 minutes.
- GOTV Training – Arena
This 12 page guide will outline what to cover in your GOTV trainings, how to adapt trainings for different audiences, and how to facilitate inspiring, constructive learning experiences for staff, organizers, and volunteers.
- GOTV Plan – Arena
You’ve spent the last few months talking to voters and building your list of supporters. This 22 page guide is intended to walk you through all the components of a comprehensive Get Out the Vote (GOTV) plan to get your supporters to the polls during the last 4 days of the election.
- GOTV Volunteer Report – Arena
During the final four days of GOTV, you will be talking to more voters than you have at any other point in the campaign, which requires a lot of volunteer power to get the job done. You should be recruiting shifts weeks in advance. This spreadsheet helps your campaign track shifts in the weeks leading up to the big weekend before Election Day.
Once you craft your message, you’ll use multiple methods to communicate with voters. This may include media (both paid and earned), email, social media, texting and physical mail. Of course you will also be knocking doors and calling voters and that information is covered in the Field section of this toolbox. Check out the resources below to help you design your Communications Plan.
- Writing Your Communications Plan – NDTC
This course will ask you to view six video lessons and complete two review quizzes and will be accompanied by worksheets, templates and sample documents. You can expect to spend approximately 90 minutes completing this course.
- Digital 101 – NDTC
It’s the 21st century—your campaign needs to be online. Most campaigns need a website, a Facebook page, and an email list to communicate with supporters—and recruit more. This course helps you launch all three of those, and provides guidance about what to share where—and how to effectively incorporate these tools into your campaign so they amplify all the work you’re already doing. This course will ask you to view eight video lessons and you should be prepared to spend 90 minutes completing the course.
- Emails 101: Writing Exciting Campaign Emails – Run for Something
This 5 page document outlines best practices for writing winning emails for your campaign.
- Digital Calendar – Arena
In this toolkit you’ll find a best practices guide for producing content for email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as a calendar spreadsheet so you can plan ahead and review everything you are posting.
- Planning Your GOTV Mail Program – Arena
In the digital age, good old fashioned mail is a reliable way to break through the noise and reach voters. In this guide we equip you with some basic best practices and key considerations for designing your GOTV mail plan.
- Earned Media Events – Arena
From planning to debrief, this guide will help you tackle all the elements you need to consider when drawing the press to a campaign event.
One of the most important aspects of your campaign is making sure you are compliant with all regulations. This section provides some guidance to insure you are staying compliant.
- Campaign Finance 101 – Run for Something
This document is for general informational purposes only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Candidates should consult legal counsel to ensure compliance with state and federal law.
ONLINE TOOLS & VENDORS
There are tons of tools out there for your campaign. Some are free and some can be accessed at a low cost. Depending on the size of your campaign, you may want to hire a consultant. Here are some resources to help you navigate tools, vendors & consultants.
- Online Tools for Candidates – Run for Something
A complete list of free/cheap resources you can use during your campaign.
- Vendors & Consultants 101 – Run for Something
This 3 page document helps guide you though FAQs for choosing a vendor or consultant.