The passage of school levies is vital to local education, and if you serve on a school levy campaign you know that you often have to pull a lot together in a relatively short amount of time – mostly from volunteers who have day (or night) jobs. Your ability to market and sell your school levy to your community might depend on several factors: cost, what the money will be used for, how satisfied taxpayers are with your current school board or administration, and traditional tendencies that dictate how well your community supports your school system.
Here’s a breakdown of proven school levy marketing techniques that make a positive impression in nearly any situation:
Direct mail is one of the best tools for marketing a school levy. Mail postcards, brochures and flyers to local citizens that highlight key levy information – cost, what the money will be used for, why it is needed, how this affects each individual citizen – with bullet points. If you have a website with additional information, include the URL in your direct-mail pieces.
Depending on the difficulty in passing a school levy (for example, a renewal operating levy might be easier to pass than a new school building levy), you might need to send two or three mailers leading up to voting day. Send the last mailer just a few days before the event to remind citizens to vote for their schools. Keep costs low by comparing options with the instant price quote widget at PsPrint.
Advertise your school levy throughout your community with newspaper advertisements, business endorsements, word-of-mouth, posters, flyers and door hangers. You can distribute door hangers on citizens’ doors a few days before voting day. Posters and flyers are great bulletin board fodder. Print signs that businesses can hang in their windows; and yard signs that families and individuals can place in their yards. Also, make sure to schedule radio and television spots if you have the budget for them.
Another way to connect with your community is to hold a town hall type of meeting where you set up tables manned by levy committee members who can field individual questions. Many levy committees have found this style of meeting more beneficial than traditional stand-up Q&A sessions because more citizens can have their questions answered in less time and debate can be funneled away from the conversation.
When possible, get involved with booths, tables or hand-outs at local events such as fairs, festivals, dinners and awards ceremonies. Print stickers and buttons to distribute to members of the community.
You can also incorporate a phone call campaign, especially if the vote is expected to be tight. This is particularly beneficial in small towns; when your friends and neighbors know that you support the levy, they might feel more confident in it.
Some school levy committees take a negative approach to campaigns: “If we don’t pass this levy, we will have to drop services/sports/band, etc.” This often alienates votes, so it’s always best to take a positive approach: “With the passage of this levy, we can continue to provide the educational and extracurricular services to the pride of our community – our youth.”
Even if circumstances are dire, in most cases voters can read the writing on the wall but won’t like being backed into a corner. It’s OK to point out what won’t be covered if a levy doesn’t pass, but try to stay positive and demonstrate how the money will enhance your school system. Come up with a tagline or slogan that your community will understand. If you have a tight-knit community, something such as “Building On Our Tradition” would be an excellent choice for a new school building levy campaign.
If your school levy is hotly debated throughout your community, especially if there’s a division about costs or necessity, then use graphic devices and calculators to show the costs of levy passage versus failure. If you want to pass a levy that will pay for a new building, stack the cost of a new building against the cost to repair and maintain your existing structure. Show how a new building will be able to accommodate more student and community services. Create a calculator that shows individual taxpayers exactly what they’ll be paying each year. The more your citizens understand why the money is needed, the more apt they’ll be to vote for the levy.
Know the rules
As with any political campaign, certain rules apply to school levy marketing. Check with your local election board to find out what rules apply to you. The last thing you want to do is print 20,000 postcards without the required disclaimer stating who paid for them!
Sample school levy marketing schedule
Here’s a sample school levy marketing plan, assuming a positive campaign for a new school building in a tight-knit community of around 10,000 people.
- Five weeks out: Postcard mailer no. 1
- Four weeks out: Town hall meeting no. 1
- Three weeks out: Local event, signs placed in yards, phone calls, stickers/buttons
- Two weeks out: Town hall meeting no. 2
- One week out: Postcard mailer no. 2
- Four days out: Door hangers
- Three days to one day out: Phone calls
Depending on many variables, passing a school levy can be as simple as placing it on the ballot or as difficult as a hotly contested Congressional campaign. If you’re on a school levy marketing committee, keep these tips in mind to position your community – and school system – for success.