What’s the biggest mistake school districts make after passing (or failing) a bond or levy election? They stop communicating with their community.
Passing any measure, levy or bond, requires significant efforts ensuring your community knows what the measure entails and why. During any successful election campaign, the district and community groups align to get out the information: why are we running this measure? What’s included in the measure? What does this mean for the community’s tax rate? What other facts does our community need to know?
If your district’s measure passed…
Congratulations! Your community supports the ideas and plans you proposed in the measure, and you did an excellent job making sure they knew why you needed those funds. Now, you need to ensure you follow through on the promises you made during the campaign.
How do you make sure your constituents know you’re following through? Communication, communication, communication. Here are three ways to reach out to your community following your successful election:
Thank your community and your supporters.
Far too often, winners of any election forget to come back to the voters and simply say “thank you.” There are many ways to do this ranging from sign waving to newspaper ads, but you need to remember to thank your voters for supporting you. Plus, don’t forget to thank your employees and volunteers who dedicated long hours to helping get the word out about your measure. Your supporters will be key in passing your next measure, too!
Communicate throughout the implementation of the measure.
Whether the measure was a bond or a levy doesn’t matter – make sure your district regularly tells the community about the great things the measure has done for the school district: new facilities, new technology, new programs, or supporting existing programs and facilities. It doesn’t matter what the measure was for – make sure your community knows their tax monies are going to good work.
Never stop communicating. Add to your methods – never subtract.
If your district adds a new method of communication like a blog or social networking, make sure you don’t stop using the existing methods. Too many districts will stop sending paper newsletters or mailers home thinking that the new methods replace the old ones. Always remember: add to your communication repertoire but don’t forget that what you have been doing has value, too.
If your district’s measure failed…
What are your next steps? Do you revise the measure and try to run it again? Do you add to it? Do you subtract from it? Do you run it on the next available election day? Do you scrap the entire measure and start from scratch?
The truth is you can’t answer any of those questions without communicating with your community. If you don’t know why they voted “no,” guessing (or thinking you know without speaking to them directly) won’t get you a passing measure.
Here are three ways you can reach out to your community for feedback:
Conduct a survey.
Surveys of your community can provide valuable general feedback. Based on how the survey questions are crafted, you will be able to get large numbers to get a broad idea of how the community perceives your district and how the community perceived your measure. However, surveys often can’t provide the qualitative details – the personal opinions – of the movers and shakers of your community. For that, you need Key Stakeholder Interviews.
Conduct Key Stakeholder Interviews.
- Third-party interviewers have no horse in the race.
People are more likely to tell the truth if they know the interviewer doesn’t have any bias on the answers. Since a third-party interviewer won’t hold preconceived notions toward the school district, interviewees are more likely to speak their mind and tell the whole truth without fear of retribution.
- Interviewees don’t want to offend.
Even the most critical community member may temper their opinions if they’re speaking directly to an employee of the organization they’re criticizing. Having a third party conduct the interview ensures that the interviewees will speak their minds, no matter what they may be thinking.
- Unbiased analysis.
Hiring a qualified third-party means your results and analysis will be clear. edTactics has years of experience conducting Key Stakeholder Interviews with professionals holding degrees in public communication studies.
Make a plan.
edTactics can help you!
edTactics helps school districts implement and execute Community-Based Program and Facility Advisory Teams using our proven Continuous Improvement Model for Community Outreach.
We know school districts because we come from school districts.
edTactics’ success stems from our associates’ professional experience working as school superintendents and program directors for decades. We know the ins and outs of school operations because we’ve been there… just like you.
Call us at (360) 566-7616 for a free consultation to discuss both your district’s present and future needs. If you prefer, you can also reach us via email.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Art Edgerly & Eric Jacobson
Call us at (360) 566-7616 for Art or (360) 326-8433 for Eric
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