8 Tips for a Successful Campaigning Policy

When it comes to campaigning policies for member organization elections, the first step is to decide if you’ll allow campaigning at all.

Certainly your organization will face responsibilities should you decide to allow candidates to campaign, but the benefits can be well worth it.

When your organization is ready to move forward, we’ve got eight tips that will help you form a successful campaigning policy:

Provide equal treatment to all candidates
If your organization does something for the incumbent, you must do the same thing for all candidates. Monitor messages coming from all facets of your organization to ensure you’re not directly (or even indirectly) criticizing, promoting or endorsing candidates.

Include candidate statements
The more members know about the candidates, the more inclined they will be to participate in the election. Have candidates prepare a single statement to share relevant biographical information so voters can get to know more about them.

Honor reasonable requests
Your organization must honor reasonable requests to assist with the distribution and dissemination of candidate views and platforms (as long as your organization itself isn’t paying for distribution). If, for example, a candidate made a request to distribute campaign brochures at a meeting sponsored by your organization, that’s considered a reasonable request as long as all other candidates have the same opportunity.

Encourage debate and discussion
Discussion and the expression of ALL candidate views are encouraged. “Get to know the candidates” events are a great way to increase member engagement and election participation.

DO NOT discriminate in favor or against
Provide fair coverage and equal treatment for all candidates.

DO NOT use association funds, supplies or resources to support or criticize
Other than overall election coverage, candidate statements and equal distribution of candidate literature, no organization funds should be used to campaign for or against a candidate running for office. This includes (but is not limited to): Staff time, stationery, use of organization’s supplies, printing equipment, software, etc.

DO NOT use any organization publication to endorse, criticize or promote
Carefully check officer reports, letters from the editor, editorials, etc., for potentially slanted candidate coverage. You may also want to prohibit the use of your organization’s logos and trademarks to avoid any appearance of “endorsement” on campaigning materials coming from candidates.

Use caution when allowing electioneering and campaigning by candidates via mailing lists, email lists or listservs maintained by the organization
Your organization must control what messages are being pushed to these lists and they should be considered property of the organization. Additionally, you do not want to turn your election into a contest to see who can spam voters most frequently. Carefully define your policy in this area.

We’ve held thousands of elections, over the past 30 years, for member organizations across the country. We’ve seen firsthand that when organizations allow candidates to campaign during elections, it helps increase voter response.

A carefully considered and fully documented campaigning policy is necessary to get the ball rolling, but we’ve found that most organizations are energized by this change.