About the Author Sam Tracy, UConn '13, has been a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy since Fall 2009. His sophomore year, he served as President of UConn's chapter of SSDP, hosting the 2010 Northeast Regional Conference and leading successful campaigns for marijuana decriminalization and medical amnesty laws in Connecticut. While president of SSDP, he and fellow SSDPer Lindsay Chiappa ran for President and Vice President of the Student Body in a three-way race, which they won by 32 votes. Some highlights of their term include equalizing marijuana and alcohol penalties on campus and expanding GUARD Dogs, UConn's student-run sober rides program. Sam has run successful student government campaigns for over a dozen SSDPers at UConn, including one write-in candidate, and continues to make sure that SSDP remains a strong presence in UConn's student government. He hopes to share this knowledge with other chapters in order to help his fellow SSDPers take over their schools' student governments, and use them to make change on the campus, state, and national level. Sam has been working at the intersection of drug policy and student government for many years now, and was published in High Times writing about the importance of using student governments to change drug policies. Sam also serves as a Board Member for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, where he is a member of the drug policy committee. He is currently writing his senior thesis, a comparison and analysis of state-level marijuana legalization ballot initiative campaigns. If you are considering running for student government, would like more information, or need anything at all, feel free to contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table of Contents Why Should You Run for Student Government? You're the official voice of the student body You control the money
Before You Run Identify which position to run for Know what you're getting into
Getting Things Ready Assembling a ticket (if applicable) Assembling a campaign team Creating a solid platform Know and analyze the competition Learn your campaign policies Get on the ballot
The Main Campaign General strategy Secure your base Creating coalitions Reaching out to randoms Campartying Canvassing Raising money
Election Day (or days, or week...)
What to Do Once You're In Control Meetings with officials Keep the media presence up Coordinate with other student governments to multiply your voice
Appendix Spray chalk information Poster examples Flyer examples
Why Should You Run for Student Government? You should run for president of your school’s student government. Or, if you want to start small, run for a lower position like senator or treasurer. Taking over your student government will be the best thing your SSDP chapter ever does, as it gives you a huge megaphone to get your message out, and often giving you control over a large amount of money.
You're the official voice of the student body The student government is recognized by the school’s administration, the press, and the government as the official voice of the student body. With the school administration, this may manifest itself in the school granting official powers to the student body president, such as appointing students to university boards and sometimes serving as the student member of the school’s board of trustees. Equally important, this gives you access to all of your school’s top administrators, as they would face widespread criticism if they refuse to even talk to the student government. When the media are writing a story on your school, they usually want quotes from students, and often turn to the student government for the “official stance” of students. This gives you an opportunity to get your message out, also allowing you to frame the debate over a particular topic. The media will often be much more responsive to press releases coming from the student government than from a smaller student organization or individual student, allowing you to get better coverage for your own events or projects. The government, especially local and state governments, are usually very happy to work with student governments to advance bills or projects. Being in a position like President of the Student Body, you are able to get access to top government officials. While dependent on the state, this can go so high as to get you one-on-one meetings with your governor. Legislators love to meet with college students, especially if they get a photo-op out of it, and this is much more noticeable if you’re from a big state school with food sports teams (as we see in Connecticut).This can also gain you access to the federal government. By taking over our student government at UConn, we were able to meet President Obama and get a meeting with his top advisors for student issues (our basketball team won the NCAA Championship in 2011, and the team got invited to a reception at the White House – and they invited 10 student leaders to attend as well, to be picked by the president of the student government. This allowed us to include drug policy as a focus of our discussion of student issues with Obama’s advisors.
You control the money Depending on the school, student governments control anything from a few thousand dollars per year to tens of millions (The University of Colorado at Boulder’s student government has an annual budget of $36 million). This money typically comes from mandatory student fees, and is used to fund student organizations, advocate for student interests, and sometimes to run special services (like sober rides programs or student legal services). If you’re in charge of your student government, you’re in charge of managing all of these fees, and determining where they are spent. You can use this to ensure that your SSDP chapter always gets treated fairly and funded well for going to conferences of hosting events. You can also use this money to create or expand projects that focus on harm reduction, such as student-run sober rides programs.
Before You Run Identify which position to run for Most student governments have dozens of positions available. While it’s ideal to hold whatever the top position is, getting an SSDPer or an ally into any seat can be helpful. Find a list of all the available seats, and see which ones you qualify for. When deciding what to run for, be sure to consider both the importance of the position, and your chances at winning – it can sometimes be a better strategy to go for a winnable middle position than spend a lot of time and energy losing a top seat in an impossible race.
Know what you're getting into Serving as president of a student government is usually a full-time job, taking up a huge chunk of your time. While a large majority of schools do provide a stipend or tuition waiver to their top student government
leaders, many do not – and this huge workload makes it difficult to hold down a job and get your schoolwork done too. And be sure to read the job description – top positions come with a lot of power, but they also come with a lot of responsibility in the form of long meetings, reports, and tedious management.
Getting Things Ready Assembling a ticket (if applicable) If you’re running for President or Vice President, you usually need to have a running mate. The two important considerations are how the person will be as a campaigner, and how they’ll be at the job if you get elected. People often think about “balancing their ticket,” and assume it would be best to choose someone of the opposite sex, another ethnicity, or another sexual preference. While these can be important to think about, the most important thing when thinking about an election is social circles. Since student government elections are incredibly local, personal connections can win or lose you an election. Try to run with someone you have good chemistry with, but who has a completely different group of friends - minimizing the overlap of your social circles makes sure that you’re both bringing in your own social networks. Of course, it’s not good to base your judgment entirely on whether they can help you get elected – they need to be able to do a good job if you win. For this reason, make sure that you pick someone who is as serious about your student government takeover as you are. It’s also good to make sure you’re both on the same page on the major issues, to prevent any conflict over what to focus on or what stance to take.
Assembling a campaign team You can probably pull off a successful campaign for a lower office by yourself. But if you’re going for president, treasurer, or another executive position, you’re going to need a team of dedicated friends and allies to make your campaign a success. You should create a campaign structure that fits the race and complements your personality, but if you’re looking for some ideas, here are some suggested leadership positions to make up your campaign team: Campaign Manager:
This person is the head honcho for your campaign. S/he will manage all of your other campaign staff, allowing you to have more time to be out among voters. S/he will also help you develop the broader vision of your campaign, including deciding on what other positions to create, and the importance of each aspect of the campaign. This person is in charge of recruiting, and retaining, all of your volunteers. You’ll need a lot of feet on the ground when it comes to chalking, hanging up flyers, making class announcements, or getting out the vote. It’s best to have a point person who can run all of the more people-intensive aspects of your campaign. A great way to recruit volunteers can be creating a Google Form, which you can post on your website and have people fill out – this form will automatically put people’s answers (names, phone numbers, where they live, what they’re interested in helping with, etc) into a spreadsheet that makes it very easy to coordinate events. This person runs your messaging, advertising, and manages the general appearance of your campaign. S/he can work with you and the campaign manager to develop a slogan, make campaign commercials, run ads online, create your website, and design your flyers/posters. It’s good to have someone who’s creative and technologically proficient in this role. This person manages your campaign’s finances – both doing the fundraising, and managing the money once you have it. Some campaigns barely spend anything, while others can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Creating a solid platform Now that you’ve got your campaign team assembled, you need to create your platform. A platform is a list of what you want to do if you get elected – it can be made up of things at campus you want to change, laws you want to support, or the style you plan on using to govern (increased transparency, etc). When creating your platform, there are a few things you want to remember. You want to keep it concise, relevant, and understandable. It’s best to keep your list of goals limited to about five or ten – if you have a list of twenty goals on your website or flyers, they dilute each other and no one pays attention to any of them. Another thing to keep in mind is to maintain a balance between bold positions and mainstream crowdpleasers (of course, some things fall in both categories). Don’t be afraid to put campus or state drug policy reform on your platform, but also don’t become a single-issue candidate. Keeping broader student issues (like dining halls, academics, and student debt) in mind will help you appeal to the large group of students who are sympathetic to, but not passionate about, drug policy reform.
Know and analyze the competition If you’re running uncontested, you can probably stop reading here. But chances are, there is at least one person running against you. It’s incredibly important to get to know your competition so that you can tailor your own messaging and strategy to beat them. And don’t just read their campaign website and call it a day – find people who know them personally and can speak better about who they are and what they plan to do. It’s good to analyze their bases of support, including what their major is, where they live, and what organizations they’re a part of. Also do some investigating to find some details on their relationships with others – for example, just because someone is in a frat doesn’t mean all of Greek Life is automatically going to vote for him, there may be internal conflicts that could help you out. Similarly, knowing their affiliations can help you target specific groups to volunteer or vote for you – if your opponent is president of the College Republicans, chances are the College Democrats will want to help whoever else is running (even if they’re not a Democrat). This applies to many other groups too, including ones who are not political.
Learn your campaign policies Most student governments have campaign policies that candidates need to follow, or risk being thrown out. These frequently include posting regulations, when you can canvass, or spending limits. Violating these policies can lead to other campaigns filing charges against you, and while these are possible to get out of (more on this later), the best thing to do is abide by all the policies so you don’t risk being disqualified.
Get on the ballot Of course, the most important part of getting your campaign ready is getting on the ballot. All schools have different procedures for getting on the ballot, so be sure to know them. Traditionally, you need to gather a certain number of signatures, and submit some minor paperwork (usually including your name and personal info, what you’re running for, and sometimes a photo or paragraph about yourself for voters to see). Some schools require you to get on the ballot before you start campaigning, while others have fewer restrictions.
The Main Campaign General strategy Based on your platform and your analysis of your opponents, you need to create a general strategy for your campaign. Rather than specifics like the design of your campaign website, your general strategy is a macro-level view of how you're going to win. It will depend greatly on your school (including the number of potential voters, oncampus to off-campus ratios, etc.) and how your elections are run. Your strategy is totally up to you, but here are how some factors may influence your general strategy: Large school:
If you attend a school where there are over 10,000 potential voters, chances are a majority of voters won't know any of the candidates personally. This is important, as people are highly likely to vote for people that they knew before the campaign. Therefore,
at large schools there is an opportunity to focus your efforts on these “uncommitted” students. A good way to do this is by broad-based advertising like facebook ads, chalking, and posters (see Reaching out to randoms for more information). If you go to a small school, there's a good chance that most voters will know one of the candidates. This means that you should focus on getting people you know to actually vote, rather than trying to sway strangers, who have a good chance at knowing your opponents personally. Voter turnout in student government elections is notoriously low, with a national average of about 10-15%. Getting your supporters to vote in a higher percentile than your opponents' can win you the election.
Large on-campus population: If a vast majority, or all, students live on campus, you'll be able to reach more students, but will probably have to pay closer attention to campaign rules. It's great to be able to “dorm storm,” or go door-knocking in residence halls, because there are a high numbers of potential voters all in one place. However, most schools have strict rules for canvassing in dormitories, and will limit you to certain hours or require you to get a pass – if that's the case, be sure to follow the rules closely, and get that all-important pass before the deadline. Large off-campus population: If most of your fellow students (aka: future constituents) live off-campus, then you will have to do a lot more work to reach out to strangers, but will have significantly more freedom. If there are large off-campus apartment complexes where students concentrate, going door-to-door there will be hugely beneficial, without the regulations typical of on-campus housing. Another strategy is to focus on tactics like class announcements, as this may be the only time a large group of off-campus students are in one place at the same time. Also, be sure to create a strong online presence, as it may be difficult to reach those who live in houses with a few friends or with their parents. High turnout:
Some schools have traditionally high voter turnout, due to factors like a very powerful student government, combined elections for various groups, or large events with free stuff for those who vote. If this is the case, focus your efforts on winning over those uncommitted students, who may just be voting for the free stuff, or may really care about another race and are just voting in yours because it's on the same ballot. This is especially true if you're at a large school with high turnout. A lot of schools don't have high voter turnout for various reasons. At these schools, you should focus on mobilizing your base and making sure they vote – if no one is voting, a few hundred votes can win you an election.
Most schools now use some sort of online voting system for their student government elections. While usually boosting turnout, online voting also spreads out voters since anyone can vote from their computer. This means that you should build your online presence – facebook pages with links to the voting site can drive turnout in your favor. It also means that you should focus heavily on going door-to-door when elections occurring, so that you can get students to vote then and there, since they're probably already on their computer. And if your election policies allow it, setting up your own voting stations (just a table with a few computers) can be hugely beneficial for getting students to vote in between classes or on their way out of a dining hall. In-person elections: Some schools still have some sort of in-person elections, where students need to go to a physical location in order to cast their ballots. If voting is restricted to one certain part of campus, it's best to focus your efforts there during elections – surround it in chalk advertisements, posters, and people handing out flyers. Also have people stand outside of classroom buildings and dining halls, handing out flyers and giving directions to students on their way out of a class or meal. For example, at UConn, we are a large school (about 17,000 undergrads) with a large on-campus population (over 90%), high turnout (about 20%), and online elections. Our strategy was to mobilize our SSDP chapter as our main volunteers for canvassing and spreading the word online. We also reached out to other likeminded “activist” groups, as we were the only candidates who were activists in any way – this allowed us to get
environmentalists, feminists, human rights groups, and many others to endorse us and help with our campaign. The rest of our strategy was to create a strong, positive presence for uncommitted voters, by buying a lot of ad space in dining halls and creating our well-known Fight Club parody poster (see page __). This allowed us to reach out to students we had never even met – one day we were handing out flyers outside a concert and someone said to Lindsay, “Wait... are you Lindsay, of Sam and Lindsay?” That's the moment we knew that our indirect outreach was working.
Secure your base If you're reading this guide, it's probably safe to assume that you're a member of your school's SSDP chapter. This (and any other organization you're a member of) should serve as your base, and will be your best source of volunteers, campaign leaders, and emotional support. Make it a priority to deal with any internal issues among your base first – if there is any infighting (be it over the campaign or totally personal), it can make volunteers less interested in helping with your campaign. If you're able to keep everyone motivated, your volunteers will work a lot better and be more enthusiastic about your campaign, and the attitude of someone handing out flyers can really influence a voter's perception of the campaign.
Creating coalitions While it's great to have your SSDP chapter behind you, unless everyone at your college is a drug policy activist, it won't win the election for you. You'll need to reach out to other groups to get them to support your campaign, getting their members to vote for you and possibly serving as sources of volunteers. It's easiest to get a group to endorse you if you're already a member, or if you're friends with a lot of the members. But it's not impossible to get a group of complete strangers to line up behind your campaign if you play your cards right. The best method is to first address some of the group's concerns as part of your platform. If you want to get environmental groups to support you, include things like increased recycling or car-sharing programs in your platform. If you can, then attend one of their meetings, stay the whole time and listen and participate, then approach the leader(s) after the meeting is over and ask to give your campaign pitch at the next meeting. They are much more likely to get on board with your campaign if you show interest in their group and approach them in person, rather than just sending an email that can easily get overlooked or ignored. If you or your running mate can't make it to their meeting, send your campaign manager or another volunteer. If no one at all can make it to their meeting, only then should you resort to email.
Reaching out to randoms Depending on your campaign strategy, swaying uncommitted voters, or “reaching out to randoms,” can be incredibly important. The best method of all is to have your volunteers reach out to their own friends – people are much more likely to vote for someone that their friend is volunteering with than a total stranger. But there are a lot of methods to get complete strangers to vote for you too, including: chalking:
Chalking is one of the most visible methods to get students to hear about your campaign throughout their day. Making a simple chalk drawing can be relatively quick, and hundreds of students will see it on their way in between classes or meals. Also, if you've got some creative folks working for you, a giant artistic drawing can be really eyecatching and become a conversation piece for students. While chalking can be easy, it's also easy to chalk badly. Be sure to include all the basic information: your name, what you're running for, and how to vote. It's also good to include a slogan or some reason to vote for you (such as listing an endorsement or a policy you're pushing for). There is also one closely-guarded campaign secret that can help win you an election: spray chalk. It's pretty much spray paint, but washable – and it recently helped UConn win a campaign for a ballot initiative that increased the student government's semesterly fee. Spray chalk is not sold in stores (at least not in Connecticut), and is only available online at http://abrivosports.com/spray_chalk.htm. It lasts significantly longer than traditional stick chalk, and can even last through light to moderate rain. To apply spray chalk, you first need to create a stencil, which can be done by printing out your message very large with the “stencil” font on Microsoft Word, cutting it out, and taping it to a piece of cardboard. Then, simply cut the message out with
an Exacto knife (this can be pretty time-consuming, but it saves you time later on). Once you have your stencil made, you can carry it around campus and spray your message everywhere. One important thing to note is that spray chalk operates best at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can freeze up if it is cold outside. While they can be used in colder climates, they will solidify in a few minutes (making you need to run campaigns back and forth from inside to outside), making it impossible to do a lot of chalking in a remote area. Spray chalk is best used in warmer climates. See the Appendix for more information, and a detailed comparison to normal stick chalk. Posters:
An effective poster is one that is eye-catching and memorable. You want to be sure that it stands out on a bulletin board full of other posters, and that students look at it long enough to remember your campaign when it comes time to vote. The best ways to make a poster eye-catching is to make it large, colorful, and familiar. Large and full-color posters can be somewhat expensive, but they're worth it. A big colorful poster will stand out from all of the 8.5x11 flyers it's sharing the bulletin board with. People are also much more likely to look at a poster that is familiar, such as a parody of a popular poster. It's great to design your poster after a poster that's popular for college students to hang in their dorm rooms – making them notice your poster in the hallway, and also remember it every time they go back to their room. A great example of this is the “Fight Club” parody poster that Lindsay and I used in our presidential race at UConn (see Appendix for images). I had over a dozen students I had never met before approach me to say they voted for me just because they loved the poster. A well-made parody poster can be much more effective than a plain poster of just your face and text.
Similar to posters, flyers can be pivotal in getting randoms to vote for you. Putting a flyer in someone's hand while canvassing or giving a class announcement increases their chance of voting and, more importantly, helps them remember your campaign (increasing their chance of voting for you). Like posters, a good flyer will have a photo of you, your name, why to vote for you, and how to vote. A common method is using quarter-sheets for flyers, but a great strategy is to use half-sheets. They'll use twice as much paper, but can fit in more information about why to vote for you, while also drawing more attention than the more-common quarter-sheet. See the Appendix for examples of good campaign flyers.
Be it daily or weekly, most schools have a student newspaper. While they vary greatly in how widely they are read, they can be very helpful in getting your name out. There are a few methods to do so, including news articles and letters to the editor. Being portrayed in a positive light in a news story can get you on the front page, and is especially helpful if your picture is included. In order to get a news story written about you, you must first do something newsworthy – this can be something in your SSDP chapter, as part of your campaign, or unrelated to either of them. Some easy things to do include bringing in a speaker or hosting another event, speaking at public comment at your school's Board of Trustees, or gathering signatures to support a certain cause. But even if you do something incredibly interesting, you also need to make sure your student paper finds out – they are often made up of volunteers or students being paid the minimum wage, and can easily lose track of things that are going on. In order to ensure that they write a story about you, be sure to send out a press release a few days in advance, and follow up on the day of the event (see SSDP press release info, at http://ssdp.org/assets/files/docs/media-guide.pdf, for more information). Most student newspapers accept letters to the editor, which serve as a great medium for your supporters to encourage other students to vote for you. They typically need to be in response to a news story, making it even more important for you to get at least one article written about you (not hard, since you can at least get one when you declare your candidacy). Then, just get your supporters to send in letters stating why they support you, and linking it back to whatever the news story said.
Every school is different, and has different ways to advertise – be sure to find out every possible method available at your school. At UConn, the dining halls offer ad space on the sides of napkin holders, and you can get your ad on every dining table at UConn for two weeks for only $215. Other common opportunities include overhead ads on busses, ads before showings at the campus movie theater, or listings on an online campus events calendar. Look around at your school to see other unique advertising methods to take advantage of.
A website should be where you put the details about your platform for those voters who are most interested in policies. These more engaged voters often will tell their friends how to vote, so getting them on board is incredibly helpful. Your website can have paragraphs of text if you want, as the people looking at campaign sites will probably read it – meanwhile, your Facebook page should be brief and to the point (include a link to your website for more information). You don’t need to know HTML to make a website anymore – there are many great services out there where you can make a pretty professional website for free, without much technical skill. Some of the most-used services are weebly.com and wix.com.
One great way to reach out to students is with Facebook ads. They're a very simple affordable option, that can allow you to specifically target an audience. Simply go to www.facebook.com/advertising/ for more information. After making your advertisement, you can select your audience, and simply select your voter population – students currently at your college. You can even make different ads for men and women, different age groups (like targeting underclassmen by selecting 18 and 19 year olds), or a wide variety of other demographics. We used this method in our campaign at UConn, and for $53.59, we received 282,234 impressions and 123 clicks (impressions are the number of times your ad shows up on someone's page, clicks are the number of times someone clicks on your ad). It is very helpful for disseminating electronic information like your campaign website, the site where people can vote, or campaign videos you make.
Campaign videos: A good campaign video usually takes a long time to create, but can be worth it if you're able to make it go viral on your campus. You want to make something that not only makes students want to vote for you, but also to share the video on facebook, twitter, or other social networking sites. The first step to get students to want to share your video is to keep it short. Around thirty seconds is good, and one minute should be the absolute max. Otherwise, students will probably not share it to their friends, and also probably won't finish watching it – people have short attention spans when it comes to YouTube. You also need to keep their interest, and a great strategy for this is to use humor, create a parody of another commercial, or both. Putting your own spin on a popular commercial can greatly increase your chances of it going viral, and getting your more votes. Some ideas for good commercials to parody include Old Spice's “The Man Your Man Could Be”, State Farm's “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There... With a ____”, or Rick Perry's “Strong” ad (you can poke fun at the original product in your parody if you want). At UConn, we created a parody of the Old Spice commercial that was big at the time, and it spread around pretty quickly and got very positive comments. Making a good campaign video can set you above the competition and get students talking about you. Class announcements: Class announcements are a great opportunity to give your campaign pitch to a huge captive audience. Professors are often very open to you getting up at the beginning of class and giving a quick speech about your campaign. If you get this opportunity, it's great to bring a few people with you (or get a few students from the class) to hand out your campaign flyers to all of the students as you speak. This is particularly useful if your school uses online elections, and you can tell students to vote right then on their laptops.
Campartying At UConn, one of our best campaign tactics is “campartying” - pretty much just campaigning at giant parties that typically wouldn't have anything to do with politics. If there's a rager happening on the weekend, it's the perfect opportunity to campaign – hundreds of students concentrated in a small space, with nothing much to do. Talk to whoever is hosting the party and ask if it's ok to hang some of your campaign posters on the walls, so that partiers will see them and hopefully start some conversations about it (if it's a good poster, they'll be talking about how awesome it is). Walk around the party talking to people about why they should vote, which goes a lot better if you have someone who knows everyone there introducing you. Don't bother handing out flyers, since people will probably just leave them on the floor or outside and the host will have to clean them up the next day.
Canvassing Face-to-face interaction is the single best way to get votes, and canvassing is one of the best ways to get that interaction. As stated earlier, the first step to canvassing is finding out your school’s regulations for dorms and getting passes (if necessary). If you miss the deadline or if your school does not allow canvassing in dorms, you can always shift your focus to off-campus apartments with high concentrations of students (which won’t have any regulations). Outside of procedural matters, the most important thing to do is have a good, quick speech prepared – both for the candidate, and a more general one for the volunteers. Keep it short, and keep it personal. Knocking on someone’s door and telling them something that is obviously rehearsed isn’t going to get you their support. Personalizing what you say, connecting with them as people, and asking about their concerns will make them much more likely to vote for you. If elections are held online, do all of your canvassing during elections. People will frequently be on their computers in their rooms or apartments, and you can get them to vote for you right there – even helping them navigate the voting website. Doing any canvassing before the elections is helpful, but many people will forget to vote or lose interest over time. If elections are held in person, then you must do your canvassing beforehand. To compensate for forgetfulness over time, be sure to not only bring campaign literature with you, but also small handouts outlining how to vote (time, place, etc). This will make it more likely that people will make it out to the polls, and cast their ballot in your favor.
Raising money Like all campaigns, student government campaigns can cost a lot of money. When considering making copies of flyers, printing out large-format posters, buying ad space on busses or in dining halls, placing Facebook ads, putting ads in your student newspaper, or anything else you plan on doing, you can spend a few hundred dollars pretty quickly. In rare occurrences, candidates will do something as expensive as hiring a plane to fly a banner around above campus, and things like that can run your campaign into the thousands of dollars. While it’s possible to run an effective bare-bones campaign out of your pocket, raising money takes the burden off of you and helps people become invested in the campaign. There are two broad categories to fundraise from: students and nonstudents. Students typically do not have a lot of money to spare to donate to a campaign for student government, but if you’re able to make a strong case, it’s possible to raise a good amount of money through many small contributions. Encourage members of your volunteer team to contribute themselves to serve as role models (and of course, start it all with a contribution from yourself), and talk to their friends about donating amounts as small as a dollar. A great tactic in fundraising is to make the dollar amounts mean something to potential donors – rather than asking for ten dollars, frame a ten dollar donation as putting up ten large posters around campus, or printing 100 sheets of flyers (as much as 400 flyers if you do quarter sheets) at ten cents each. This makes donors feel like they are really helping, and proves to them that you are While non-students do not have a personal stake in the outcome of the election, they typically have more money to spare than students. Asking your parents or other family members can raise you funds pretty quickly, as can talking to neighbors or other family friends. Another great source of funds can be SSDP alumni from your school. If you have a chapter that’s been around for a while, reach out to former members who are now graduated (and hopefully have a steady paycheck). Former members, especially former officers, will probably be really excited to see an SSDPer running for student government.
Election Day (or days, or week...) After getting on the ballot, raising money, gaining support, and working hard for weeks, eventually it’s almost over, and election day is there. Election day is very different from the rest of your campaign, since you’ll be actually getting out the vote, rather than just raising awareness of your candidacy. The day before, there are a few things you need to do. Late at night, it’s a great idea to put chalk advertisements all over campus (this is where the spray chalk comes in handy, you can cover a large area very quickly). Walk around wherever you have flyers or posters up, and make sure they’re still there, replacing those that are damaged or missing. It can also be a good idea to make time-sensitive posters that say “Vote Today!” that you can put up, as many students may not be aware that elections are even occurring. The day (or days) of the election, you’ll want to be getting out the vote. Canvass in dorms and off-campus apartments, send out emails and facebook messages to everyone you know, and make sure that your volunteers are actively getting their friends to cast their ballots. Seemingly random strategies can also be a big help – we got a decent number of votes by having people sit in the library and just ask passersby if they voted, and if they said no, they helped them vote right there. And one last tip – don’t forget about students studying abroad! If your elections are online, they can vote just like any other student. This group is often forgotten, and can bring you in as many as a few dozen votes, which can be enough to win an election. Keep up your GOTV effort all the way until polls close, and then relax. Plan a party for all of your volunteers shortly after elections, either to watch the results come out or to celebrate your victory (if you win) or just to thank your volunteers (if you lose). Win or lose, you will have had a very valuable experience that can be applied to future campaigns, and will have a campaign infrastructure put in place for future years.
What to Do Once You're In Control If you do win, it’s good to hit the ground running as soon as you take office. Here are some ideas for things to do, in addition to following through on your campaign promises.
Meetings with officials Being President of the Student Body, or holding any position in the student government, makes it much easier to get meetings with elected officials, top admin at your college, or other public figures. Being newly elected is a great excuse to set up a meeting with anyone you’d like to talk to, and you can then bring up any issues you would like, including drug policy. If you’re from a smaller state (or a prominent college), it’s even possible to get a meeting with the Governor just to meet one another and establish communication. Take advantage of the excuse of being newly elected and meet everyone you can, as these connections will come in handy down the road.
Keep the media presence up Getting your platform accomplished requires you to rally public support for your big issues. A great way to do this is to talk with your student newspaper and get a regular column in the paper – they’re often searching for content, and will probably be happy to give you space in the paper to talk about what the student government has been up to. If your school has a radio or television station, consider getting programs on those as well. Having these outlets can give you control over the framing of issues, and will help you to spread your messages to a large audience. An added bonus is that, if you are considering running for re-election, these types of outreach can give you serious name recognition that will increase your incumbency advantage for the next election. Also keep in close contact with media outlets, both on and off your campus. Local or state newspapers writing stories about your school will often want the “student perspective” on issues, and will turn to you to provide it. While it can be overwhelming to provide quotes to large numbers of stories, try to comment as much as possible (unless it’s on a topic you feel it would be an issue to speak on the record about). Helping out journalists with their stories does wonders at building a relationship with the press, and makes them more likely to cover events you hold or respond to your press releases.
Finally, having an official title makes it much easier to get op-ed pieces published in larger newspapers. If you ever want to get your message out in larger media outlets, contact their commentary editor and mention your title, and they will likely be happy to work with you.
Coordinate with other student governments to multiply your voice While legislators and other officials will often listen to your concerns, they may sometimes ignore you or just give you lip service. A great way to make sure that your opinions are heard, and actually considered, is to work with other student governments to make unified stances on bills or other issues. Working with your state student association (if there is one, creating one if there isnâ€™t) will enable you to bring your message to the largest amount of people, and make change more effectively. This is not only because of the number of students involved, but also because it will help you get the ear of every legislator with a college in their district. There are many issues that affect all students, such as student debt or the War on Drugs, that you can work on more effectively with others than alone.
Appendix Spray Chalk There are two types of spray chalk sold at http://abrivosports.com/spray_chalk.htm Chalk-It Spray Chalk
Temporary Line Marker
$4.95 per can Comes in yellow, red, pink
$6.95 per can Comes only in
7oz. can covers: About 200 ft of 1.5â€? line 25 square feet
12oz. can covers: 150 ft of marking
Here is a time lapse, showing the durability of Chalk-It (yellow, on top), Temporary Line Marker (white, in middle), and traditional stick chalk (yellow, on bottom). All types of chalk were applied on the same day (spray chalk with a stencil, stick chalk freehand), one series on a sidewalk (smooth surface, on the left) and one series on pavement (rough surface, on the right). My feet are included in the photographs to provide references for the size of the chalking.
Day one (applied to dry ground) â€“ all types of chalk are visible. Chalk-It is much brighter and eye-catching.
Day three (clear weather) – All three are still visible. Stick chalk on pavement is beginning to fade.
Day six (light rain) – Chalk-It has run a bit. Line Marker is still clear, stick chalk almost completely gone.
Day nine (clear weather) – Chalk-It on sidewalk is fading significantly. Stick chalk totally gone.
Day fourteen (clear weather) – Chalk-It on sidewalk almost all gone. All chalk was totally erased shortly after Day 14, due to a heavy rainstorm. However, it is clear that both types of spray chalk last significantly longer than traditional stick chalk, making them much better for long-term visibility for things like student government campaigns. Their expense is definitely outweighed by the time and effort they will save your volunteers . Example of a small stencil used for spray chalk. This was made using a die-cut machine.
Example of a large stencil used for spray chalk. This was made by printing out text using the “Stencil” font on Microsoft Word, taping it to the cardboard, and cutting it out by hand with an Exacto knife. In this photo, it is about halfway complete.
Here is the Fight Club parody poster that was used by Sam and Lindsay for their successful presidential run. They printed 100 of their 11”x17” posters and hung them around campus, as well as getting people to change their Facebook profile photos to it. They were very successful, and many students who were previously not engaged with the campaign became interested and supportive after the posters caught their eye.
This was the poster put up for a write in campaign for an open seat in UConn’s Undergraduate Student Senate. It was printed out on 8.5”x11” sheets and hung around campus. Charlie won the race.
Here is an example of a flyer to hand out to students. This one was printed out 2 to a 8.5â€?x11â€? page, which was then cut in half. It was effective due to the eye-catching large photo and headline on top, with a brief outline of the platform on the bottom half.
Published on Aug 2, 2012
This is a step by step guide of how to get involved in your university student governement, and influence policy change on the campus level...