Bethel Bond Campaign
Like they say, the fifth time's the charm.
Our district has been in a state of perpetual bond campaigns since 2015. With two failed campaigns in 2016 and two failed campaigns in 2018 – including a November Election that left us 307 votes shy of the state’s 60% requirement – we approached our fifth bond election with an enthusiasm to do something completely different.
That’s not say what we had done in the past had no merit. In fact, building a campaign on top of our two 2018 campaigns – one that focused on the good the bond would do, and the second focused on boundary changes and other negative options we were having to consider – had given us a community that was well-versed in the details of not only the projects, but virtually all of our talking points.
Few of these had changed for November, so we decided to venture outside of the box.
Instead of creating a poster for each of our schools meant to convey bond facts and data, we instead created posters tailor-made for selfies. Each had a hole cut in the middle for a student to peek through. Above the hole read: “This is the reason why I vote,” with an arrow pointing to the student. The posters encouraged parents to share the photos on their own social media accounts, which was one of the elements that helped bolster our Facebook reach from 347,000 in November to 527,500 by February.
Art & Tech Fair
During the election we also held our 25th annual Art and Technology Fair, and we wanted to draw fatigued voters and community members to our bond table in a new way. So we created a to-scale stand up featuring iconic buildings, and asked people if they could stack all 201 of our portable classrooms - each represented by a single LEGO brick - on top of each other. How high would they go? This station drew kids all day long, and their parents naturally followed, and began talking about the bond.
We also shifted more focus to media relations, and increased the number of television stories about our bond, from 27 stories in November ($172,406 publicity value) to 36 stories in February ($224,260 publicity value). The increased media helped put the spotlight on the community, and the grassroots things that were happening, including high school students who created a documentary about their aging school, and PTA moms who picked up ballots from snowbound citizens to deliver them to the ballot box on Election Day.
First passed bond in 13 years!
On Election Night we learned our outside the box ideas had paid off, and the community had been engaged enough to deliver our biggest bond victory in 30 years, at 66%. We were, and still are, stunned. With three elections in just over a year, being able to build on each past campaign allowed us get creative with our ingredients, instead of serving up leftovers time and time again.