CAMPAIGNS: Integrated Communications
Waverly Community Schools
2013 Technology Bond Proposal

 

Summary

For the first time in its history, Waverly Community Schools sought voter approval for an $18.4 million bond to upgrade technology and enhance security throughout the district. Waverly was one of the last districts in the region and state to ask the community to support its students through a technology bond.

Waverly faced an aging population, declining enrollment and an uncertain economy when it decided to put the bond proposal on the May 2013 ballot. With no money to fund a large campaign, Waverly turned to Edge Partnerships, who agreed to manage the campaign pro bono. Edge created a campaign strategy that relied almost entirely on grassroots tactics and engaged more than 100 volunteers.

 

Research

Waverly Community Schools initially retained the services of Barton Malow, a renowned construction firm with expertise in education. Through this partnership, Waverly identified and drafted a technology plan for the district that included associated costs in preparation for a bond proposal.

To best understand voters in the district, Edge researched past voting trends, voter turnout and areas to target for a door-to-door campaign, direct mail and Get Out the Vote phone calls. In addition, Edge conducted research on technology bond results in other district across Michigan to determine the demographic trends of supporters and nonsupporters.

Finally, Edge and district leadership identified residents in the district who would serve as strong proponents of the bond proposal. These residents served in a number of capacities as the volunteer team for the bond.

 

Planning

A four-member Advisory Committee was formed that consisted of the district’s superintendent, public information officer and two Edge strategists, one of whom served on the Waverly School Board of Education. This committee developed the winning strategy for the bond election.

To maximize volunteer support and minimize costs, the advisory committee identified and recruited six steering committee chairs, eight support committee chairs and eight division committee chairs. Each chair, in turn, recruited members for their respective committees and were responsibility for each component of the campaign. These components included bond supporter identification, door-to-door activities, Get out the Vote phone calls, and bond information distribution.

Edge worked closely with the local newspaper to secure positive earned media and grow awareness for the need to approve the technology bond.

  

Execution

Edge developed the campaign theme, “You’ve Got the Power,” for use on all bond materials. The messaging was purposeful in that it put the power of positive change in the hands of voters. It also related to powering up technology, such as the tablets each student would receive.

With a very short timeframe to secure the necessary 2,000 votes for approval, the campaign was broken down as follows:

Mid-February to Early March: PLANNING PHASE

  • Initial meeting of Advisory Committee
  • Strategy development with timeline and next steps
  • Ballot language due
  • Board of Education vote to put bond on May 2013 ballot
  • Ballot language to Eaton County clerk
  • Identification and implementation of educational bond information into existing district materials, website and other medians.
  • Message and campaign development
  • Identification of chairs for steering, support and division chairs 

March: EDUCATION PHASE

  • Kickoff meeting with campaign chairs
  • Development and distribution of campaign leadership packets
  • Grassroots convening and influence (engagement of committees)
  • Paid direct mail
  • Earned media through public relations pitch 

April to May 7: GET-OUT-THE-VOTE PHASE & MILAGE APPROVAL

  • Paid direct mail
  • Integrated field work (text to vote, GOTV calls)
  • Public relations pitch (including social media)

May 7: ELECTION DAY

  • Supporters at the polls
  • Celebration

 

Evaluation

For the first time in its history, Waverly Community School successfully placed on the ballot and won a 10-year, $18.4 million technology bond proposal. The proposal passed by 157 votes with 13 percent of registered voters casting a ballot.  In addition to successful passage of the bond, the grassroots campaign netted positive earned media from local outlets.

Except for a few hundred dollars collected by literally passing a hat at the campaign kickoff meeting, the campaign required no additional funds.