Election Tip Sheet (2015)Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
This year’s Vital Signs launch coincides with the federal election campaign and presents an ideal opportunity for your community foundation to get to know local candidates and start building long-term relationships.
- Why engage candidates?
- How to engage candidates?
- Planning for a Vital Signs launch event
- Responding to requests or invitations from political candidates
- Engaging messages for media
- Other tools and resources
Why engage candidates?
- Raise awareness: The election campaign is a great opportunity to raise awareness of your community foundation and how it contributes.
- Relationship building: The candidates of all parties are likely to be leaders in your community. Whether or not they will be elected, they will continue to play an important role in your community. Taking the time to build relationships can open up opportunities for long-term collaboration.
- Working with government: Take this opportunity to inform local candidates about your engagement with all levels of government or possibilities to work together with government in the future.
How to engage candidates?
- Share an advanced copy of your Vital Signs report: Some community foundations distribute embargoed copies of Vital Signs reports to local MPs, provincial elected officials and city councillors, while others circulate reports on launch day. Regardless of which method you choose, consider sending Vital Signs reports to all candidates at the same time.
- Invite candidates to a launch event: During election periods candidates are looking for opportunities to engage with the public and media. A public launch of Vital Signs can create timely conversations around community issues and generate coverage for your community foundation. Inviting all candidates to participate in your launch will avoid appearing partisan or harming relationships.
- Host an all-candidate Twitter chat: A public conversation on Twitter is a perfect way to engage your local candidates on social media. If you plan to host a Twitter chat on Vital Signs launch day, invite all candidates to participate as you share key report highlights and kickstart a community conversation. Be sure to prepare a few responses that will neutralize overly partisan questions or comments. Popular hashtags include: #Cdnpoli #Elxn42 #VitalSigns2015
Planning for a Vital Signs launch event
There are many considerations in planning a launch event for Vital Signs. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Have a plan to keep the focus of your launch event on Vital Signs and your community foundation.
- Decide in advance whether there will be a question period and its length.
- Prepare responses for a candidate’s prolonged comments or questions.
- Be prepared for questions from candidates or participants that are partisan or provocative.
- Determine what you will and will not discuss at the event.
In responding to candidates, consider recognizing the importance of the question, identifying who is asking the question, and communicating that while Vital Signs is helpful in starting a conversation, your community foundation will not be taking a partisan position.
Thank you very much for the question. I am happy to see that a few of our federal election candidates have taken the time to attend our Vital Signs launch. Our Vital Signs report sets the stage for our community to consider the issue you have raised and I hope they will do so. However, the Foundation will not take a partisan position on these issues.
Responding to requests or invitations from political candidates
Providing quotes for use in campaign literature is a delicate situation as even non-partisan comments may be perceived as an endorsement. If campaigns wish to use research or content from Vital Signs, ask that they provide an original source for the data instead of quoting your report.
Be careful in attending an event hosted by a specific candidate as merely sharing the stage can be seen as an endorsement. If you attend an all-candidate event, consider asking questions on how they plan to work with community organizations like yours.
Engaging Messages for Media
There are many opportunities to engage with the media during the election campaigns. Whether you attend a candidate event or invite media to your launch, be prepared with a set of clear key messages about the value of Vital Signs and why candidates should pay attention to the report.
Identify a spokesperson for your community foundation and consider sending embargoed copies of your Vital Signs report to local news agencies and reporters. Your message should be nonpartisan, remain on point and avoid commenting on the specific ideas or platforms of candidates.
Focus media messages on highlighting the importance of Vital Signs as a tool to:
- Better inform donors and the broader community, including policy makers, about issues and opportunities in the community.
- Take a leadership role within the community as a knowledge broker, relationship builder and community connector.
- Provide a context for community issues and act as a catalyst for community conversation and debate.
- Increase the effectiveness of your community foundation’s grantmaking.
And finally, remember to encourage members of your community to exercise their civic duty and vote!
Other tools and resources:
- Imagine Canada Election Kit (2011)
- Ontario Nonprofit Network Election Toolkit (2014)
- Ontario Nonprofit Network election infographics (2015)
- KnowHow NonProfit Twitter Chat tip sheet