The Campaign Plan in Three Parts

Ok. So you’ve made the decision to run. You know what you want to run for. Now it’s time to get serious. Here we go!! The Campaign Plan Timeline will help you to think about the “big picture”. Lots of details will go into your plan, but this will help you organize what it takes to run a campaign.

Work backwards. If you’ve planned a big event like a gala for work, a 50th anniversary party, or you’ve mapped your own personal goals then this is something you can do. Yes, it will feel overwhelming at times – lots of dates to remember! – but that is what your local clerk’s office or board of elections is for and why you pull together a great team around you!

Our motto “Plan the Work. Work the Plan.” Whether it’s 5 years or 5 months (or even 5 weeks), this timeline will help you create a great campaign plan. Remember. If it’s not written down, it’s not a plan.

Part 1: Understand the Game

  1. Form Your Kitchen Cabinet
  2. Assess the Lay of the Land
  3. Make It Official

Part 2: Plan the Work

  1. Your Campaign Team
  2. The Plans within the Plans (Budgets, Messaging and Voter Contact aka “Field” Plans)
  3. Lists, list and more lists!

Part 3: Work the Plan

  1. Being The Candidate – Your Role: Fundraising and Contacting Voters
  2. Communicate
  3. Get-Out-The-Vote


1. Form Your Kitchen Cabinet:

Look for people who bring different strengths to the table. This includes:

political guidance
– stature in the community
– can help you raise money
– family support
– diverse connections
– honesty, straight-talk feedback
– confidential and trustworthy
– writing
– social media savvy
– positive energy!
– has run a campaign / been a campaign treasurer before

2. Lay of the Land

The more you understand the community you seek to represent, the better you will be able to serve them; often called “the lay of the land” or the “political landscape”. We’ve mapped six buckets to understand your political landscape.

Money and Vote Numbers

In many states, the party you belong to or the legislative caucus

or the previous campaign will have this data.

You might have to hound them for it. But it’s key.

Find out:

  • The voter turnout percentage in the last few election for big-ticket races like the Presidential as well as local races.
  • How much was spent by each candidate in the last election. This will help you determine your budget.
  • How many votes the winner and the loser received.
  • How many people are registered to vote in your district?
  • Ideally, you need to get to a “WIN NUMBER”. Quite simply, this means the number of votes you need to win! We love this Win Calculator from Wellstone Action.

Information About You

       Get someone (not you!) to help you with this part.

Take an inventory of your networks and connections:

         Find out:

  • What’s out there about you? Yes, google yourself, but only to find discrepancies. Don’t get hung up on not-so-great photos of you. You are human. People want to vote for real people!
  • Will you take national or outside money?
  • The endorsements you really want. What endorsements wouldn’t you want?
  • Self-assess, don’t self-obsess


Political/Cultural Information

Any campaign is a part of a larger community and political culture.

Know what can influence voters outside of your race.

Find out:

  • Other issues or ballot initiatives that could increase voter turnout.
  • What and who else will be on the ballot. Will they be running an active or passive campaign? Do they have opponents?
  • The big-ticket races that might affect your race.
  • The national issues that will come into play in your race.
  • What’s controversial to your community and what could get controversial.

Important Dates and Events

           This is critical for you personally and for the community at large.

          Ask yourself:

  • What are non-negotiable dates: Your mothers’ 70th birthday party, school plays or a wedding anniversary? Put those on the calendar and hold them sacred.
  • Next, map out what happens in your community – state fairs, parades, annual events, a local conference, etc. that you need to attend as the candidate.
  • Finally, add important election filing dates and create placeholders for fundraising goals.
Movers and Shakers

How can people you know help with their influence, networks

and ties in the community?

Are there people you need to reach out to and start

new relationships?

Find out:

  • What leaders – heads of organizations or coalitions, big donors, or vocal news media – will support you or not support you.
  • What leaders do you need to get to know better and who needs to know you!
  • The key players responsible for turning out the vote in the various communities within your district.

Opposition Research

     You don’t need to know everything about your opponent right away, but         you should have a handle on your opponent(s) viewpoints and history, and continue to keep an eye on them. “Opposition research” may feel yucky but it is important to seize opportunities that set you apart from the pack and show voters why you are the better choice. You don’t have to play dirty but you do need to give the voters a clear choice between you and the other guys!

           Find out:

  • You opponent’s key points. List how you contrast with your opponent.
  • Where you agree with your opponent and how can you showcase your expertise or perspective on the issue in a unique way.
  • Call out misinformation. Find discrepancies. Take notice of the formal associations your opponent has and how they may differ from his campaign rhetoric.

3. Make it Official: There is a kind of coming out when you are ready to run. Be prepared. You’ve spoken with your friends and family. The next step is to be in touch with other influencers who need to know that you are running. Finally, you need to file your candidacy with your local clerk’s office often found in the elections division of local government. Make sure you know the official requirements and key deadlines.

Now that you understand the game, get ready to plan the work with Campaign Plan for Women Part 2.

There’s plenty more where this came from!


Sign up today to attend one of our VRL Live! Web Clinics or events and receive seasoned advice on how to ramp up your run for office, campaign, craft your message, and much more. Between sessions, don’t forget, you can always access our resource library and the entire archive of VRL Live! Replays to continue building your political leadership skills and learning how to run for office at your own pace.