How Can You Engage Alumni Around a Bond or Referendum?

When your school district has a referendum or bond question on the ballot, you must communicate actively and openly about your district's needs and how the ballot measure will help address those needs. This is true whether you are seeking an operational or capital referendum.

Unfortunately, many districts forget about a critical group of stakeholders: alumni. Your former students can be some of your schools' most ardent supporters, and you must make every effort to engage them before and during a referendum or bond election.

Here are some tips for connecting with alumni as part of your referendum communication efforts:

Be proactive: Rarely should district leaders feel as if they are communicating too much about a referendum. This is an easy mistake to make, especially if we find ourselves sharing the same messages day after day. However, we must realize that each time we share a message, we are hitting only a portion of our target audience. Repetition from the start defines the needs and makes clear how the solution on the ballot will help students.

Be transparent: Educational leaders have an obligation to be open and honest about the challenges facing their schools and students. While you will want to have a list of 3-5 succinct messages to share, you should also be willing to provide details when asked. Consider setting up a page on your district website that provides the level of depth alumni and community members are seeking from you.

Use diverse channels: There are many communications tools you can use to get your messages to your target audiences. Avoid relying too much on any one tool, such as social media. Use different channels—such as email, op-ed articles, news releases and community presentations—to reach stakeholders who prefer to be communicated with in a variety of ways.

Communicate with integrity: A bond or referendum is not only an opportunity to get the funding you need for programs, services or facilities. It also gives you the chance to build a greater sense of trust between your district and the community, including your alumni and potential donors. This comes back to communicating with integrity and transparency throughout the process.

As your school or district begins its referendum or bond measure planning, don't forget to consider the needs and importance of your alumni. This critical stakeholder group could very well make the difference between pass or fail on election day.

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