The following questions will help you get started. For more in-depth research, go to Campaign Services.
Deciding on the Measure
- What are the available options for financing land conservation, parks or other conservation projects? These might include bonds, dedicated taxes, state or federal grants or direct appropriations from your city, county or state. The Trust for Public Land’s CONSERVATION ALMANAC is a great resource for state and federal conservation program information.
- What is your jurisdiction’s fiscal capacity and current indebtedness?
- What is the history of similar ballot measures, if any, in your jurisdiction? Visit LANDVOTE for a complete history of conservation ballot measures.
- Do you have elected official support and willingness to advance a measure?
- Will there be other proposed tax increases or ballot questions that might make it harder to get your measure passed? Should you get in line and wait a year or two?
- Are voters likely to support your measure and how much are they willing to pay in additional taxes? A professional poll is recommended to determine this. A poll can also get more information about voters’ conservation priorities and help you shape your message during the campaign. For more information, go to POLLING.
Getting on the Ballot
Creating new public funding for conservation does not always require getting a question on the ballot. Sometimes a funding source can be enacted or appropriated legislatively (as is often the case with state and federal funding). If you do need voter approval, a question either can be referred to the ballot by the legislative body or as an alternative placed on the ballot by a citizens’ initiative petition.
- Do local elected officials need to refer the measure to the ballot? Do they support your measure, and if not, how can you win their support?
- What are the legal requirements and timeline, including signature-gathering and submission deadlines, if necessary?
Remember that the ballot language is the only communication you make that all the voters will see. Nothing you do is more important than crafting the ballot language. Most voters spend only a few seconds reading a ballot question. How should the ballot measure be worded to clearly and concisely explain the measure’s purposes, accountability and benefits? For more information, go to Ballot Language.
Setting Up a Campaign Committee
A campaign committee is an organization established to advocate for a ballot question (or other electoral decision). Campaigns must register a committee with the relevant state or local elections division and meet all reporting deadlines and terms required by law. Visit your state’s campaign finance office or elections division to answer the following questions.
- How do you establish a campaign committee in your jurisdiction?
- When must a committee be registered?
- What are the registration and financial disclosure requirements?
- What are the applicable contribution guidelines and limitations?
- What can be done with any surplus campaign committee funds?
- When and how is a committee terminated?
Here are additional pointers on research that should be conducted early in your campaign. See Crafting Your Message for guidelines on creating a compelling, concise, and consistent message.
- Gain a thorough understanding of the conservation issues in your jurisdiction and how the proposed finance measure would address them. Anticipate questions and objections and be ready to respond with well-reasoned arguments. Public opinion surveys are extremely helpful for this process.
- For more information, go to POLLING. Even if you cannot conduct a poll, you can still conduct research by reviewing past local media coverage of conservation issues, including newspaper editorials.
- What are the community’s main concerns related to land and water resource conservation?
- How would the conservation of land or the creation or improvement of parks benefit the local economy or minimize future taxpayer expenses?
- Does your jurisdiction have a land conservation plan or are there specific projects the measure would fund? Has there been an assessment of conservation needs?
- What would be the mechanism for spending the money generated by the measure, and for monitoring expenditures?
- Have similar measures failed or passed, and by what margin? What was the cause of success or failure?
- How large a turnout is expected at a given election and how many votes will you need to win? In general, conservation ballot questions have a better chance of success in elections with larger turnouts.
- Who are the likely voters and which voting groups (such as seniors or young families) are most represented? What other measures may be on the ballot, and which voters will come to the polls to vote on those measures?
- Have nearby jurisdictions passed a similar measure? What finance mechanism did they use? Was there any opposition?
- Will you need to raise money to educate voters? How much money did similar campaigns in the past spend? What fundraising approaches would work best for your community?
For more information, contact Linda Orel at 617-371-0526 or email Linda.Orel@tplactionfund.org.
Back to Laying the Groundwork.