Why You Should Go Through a Political Campaign Training

by Ben Holse (He/Him)

political campaign training

Are you ready to run for office? Take a political campaign training to find out. 

There are lots of decisions you need to make before you start a run for public office and a political campaign training program can help provide clarity for first-time candidates. In our opinion, attending a political candidate and campaign training program is a must if you are thinking of running. Whether it is how to decide the best opportunity or how to create a contrast between you and your opponent, most folks need help to make smart choices early in their political careers, and political campaign training can help you make these choices. Luckily, many groups provide these trainings in-person, and virtually, and some are even free! But you might be thinking, “Why do I need to go through a training program? I watched every single season of The West Wing.” Read on to learn some of the reasons why going through a political campaign training program is a must for candidates who are starting on their journey.

Running for office is not for the faint of heart. 
Going through a training and developing a clear understanding of what you’re getting into as a candidate will only help set you up for a successful run. Having a clear picture of the commitment, energy, and time it will take to run for public office will allow you to make a more informed decision before jumping into a race you may not be ready for. This will ensure that when you ask friends, family, and strangers to volunteer, give you money, or vote for you, it is for a race you can win. 

What you might learn at a political campaign training: 
While the topics can vary from training to training, you can learn any or all the following at a political training: 

Campaign Messaging: Developing a contrastive and focused message is key to having your campaign resonate with voters. Using a Tully Message box is a helpful tool for creating a good campaign message and many trainings will teach you how to do this. 

Fundraising: Creating a clear and effective fundraising pitch is an integral part of any candidate's campaign. A fundraising session at a campaign training may walk you through different fundraising methods, analyze the expected returns, and show you how to utilize each to full effect. 

Campaign Budgeting: Just like a business, every campaign should have a full budget that can be used to make strategic decisions about expenses and spending. A well-written budget lets your campaign prioritize what’s most important, allocate resources, and maximize limited funds. It ensures your campaign stays on track financially and helps avoid wasteful spending.

Field and Canvassing: In any campaign, having a strong grassroots and field strategy is integral to reaching out to voters. Campaigns should know how to train their volunteers and utilize a voter file to focus their efforts on a targeted audience. 

Data: Running a data-driven campaign allows your team to identify the key demographics and voter segments, tailor your messaging, and strategically allocate your resources. It also ensures you know what your vote goal is, so you, in turn, know how many votes you need on Election Day to win. 

Communications Mediums: Paid communications are the biggest expense for most campaigns, so make sure you  know a thing or two about them. Campaign training can help you become familiar with the mediums you may use to reach voters, such as direct mail, digital advertising, phones, radio, and TV. It can cover the strengths and weaknesses of each and how you can effectively utilize them to reach your audience. 

Earned Media: While this doesn’t pertain to all sizes of campaigns, if you’re running for a larger race (e.g. U.S. or State Senate), you are going to need to interact with the press. Refining the campaign-press relationship, developing a press and earned media plan, and working to master the art of pivoting are critical elements of any successful campaign.

Training can reinforce the fundamentals
Even if you’ve been involved in or currently work in politics, going through a political campaign training program is still a smart idea. Political campaigns are constantly evolving with new strategies and technologies. Training helps you stay up to date on the latest and greatest tactics and best practices and gives you the chance to revisit some of the core fundamentals. 

It's also important to recognize that being a candidate is different from being a staffer. Ultimately, it’s the candidate’s name and reputation at stake, so it’s easy for a candidate to get bogged down in the weeds and have trouble seeing the big picture. We’ve seen it happen a lot – as a staffer, someone says that yard signs don’t vote, but as a candidate, they dive deep into the yard sign wars. As the candidate you need to be able to delegate, trust your team, and stay focused, and that’s just not the same as the role you’ve likely played working as a staffer. 

Trainings are a great networking opportunity 
Relationships are key when running for office. You need them to find staff, recruit volunteers, outreach to donors, and get votes. A campaign training is a great place for you to build relationships with like-minded folks who also want to run for office. It’s a rare breed of person who finds running for office a fun opportunity, so having others you can turn to for advice is a huge asset. Running for office is hard, but having a strong support network can help you navigate the ups and downs of the election cycle, expand fundraising and endorsement networks, and can even form lifelong friendships.

So, if you are thinking of running for office, even if that’s many years down the road, we’d suggest that you sign up for political campaign training. It can help you decide whether running for office is right for you and your family.

How do I find the training that’s right for me?
At The Campaign Workshop, our team runs political training programs across the country and we have trained thousands of candidates and campaign staff, but there are many good trainings out there to check out. There are a lot of nonprofits and organizations that train Democrats and progressive candidates to run for office.

We want to give a huge shout-out to the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute for being dedicated to training and building LGBTQ leaders for over two decades. As their lead trainers, we’ve seen first-hand the results of candidates getting thorough training before running. Our team has helped thousands of openly LGBTQ candidates and campaign managers run successful campaigns, and on occasion, make history. The LGBTQ+ Victory Institute has been running a consistent annual training program with great success. When it was founded in 1992, there were only a couple dozen openly LGBTQ elected officials and very few openly LGBTQ candidates running across the country. Due to support and training provided by the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute, fast forward and there are hundreds of openly LGBTQ people serving in public office and a rainbow wave of candidates running across the country for all levels of office.

If you’re looking for training you can check out our list of progressive groups and organizations that run campaign training programs across the country to find one near you. If you have campaign training opportunities you think we should add to this list, feel free to drop us a line.

Still have questions about attending a campaign training? Reach out and ask us here