After the Election Checklist

by Elena Veatch

election day on a calendar:  - After the election

It’s the Day After the Election. Now What?

It’s the day after the election — you finally made it. Whether you won or lost your political campaign, your operation won’t end as soon as the results are in. You ran an organization for months that hopefully bore semblance to a well-oiled machine. You likely had people on your payroll, whether it was one campaign manager or a whole team of dedicated staff. You probably had volunteers working around the clock to help get your message out. You definitely haven’t slept enough since the whole shebang started. 

No matter the outcome, be intentional about how you end your campaign. Tie up any loose ends. Get your records in order. Walk through our checklist (and other tips) to end your campaign on the right note and set yourself up for the next phase of your life. You’ll thank us later.

Day After the Election Checklist

The day after the election feels particularly rough when you lose. You and your team spent months working tirelessly, but in the end, you fell short. It’s not easy to walk through a list of final wrap-up steps when you’re in the mood to think about anything but your campaign. We feel your pain, but we promise getting through this list will allow you to move on sooner rather than later.

On the flip side, the day after the election is an exuberant one for the winner. All your hard work paid off. It can be tough to stay focused when all you want to do is celebrate, but there’s time for both. Before you transition into your leadership role, make sure you clean up your campaign so you have the space to do your new job well.

Thank your team. Whether you won or lost, your staff, volunteers, donors, endorsers, friends, and family worked hard on your behalf. Make sure you take the time to call, email, and personally thank everyone who has been involved with your campaign. Send a personal card if you can. You couldn’t have made it this far without them.

Be gracious. Don’t be the candidate who tells everyone to jump off a bridge after the campaign ends. A candidate’s reaction to winning or losing—more so than the outcome itself—is the biggest indicator of whether they have a long-term future in politics. You owe it to everyone who was a part of your campaign to be respectful and gracious (including the opposition).

Pay your debts. Hopefully you won’t have any outstanding debts at your campaign’s end, but if you do, develop a plan to pay them off quickly. Don’t wait on this—the last thing you want months after an election is to be figuring out how to pay for those 500 campaign magnets taking up space in your trunk.

Keep records. Just because your campaign is over doesn’t mean you should throw away the infrastructure you built. Keep all your budgets, plans, strategy memos, polls, and lists in one centralized location so you can easily access these materials down the line. You never know if/when these things will come in handy.

Be intentional with data. Any list you have—whether it’s of volunteers, donors, support IDs, or yard sign locations—are valuable. Decide what you want to do with these items—don’t let a well-meaning volunteer copy them and give them away to another candidate. You should be the one who makes the decision about how/where these items are saved, destroyed, or repurposed.

Take down those damn yard signs. Nobody wants to drive by a graveyard of yard signs from the Ghost of Campaigns Past months after an election. What’s more, your campaign could get fined if you leave these signs out. Have a plan for taking down them down.

Talk to your lawyer. Don’t delete any files until you get legal advice on what you need and what you don’t need for reporting purposes. Keep it all on a secure portable drive, as well as on a second back-up drive.

Recycle. Make sure all your paper, literature, signs, mail samples, and beyond get recycled. Donate your desks, office supplies, and scrubbed computers to folks who need them.

Do a post-mortem. Look at the numbers and talk to your staff to write a memo of what worked and what didn’t. Even if you won your race, there may be things you could’ve done better along the way. If you lost, it’ll help to know what you can improve upon in the future. Analyze quickly, but don’t dwell—move on.

Help your staff find work. Before you think about next steps for yourself, remember that your campaign staff all busted their asses to help you win. Be good to those who were good to you along the way.

Remember why you ran. Whether you won or lost, remind yourself why you got in the race to begin with. If you won, don’t lose sight of the promises you made along the way. If you lost, don’t despair—remember that this is just the beginning of your journey to effect change.