Build a team
Build Your Team and Plan Your Engagement Campaign
Build your team. It’s impossible to engage a campus alone, so recruit a core group of administrators, faculty, staff, and student leaders to coordinate campus election engagement efforts, divide up the work, and ensure that key stakeholders talk with each other and engage their respective departments and disciplines.
Enlist key campus leaders to implement approaches drawn from this list. Include deans, your provost and president, staff from Student Affairs, Service-Learning and Residence Life, your registrar, IT department, campus newspaper advisor, athletic coaches, faculty development coordinator, campus librarians, and faculty from as many diverse academic departments as possible. Student government leaders have their own resources and networks, so engage them as well.
- Convene an in-person meeting of campus stakeholders. Email and phone can be effective. But being in the same room allows you to build off each other’s energy and ideas far more. Invite your CEEP contact to attend, if possible.
- Research what your campus has done previously and brainstorm ways to build on it. Use our Campus Electoral Engagement Assessment to evaluate what you have and haven’t done so far, and to see how your campus compares to other schools. Talk with program staff, student leaders and others previously involved, including recent graduates, to fill in the picture with as much detail as possible.
- Gather previously created program materials and campus specific resources so you don’t have to start again from scratch.
- Ask your President’s office if your school participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, and if they’ll share your recent campus voter turnout rates with your team. Use this to inspire your school to step up to the next level, and to target students who vote at lower rates, like those in STEM fields.
- Using this guide and our assessment, create a written plan and calendar that maps out how you’ll engage students, including when you’ll need to launch various elements, who will have to sign off, and how you’ll secure resources from administrative and student government funds.
- Check out other CEEP resources at campuselect.org.
Help students organize students. Connect early on with student government, organizations and programming boards. Encourage them to allocate resources to campus electoral engagement, and to coordinate with administrators, faculty, and staff.
- Form an all-campus student nonpartisan engagement coalition. Students are the most effective messengers for reaching their peers with a voter engagement message.
- Give stipends to Election Engagement Fellows who will take charge of organizing other students and mobilizing your campus electorally. Reach out to faculty as they’re planning their fall courses to ask them to give general credit for election volunteering.
- Provide students who will be engaging other students with resources to facilitate discussions on challenging issues. The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education has an excellent handbook.
Work with your student government to unite members from diverse campus organizations and political groups in a nonpartisan committee or coalition.
- Student government and organizational leaders can bring energy, resources, and their campus organizational connections.
- Some schools have conducted highly successful registration or Get Out the Vote competitions between academic departments, residence halls, and nonpartisan student organizations.
- Having members of College Democrats and College Republicans collaborate on nonpartisan engagement helps keep your engagement efforts unbiased. It can also reduce political demonization and draw on the energy of some of your most politically active students.
- You can also draw in groups that wouldn’t normally be engaged. If you can get the Chemistry Club, Chess Club, or an intermural team involved, they can reach important new constituencies.
Start planning early and keep building toward future elections.
- Depending on the size and bureaucratic structure of your campus, some of the ideas listed in this guide — such as getting a polling place on campus, integrating election-related courses into your service-learning approaches, or building strong relationships with civic leaders and election officials — can take some lead time.
- Starting early gives you plenty of time to work out the details, but even if the current election is right around the corner, you can start laying the groundwork for the next one.
- Research suggests that the more campuses promote ongoing political discussion, the more their students will vote. So use resources like CEEP’s issue and candidate guides and the resources of groups like Living Room Conversations and National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation to promote thoughtful and civil political conversation both leading up to elections and between them.
- Being active in local or off-year elections, which tend to not get as much attention as presidential elections, can also give you an opportunity to test approaches under less pressure
Gather information about voting-related regulations and timelines.
- CEEP will work with our partners at the Fair Elections Legal Network to distribute concise summaries and periodic updates of how your state election laws affect student voter registration and voting. Your school can play a critical role in distributing this information.
- Local chapters of the League of Women Voters, your city or county clerk’s office, or your Board of Elections representative may also be able to help with local information.
Create a working calendar and integrate election-related information. Identify key electoral dates for your state or city.
- Make sure to include:
- Deadlines to get an on-campus polling place
- Voter registration deadlines, including to change registration
- Deadline to apply for and return absentee ballots
- Early voting timelines and deadlines
- Highlight campus timelines, dates of major events, and critical deadlines. Include:
- Deadlines for online class registration, so you can work with your campus registrar’s office and IT department to integrate the online registration tools from Rock the Vote, TurboVote, or org.
- Deadlines for submitting election-related materials to be integrated in campus orientation and registration packets.
- Deadlines to include voter registration and other election-engagement activities at new student orientation events.
- Major campus events (e.g., football games and concerts), which provide prime opportunities to engage and register students.
- Other key dates like the September 25 National Voter Registration Day and the dates of major relevant political debates as they’re announced.
Create an election-related section of your campus website and link to it when you distribute key information. This gives your voter engagement effort official legitimacy and provides a central location to post resources.
- Provide easy-to-access information on state voting rules, deadlines and resources. Include links for students to register to vote, find their polling station, learn about issues and candidates, and find out what kind of ID they need to bring.
- Highlight visible links to the page on your main campus website.
- Link to it prominently on high-traffic pages like those where students register for classes or buy tickets for campus events.
- Highlight your existing campus voter participation initiatives and those you’ll be developing.
- Promote these online resources through campus-wide websites, listservs, social media networks and student organizations. Include a visible email address so faculty, students and staff can volunteer and receive updates.
Brainstorm funding sources for ideas not already built into campus budgets. The earlier you start on this the more successful you’ll be.
- Look for sources to give stipends to students who’ll run your nonpartisan engagement teams.
- Consider costs for printing voter engagement materials, food and sound systems for debate watch events and get-out-the-vote volunteer parties, and transportation to off-campus polling places and for students registering voters in nearby off-campus communities.
- Explore possible funding from student government, key administrators and departments, like student activities, work-study and community service programs, and existing internship programs. If you have a non-federally funded student philanthropy program, they might be able to help with this. CEEP can also give them ideas for election-related micro-grants to help engage your school or other schools.
- At Virginia’s James Madison University, four social work seniors received academic credit to coordinate the campus’ successful nonpartisan engagement effort, DukesVote. Find tips on how to replicate this model on your campus in our Academic Credit resource.
- At Iowa’s Simpson College, a freshman student created Simpson Votes, which is now funded through the student government association. Partnering with media and interfaith departments, the Dean of Students, local politicians and candidates, and a campus service scholars program, they now regularly host voter engagement events.
- Student governments at University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point gave $5,000 each to fund CEEP’s student Fellows, who coordinated their campus election engagement nonpartisan efforts and volunteer teams.
- Beginning in 2014, Miami Dade College has hosted Election Engagement Fellows, who organize registration, education, GOTV and Election Day events on all campuses, including one National Voter Registration Day rally that drew more than 2,000 participants. Miami Dade’s civic engagement director said that the Fellows have had a huge impact on the size and impact of their program.
- At University of Michigan-Dearborn, the Community Involvement and Volunteerism Center, part of the Office for Student Engagement, partnered with the Student Government to lead the election engagement team. Other key partners include faculty from the Political Science Department, Women’s Resource Center, the Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Life, and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.
- At Ohio’s University of Findlay, the student government association president organized a nonpartisan committee with members of both College Democrats and College Republicans. The combined effort resulted in the most successful voter registration drives on record for their campus.
- At Ohio State University, the student government helped create the nonpartisan organization, OSU Votes, as an ongoing mechanism of engaging OSU students in elections. OSU Votes now gets support from the undergraduate, graduate, and professional school student governments, as well as the Office of Student Life, in which they’re now housed.
- Michigan State University’s YouVote partnership brings together the city of East Lansing, the university administration, and the school’s student government, helping students register and conducting coordinated Get Out The Vote efforts.
- Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University of Pennsylvania both secured federally funded work-study positions to assist with nonpartisan campus electoral engagement efforts.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison built a student led coalition, using the hashtag #MADvotes. With support from their city clerk, they helped convinced the school to distribute free voter ID cards that are compliant with new Wisconsin laws.