Winning a successful election is a blend of art and science. Many vital ingredients go into setting your school district, city, nonprofit or public affairs organization up for success, and costly mistakes can cause setbacks in campaign strategies, community momentum, and ultimately a failure on election day.

Here are ten pitfalls to avoid when planning to call an election that will help you develop key strategies to set your organization on a path to victory.

#10: Thinking six months is plenty of time!

Holding an election is a big deal and requires thoughtful deliberation. Our advice – start early! It’s a good idea to spend a full year before the election date planning and working with your community.

#9: Waiting until you have an election to talk to your voters.

The time to talk to your community is before, during and after calling an election. Establish a year-round communication strategy to spread the good news and tell your story. Keep the conversation going about finances and legislative issues with local media & community leaders. Talk about challenges and how you are meeting and surmounting them.

#8: Telling Board or City Council members to stay behind the scenes.

Silence is the enemy. Your community deserves to be informed, and it’s up to you to share the facts. Yes, there are rules around persuasive communication. But that doesn’t mean you should be silent. Host a workshop on ethics, voter education and messaging for your elected officials and share ethic rules with staff members to empower them during the process. Your success depends on you to be transparent, visible, and accessible.

#7: Waiting for opposition to strike first.

Be ready! There will be opposition and noise. That’s okay. It means people care enough to be engaged. Know your proposal, craft strong messaging, stay on message, be transparent, and explain your financial position. Arm your community with information so your supporters can rally behind you because the best defense is a good offense.

#6: Assuming the right leaders will join the cause.

Ask the right community leaders to help you and reach out early, well before calling the election. Be strategic.

#5: Deciding you can’t afford mobile voting.

You can’t afford not to! Entities don’t call an election without a firm conviction that it’s the right thing to do. But if you will not invest in your initiative, why will you expect others to make the same commitment?

#4: Assuming voters know what we are talking about.

Be meaningful! People give their money and their vote for two reasons: to evoke good feelings or to solve a problem. Know your proposal and craft strong messaging that sticks to the facts yet tells a great story. Then share, share, share.

#3: Using the Citizens’ Committee as a formality to rubber stamp our proposal.

It’s not your proposal. Calling an election is about meeting the needs of the community. The proposal must be developed by the community, for the community. Be strategic in choosing committee members and include a cross-section of representatives.

#2: Saying we can figure this out.  How hard can it be?

Start early and have a plan! Once an election is called the clock starts ticking. Develop a day-by-day 16-week plan that outlines strategies, tactics, tasks assigned by roles and responsibilities. Track progress and monitor milestone deadlines. Get help when necessary!

#1: Believing we “know” our voters and our community.

Times have changed. You know the same group of people who attend your high school football games, community luncheons, and other events. What about the voters who are not involved? In today’s digital world data is KEY to your success! Identify, target and track your voters.