As a person with a disability, you bring unique experiences to the table. These experiences could make life in your hometown much easier for everyone, not just others with physical or cognitive disabilities. If you’re ready to make a change, a great way to do just that is to run for local office. This could be something as simple as securing a spot on your community's school board, or you may set your sites much higher in the future.
Although individuals with disabilities have historically been stigmatized in politics, worldviews are changing. Today, what might’ve been perceived as a disability before might be viewed as a positive by people looking to support those who have overcome adversity. Further, you’ll have experiences within your community that can make you a greater advocate for change.
Preparing For Public Office
One of the best ways to prepare for public office is to get out into the public and get to know the people of your hometown. As in business, networking is essential to get your message out to as many people as possible, so cast a wide net.
Another important step in your journey is to make sure that you are an expert or reputable source of information for voters. Make sure your research is top-notch so that you can feel confident when you quote information or statistics. This helps to further legitimize your platform.
Any political campaign requires a certain level of marketing. This is how you spread the word about yourself and your platform. Typical materials include yard signs, stickers, pencils, T-shirts, mugs, brochures and the like. The intangible items would be your website and social media. Bringing it all together can get expensive, however, so find ways to cut costs where you can.
Perhaps a web designer can create your site pro bono, and will commit to making updates as necessary. Social media doesn’t cost a thing, unless you decide to focus on advertising. As for swag, identify what’s an absolute must, and then determine what you can DIY. For example, do you really need pencils, mugs and T-shirts? Pick one, and then focus on other must-haves like yard signs, bumper stickers and brochures.
Don’t forget the digital realm either. Email marketing can be a very fruitful marketing channel, and it gives you the opportunity to offer up more information about your platform to your potential constituents. Just be sure to avoid clever attempts at ineffective subject lines like using “Re” or “Fwd” at the start. Readers don't respond well to that.
In addition to email marketing, consider turning to the help of an influencer to garner additional support and attention to your campaign. Sites like Brybe offer quick access to influencers who can quickly level up your PR.
Volunteers And Staff
Even if you are an expert, you still need help running the campaign. For this, you’ll likely want to hire a campaign manager. While, according to ZipRecruiter, you can expect to pay around $30 an hour for the service, you might also get lucky and find a volunteer. Chances are, there are plenty of people within your community that care about the same causes you do. Galaxy Digital points out that you might even partner with a local business to get their employees on board to lend a hand when it’s time to let others in your hometown know you are running for office.
A side note here: one of the most important things you can do as an up-and-coming politician is to remain transparent with your employees, volunteers, and constituents. Just as you are honest and support transparency in the workplace, making information readily available during your campaign will improve your trust factor exponentially.
Transparency is crucial throughout your entire campaign, but you must take extra care to remain open during the fundraising process. Hire an accountant, and make sure that information about how donations are spent is freely accessible by voters. This doesn’t mean that you have to invest in expensive accounting software. Something as simple as a non-editable spreadsheet made available on your Google Drive will assuage many concerns and might convince individuals to donate to the cause.
Living with a disability does not mean that you can’t do all of the things in life that you want to do. If one thing that you want is to be a proponent of change, running for a local office might just be the right thing. Whether you choose to join your local school board or work toward becoming mayor, the work you put into your hometown will make a difference for everyone, including others with disabilities.
By Elena Stewart from Elenestewart.com