10 questions to answer when deciding to run for office

Considering a run for political office? Maybe a friend is? Here are the top ten questions to ask yourself before deciding to run. There are some helpful tips thrown in there too.

1. Why do you want to run?

It’s the obvious question and it should be the easiest to answer.

List out all your reasons for running, if there are themes capture those. You should be able to give your answer in three to four sentences and in a way that you know the voters will relate to.

Tip: While you are developing your list be sure to include why you are the best candidate to take action on the topics you identified -doing this now, will save time later.


2. Are your family and friends supportive?

A support group is vital during a campaign.

Your family and close friends know you best so be sure you seek their opinion before you run –do they think it is a good idea? Do they have any concerns? Talk about the type of support and accountability you will need.

Tip: Talk upfront with family and friends about their level of participation in your campaign – it is better to talk through expectations now versus the middle of the campaign.


3. How are you currently perceived?

People’s perceptions are often more powerful than truth.

What do people know about you? Understanding how people may view you is an important starting point for your campaign. Maybe you want to build on the brand you have, maybe you’re starting from scratch, or maybe you have some repair work to do.

Tip: Google yourself, ask your friends and not so close friends how they would describe you. Also, take a look at your social media sites and do some cleaning if you need to.


4. What are your goals for the race?

Think of how you want people to view you after the race is over.

Clearly, the #1 goal is to win, but what if you don’t? Will the months of campaigning be all for not? Be sure to set goals for not only your campaign but advancing your brand as a person. You never know what opportunities await.

Tip: Ensure your campaign messaging captures who you are authentically. A campaign brings visibility to your character and the initiatives you are passionate about.


5. Are you familiar with the position?

Research the position you are running for thoroughly.

How much do you know about the position you want to run for? You should know more than just the list of job duties. Spend time learning about the history of the position, size of staff, budget, and current issues. Identify what is working well and not working well.

Tip: Take time to go to public meetings or read meeting minutes, and read news stories related to the position or applicable topics. Work in these specifics into your messaging.

6. What are the needs of the voters?

Each position’s purpose is to provide a service to constituents.

Take the time to learn how the position meets the needs in the community. Is it meeting constituents needs? You should be able to articulate clearly how you would use the position to meet the constituent needs you identified through your research.

Tip: Your background research on the position should also help identify any needs a voter may have. It will be important to remind voters of how this position exists to serve them.


7. Are you passionate?

There should be some overlap with your passions and the position you are pursuing.

Public service can be a thankless job and burnout can happen quickly. Take the time to identify how passionate you are about using the position to serve people. You may find you want to serve a community in a different way like through boards, commissions or advocate groups.

Tip: Cross-examine your list of why you want to run and circle the reasons that you believe overlap with your passion. Voters can tell if you’re not running the race with genuine interest.


8. Is your timeline realistic?

The bigger the race the more time you need to prepare.

There are many components of a campaign and the more voters you’re trying to reach the longer lead time you will need. Keep in mind there are different phases of campaigning and you will want to give yourself enough time for each phase.

Tip: It may be worth your time to pull together an exploratory committee to help research and test the viability of your candidacy.


9. Can you acquire funding?

Campaigns cost money.

Are you going to continue working while you campaign? Can you afford to run? Are you putting money forward or relying on donations? Are you comfortable asking for money?

Tip: Have a fully written out funding plan before launching a campaign. Also, the longer lead time you have to build name recognition the easier funding can be.


10. Are you ready to be in a fishbowl?

You and your family’s  life becomes public.  

Everything you or your family does could become part of a very public conversation. You will certainly be judged by people who have never met you or know anything about you. Just like on the internet, there are trolls in real life who will have an opinion and voice it on everything you do.

Tip: Have the conversation with your family about what they may expect to hear during the campaign, manage their expectations that there will be those who say negative things.