• 3 critical components of a successful tax referendum

    Patron Insight has helped hundreds of public entities raise new tax dollars – more than $7.2 billion in the last 10 years – and we’ve developed a surefire recipe that predicts election outcomes time and time again.

    We have learned the following three things must be in place, or your tax initiative will fail:

    1. People have to believe you are doing a good job with the money they’ve already committed to you. If folks aren’t happy  with the work you’re doing, they will never agree to give you more money.
    2. Your patrons have to be paying attention. If you are never on the “radar screen” of your taxpayers, they won’t care enough to listen to you, let alone vote for your new tax plan.
    3. Voters need to like your new ideas well enough to pay for them. This is usually where the rubber meets the road. If you tell  people you need a new jail, community center, or fire station, for example – and it will cost them an additional $100 per year for the next 20 years – you must make certain they agree this expenditure is critical for the community.

    So, how do you know if these three critical components are in place? You don’t. Nobody does. You can’t possibly know what’s in the hearts and minds of everyone you provide services for.

    In most cases, you hear from the 10 percent of people who love you and support everything you do. And you hear from the 10 percent of people who disagree with everything you do and any tax increase you suggest.

    It’s the “silent” majority – 80 percent of the community – who are the great unknown. They have an opinion, which will influence whether they vote and how they vote. The problem is nobody has ever asked their opinion.

    Patron Insight recommends a statistically accurate telephone survey about six to nine months before an election to discover where people stand on the three critical factors. Our survey process has a margin of error factor of only 5 percent, so you are working with viable data about your patrons.

    Once you know where you stand, you know what you need to do to pass a referendum. It’s that simple and straightforward.

    The worst thing that can happen to you isn’t losing an election – it’s losing an election without knowing why you lost.

    With pre-election research, you’ll know – months before the election – whether or not you are positioned to win and what you need to do to ultimately find success at the ballot box.

  • Elvis should have been a school superintendent

    “Thank you. Thank you very much.”  

    That is the staple quote for every Elvis impersonator on the planet – a tribute to the King’s well-documented habit of thanking his audience for applause. It’s a lesson we all could learn from the man from Memphis.

    When’s the last time someone from your school district said, “Thank you” to a patron? An average patron ponies up thousands and thousands of dollars over a lifetime supporting his or her local school district. Yet I doubt most have ever heard the words “Thank you” from a district staff member, teacher or student for this investment.

    What an opportunity! What if every school district employee made it his or her personal goal to say, “Thank you” to a random district patron today?

    It would give immediate substance to the idea that “education is a partnership,” would offer meaningful, long-term, brand-building benefits for the district, and would create the kind of environment that increases the likelihood of success for ballot measures – no matter what the economic climate.

    Try it and let us know what happens. Hey, it worked for Elvis.

  • Is it Back-to-School Night already?

    Well, no, it’s not time for that just yet.

    However, there is no better time during the school year then Back-to-School Night to engage with your parents and maximize the opportunity to build strong relationships. And it’s an absolutely ideal time to mine some great data from this key audience.

    You don’t need to do anything elaborate. Just simply ask your parents to take one minute to answer three questions on a survey that can be handed out to every person that night.

    Question one: What would you like to know more about from your school and the school district this year?

    This is a great way to find out whether the topics you deem to be the most important to communicate align with what your parents want to know most about.

    Question two: What’s the best way to get that information to you?

    The answers you receive, such as email, text, newsletter, etc., probably won’t add much to how you are already communicating with your parents. But they should help you determine the frequency of each communication method and which ones are most popular with your audience.

    Question three: What’s the one topic you really would like us to not talk about so much (because you’re not all that interested)?

    You probably will receive a lot of “I don’t know” responses. However, you might be pleasantly surprised by the candor of the people who are tired of hearing about the same topics – those only the district finds exciting.

    At the bottom of the survey, promise you will get a summary of the findings back to all parents. And make it clear to your building folks to tell parents that “If you’ve already filled this out in one school, there’s no need to fill out a second one.”

    Then, create a simple process where you can tally key words from the surveys, like “test scores,” “finances” and “School Board decisions.” Don’t sort through the long-winded ones; just look for key words.

    If you make it a practice to do this every year at Back-to-School Night, you will be able to stay current with parent interests and transmittal preferences.

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