Story #54 Top Lessons Learned from Winning City Ballot Measures


How long has it been since your city navigated the white waters of passing a local tax measure?  Is it time to launch yet again?  If so, get your boat out, get ready to launch and listen up! For most public agencies these days, the key to success is Informing voters about the FACTS early and throughout the planning and election window.

CliffordMoss has helped numerous cities run successful information-ONLY public engagement programs. We’ve learned some important lessons. Here are our top four takeaways.

Lesson #1:  Make time to LISTEN.

 “Listening is a lost art.” The more time you spend listening, the more you’ll learn.  However, quality listening takes time, so start early.  If you’re thinking about a local revenue measure, ask key stakeholders – especially voters - what they think well before taking action.  Invite them to help shape the future.  You will learn as we have time and again, “people support what they help create.” 

Lesson #2: More TIME is better!

The most successful ballot measure efforts make time for a quality planning process INFORMED by their communities. The key to success comes in telling your story of need effectively and  showing your community how you’re planning with their input.   Develop a compelling story that stands out.  Inform voters about your needs and challenges, and possible solutions (including a potential ballot measure).  A quality public and transparent process goes a long way towards building trust and support with your voters and greater community.

Lesson #3: You have an OBLIGATION to provide information.

Providing information about a local ballot measure isn’t just something that cities can do. It’s something they should and must do.  One of the most important responsibilities of local government is to foster an informed community.   Sharing factual information helps your community make informed decisions. Whether your potential ballot measure is complemented by an independent campaign or not, factual informational efforts help grow interest and awareness as well as trust between voters and your city.

Lesson #4: Use existing communications channels.

The most impactful ways to reach your community are often those you’re already using! Such tools might include email marketing, social media, public meetings, and newsletters to name a few.  CliffordMoss works with public agencies to compliment what already exists with other, even more effective and proven tools like direct mail and online ads.  Employing a robust platform of communications tools ensures a broader reach with more credibility, consistency and repetition of the critical messages that your voters need to hear in order to support you.


Remember, you’re not only allowed to share the facts; as the entity sponsoring a local revenue measure, you should and you must share the facts!  Make time to employ a quality planning process and start LISTENING EARLY. Leverage your existing communications channels – and enhance them with other proven tools to ensure credibility, consistency and repetition of your story of need.  Following these steps, and you’ll be employing a proven approach in the public communications space that gives your ballot measure the best possible chance of passing.

BONNIE MOSS   (510) 757-9023   [email protected]

TOM CLIFFORD   (510) 847-7155   [email protected]

AMANDA CLIFFORD   (415) 244-5990   [email protected]

LAURA CROTTY   (408) 839-5556   [email protected]