Don't miss this opportunity because you're worried about remaining non-partisan or appearing to endorse a particular candidate. You can host a candidate for office and still remain nonpartisan!
Lights On Afterschool is a great way to introduce candidates and elected officials to the world of afterschool. Elected officials can always speak in their official capacity. If you invite elected officials to speak in support of your issue in their role as public officials, ask them not to discuss the campaign or mention the election.
Other candidates also want to be visible in the community, and Lights On Afterschool is all about building and demonstrating community support for afterschool programs. However, when a person speaks as a candidate—and not in their official capacity as a public officeholder—your organization must exercise more caution. You may invite candidates to speak at your Lights On Afterschool event, but only if you follow these rules:
- The organization invites all candidates for a particular elective office;
- All invitations are sent at the same time, and all non-responding candidates receive the same follow-up requests from the organization;
- Any mention of candidates in publicity materials either A) provides all candidates with equal billing, or B) simply states that candidates will appear, without naming the candidates;
- All candidates address the audience in the same portion of the speaking program (i.e., not giving one candidate a prominent spot, while the other is relegated to the end of the program);
- Introductions of candidates are neutral and roughly equal (within what’s possible, given the candidates’ differing biographies);
- All candidates are provided the same amount of time to speak;
- Candidates either are free to speak on any topic they choose, or are asked to address the same general topic (i.e., asking them to discuss their views on afterschool care, but not asking them to agree or disagree with any particular platform or position of the organization); and
- If any candidate is not able to make it to the event, or declines the invitation, an official of the organization should note that invitations were sent to all candidates, and that certain candidates were unable to attend.
All aspects of these requirements should be carefully documented by the host organization.
To summarize, when working with candidates use equal access and reach out to every candidate for that particular office with equal intention and no sign of organizational support for any one candidate over any other. But don’t fear: it’s easier than it may sound.
Visit our Campaign for Afterschool Toolkit for helpful guidelines to stay nonpartisan as well as resources to make the case that afterschool is a winning issue.