Photo Source: Unsplash

Maybe you’ve worked on political campaigns, or volunteered for a community organization, or become an advocate for a local issue. Running for office can be an even more rewarding opportunity to spur change and serve your community. To run a successful campaign, you need to figure out what it will take to win. Get to know the demographics and voter participation history in your district. Contact your local board of elections for historical voter data and the number of registered voters. Multiply the average voter turnout in recent similar elections by the number of voters currently registered in your district (presidential years or years with other big races will have a higher turnout than midterm or off-year races). Your goal is to get the votes of a bit more than half of those voters.

Here is our checklist for how to run 101:

Getting Started

First-time candidates without much political experience are often unsure of where to start. But a variety of resources and tools are available to help you run a successful campaign (check out some of those below)

Funding a campaign

Before you announce your candidacy it is important that you create a budget. There can be a variety of costs, everything from printed materials and advertising to staffing and travel to creating a website. How much you’ll need to spend depends on the position you’re running for, the size of the town or district, and the opposition you’re facing.

Knocking on [virtual] doors

As you campaign, use the voter registration data from the local board of elections, any other guidance your political party may be able to provide and your own knowledge of the community to decide which voters are most likely to support your campaign. 

Do you have insurance?

Before you run for public office, check-in with your home, auto, and umbrella insurance providers to ask about your coverage if you were to run for or serve in elected office.

Learning the ropes

A number of organizations offer online or in-person programs and classes, either free or for moderate cost, as well as provide other resources to help potential candidates learn the ins and outs of running a political campaign.



Nation Builder provides nonpartisan support; it offers a free, two-hour online course that will help you understand the basics.
American Majority offers a free mini-training as well as paid courses aimed at helping conservative activists and candidates.
The National Democratic Training Committee provides free online training for Democratic candidates.
Emerge America helps train progressive women who are considering running for office.
She Should Run is a nonpartisan organization that provides resources to women who may want to run for office.
New American Leaders offers a three-day program for potential candidates from immigrant communities ($150, or $250 for declared candidates).
New Politics Leadership Academy trains military veterans and alumni from the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other service organizations.
Higher Heights for America partners with other organizations, such as Emily’s List, Emerge America and VoteRunLead, to offer in-person and online training for black women who are considering running for office.
Victory Institute offers a four-day nonpartisan training session for members of the LGBTQ community who are interested in running for office or working as campaign staff and community leaders.