You know you want to run for office. You have passion. You have vision. And you are certain you could make a difference once you’re elected.
But how do you know if you have what it takes to run for office? And can you win?
It’s a terrible reality that running for office isn’t easy. And it’s a worse truth that passion, vision and the ability to serve isn’t enough to cut it.
Before you pull the cord and jump head first into your campaign, think about whether you have what you need to win.
Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t run for office:
You don’t have enough time.
In the month or two before election day, you will spend most of your time thinking about your campaign. For some candidates, the campaign becomes a full time job. For most candidates, it’s at least a part time job.
Ideally, you will want to announce your candidacy a year or two before the election date. In very rare exceptions you may benefit announcing closer to election day. But as a rule, earlier is better.
Once you announce your run for office, time will seem to evaporate.
You will spend time asking for donations. You will spend time asking for endorsements. You will spend time asking for volunteers. And you will spend time asking for votes.
If you don’t have the time to be successful, you shouldn’t run for office.
You don’t have enough money.
You may wish that money didn’t influence politics but the reality is that it does.
To start, you will need to pay a qualifying fee to even put your name on the ballot. That fee can be a little or a lot. But no matter the amount of the qualifying fee, that is the tip of the iceberg.
Campaigns are expensive.
The smallest D.I.Y campaigns will need yard signs. Bigger, more professional campaigns need digital advertising, radio, a phone program and more. The sky’s the limit!
Even campaigns that rely heavily on volunteers will need to pay a volunteer manager.
Before you run for office, you need to spell out exactly who will give to your campaign and how much they can give. This is called donor mapping.
Download our FREE Donor Mapping spreadsheet (Excel .xlsc)
Planning to self-fund your campaign? Well, you’re not off the hook. You still need a comprehensive budget.
If you don’t have a detailed plan on how to pay for your campaign, you shouldn’t run for office.
You are not qualified for the position
Some offices have clear requirements.
To be a member of Congress you must be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years and live in the state you represent. (You don’t have to live in the same district but it helps).
Check to make sure you meet the requirements before you get too invested in an elected office.
But there’s even more to consider for some jobs. Some elected offices need a specific skill set.
If you run for District Attorney, Sheriff or Coroner, be sure you have the skills required to do the job.
Same goes for dog catcher.
If you aren’t qualified for the job you’re seeking, you shouldn’t run for office.
Your family doesn’t support the idea
Don’t take this one for granted. Have a heart-to-heart to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
Running for office will create stress with your family in the best cases. Actually winning office will change many aspects of your life.
You should have a direct conversation with your family to be sure everyone will support you. Few things can ruin a campaign faster than a spouse or partner who sours on your dream midstream.
Be honest with yourself and be honest with your family. If your family isn’t all-in, you shouldn’t run for office.
Your employer doesn’t support the idea
You may be lucky enough to run for an office that is professional and offers full-time pay. But before you get to that new elected position, you will need to take time off from work. Or, even more likely, the office you’re running for is part time.
In all but a few situations, you will need a day job that is flexible enough to allow you to pursue your dream. You will need to be fully committed to your campaign and to the elected office, if you’re lucky enough to win.
“No problem,” I hear some of you saying. “I run my own business.”
In that case, it’s even more important that you sort through these details. How will your business survive once you turn your attention to campaigning?
I’ve worked with very few candidates who could run for office without taking a hit on the day job. With careful planning, the impact can be temporary.
If you can’t take time away from work, you shouldn’t run for office.
The advice above is not meant to be harsh. I don’t want to crush your dreams. But I do want you to know what you’re getting into.
When you run for office, you immediately take on an enormous amount of responsibility. As soon as you launch a viable campaign, others will begin to depend on your success. It’s worth it to weigh your decision carefully.
Before you throw your hat in the ring, make sure you have the time, money, qualifications and support you need to win.
Can you think of any other reasons someone shouldn’t run for office?