Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We are quickly approaching the time when once again our local school levy will be up for vote. I feel inclined to go a little bit further with some of the thoughts I posted back in August.

It’s very important whenever you are trying to market or sell anything that you really know what those to whom you are selling are thinking. If you don’t know what they are really thinking then unfortunately you end up sending them wrong messages which are often more hurtful than helpful.

Having listened to those who have been vocal against the levy, I can assure you that what they are really saying is not any of the following:

“We hate kids.”

“We hate the future.”

“We want the worst for our community.”

Again, that is NOT what they are saying. However, the overriding message they have been hearing from those who support the levy has been geared toward fighting the above statements. So, internally, what they process sounds something like “Folks for the levy think I’m a horrible person who only cares about myself.”

Um, just speaking as a guy who has spent his entire career in sales and marketing … putting this sort of thought into the heads of those you are trying to sell to … is NOT the way to get the sale.

So, that brings me to the big question … if those against the levy are NOT saying they hate kids and the community, what are they saying? And, furthermore, how do we address what they are REALLY saying?

Certainly there are many nuances and variations but generally speaking I am hearing two things from those who have been vocal against the levy. We need to look at those two things individually.

First, I am hearing “I (or my family) is barely surviving as it is. I love kids … I love my community … but I simply cannot afford to give more money in taxes to it at this time.” So, how do we answer that concern? Really, it is very simple … with love, encouragement, support and hope.

These are tough times – could not be worse times for passing a levy. Slowly and gradually, organizations are springing up to bring hope and encouragement to those who are hurting – to those without jobs, to those who have pulled back from community, and also to those who simply cannot make ends meet. The Network for Job Seekers is a good example. That group, at its core, is about strengthening individuals and families which in turn strengthens our community.

My friend, Julie, is also starting up a group to pray for our community and its citizens. There are other organizations coming along or stepping up past efforts as well … I’d like to give space to them all here but I am already running horribly long on this.

Everyone, if you’re supporting the levy, think about what you can do to reach out and bring hope to the hurting in our community. Become a “gasp” community organizer. The more we encourage and strengthen those who are hurting, the more likely it is that the levy will pass.

I have heard a lot of condemnation of some of the rural outlying communities that have put up votes largely against the levy. Reach out to those communities. They don’t hate your kids and they don’t hate the future. Organize groups to go into those communities to do nothing but encourage and empower their residents … and bring them hope. As lives are transformed, levy votes will follow. I guarantee it.

Secondly, what I am hearing from some folks opposing the levy is “The school system is a huge operation. If it were a business, it would be one of the largest around. We need the assurance that it is being run in a fiscally sound way … so that we will not be back in this same situation again in a few years with the schools coming to the “taxpayer well” because they didn’t operate in a manner that allowed them to be prepared for the future.”

The response they want to hear to this is “You know, mistakes have been made in the past. And we’re sorry about that and determined to learn from them. Here’s what we have done to not only make changes to adapt to the present situation but also to provide oversight, processes and systems that will keep us from ever gain being in this situation.”

Instead, what these individuals are hearing is “We’re having to make cuts which are hurting your kids and your community … and we’re going to continue to make those cuts until you give us more money.”

(Now, have any of these exact phrases actually been voiced – of course not! But, it is what people are “hearing” regardless of whether it has been said. Perception is reality.)

Additionally, perhaps all of us need to be more thoughtful in terms of who we encourage and support as school board candidates. If we were running the largest business in town, who would we want in charge? We need to realize that board members are elected by us and they are the ones charged with providing overall approval for school activities.

I am not criticizing those on the board. It is a difficult, time intensive, thankless job that receives far more grief than it should. I think our current board members are committed and hard working – all great, solid citizens and many – perhaps even all -- are very well shaped to be board members.

But what I am saying is that, when we encourage people to run for those board seats and when we cast our votes, we need to think about more than just the names and faces that are familiar to us. We need to ask ourselves “Do they have the proper education, training, and expertise to run an organization the size of the schools? If I owned a large business, would I want them to be running it?”

I say all of these things to be helpful. I love my community, I love kids, and I want the best for our future. I also have been blessed to know a bit about sales and marketing. If any of what I am saying rings true with you, then I challenge you to act on it -- think about organizing a group to just love on those who are hurting ... to restore their hope and confidence. Think about sitting down with board members and administrators and offering help for them to hone their messages to the public. Think about who we vote onto the school board (again, I am NOT criticizing those who are serving so hard and well now … just wanting to make sure what we stay mindful of in the future.)

  posted at 7:59 AM  

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Ben Hunt said...

I appreciate this post, Todd. A lot. Thanks.


Ben Hunt


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