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What the Majority Will Support

Bond referendums play a significant role in supporting the vitality of a community through its public education, law enforcement, fire departments, public libraries, and more. While it’s tempting to focus on crunching numbers and presenting them to the public, this approach is not enough to earn support.

Successful bond referendums rely on a thorough and multifaceted process that builds
relationships and confidence in a plan, clearly and consistently amplifies the value proposition to the community, and employs effective strategic communications that engage citizens for the common good.


Long before voters hit the ballot box, public entities must forge meaningful
connections with a focus on listening to their citizens. In a diverse and dynamic
society, opinions vary widely, and perspectives may differ sharply on key issues.
Public institutions can gain invaluable insights into their citizens’ concerns,
priorities, and aspirations by providing opportunities for public input and listening
sessions. This enhances the legitimacy of the decision-making process and
fosters a sense of shared ownership and investment among community


Akwi Nji

Holistic, citywide engagement including town hall meetings, public forums, educational campaigns, and one-on-one conversations help demystify the referendum process, clarify the issues, and encourage citizens to make informed decisions. Creating opportunities for dialogue also fosters trust and empowers citizens to participate in the democratic process.

Effective citizen engagement not only increases understanding of budgets and the implications of proposed initiatives, it fosters a sense of unity and solidarity, develops consensus, and paves a clear path forward for a community’s citizens in pursuit of a common goal.


Voters want to know how a bond referendum will benefit them, their neighbors,
and their community. This means highlighting the tangible outcomes that
illustrate the positive impact of the referendum on the human experience.
Whether the referendum pertains to funding for public safety plans, infrastructure
improvements, education initiatives, or emergency preparedness measures,
community members want to understand the value proposition of the proposed

Bond referendums are ultimately an opportunity for civic institutions to strengthen
their efforts to serve the community’s needs, priorities, and aspirations. The bond
referendum process should clearly articulate this reciprocal relationship
between the public service institution and the community it serves.


Strategic communication gets the right message to the right audience at the right
time. From internal stakeholders to external audiences, including voters and
community leaders, each communication must be tailored to resonate with its
intended audience. This requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing
traditional media, social and digital media, public events, and targeted outreach

Whether the referendum pertains to funding for public infrastructure, social
programs, or environmental conservation efforts, it is essential to convey its
passage’s tangible benefits and positive outcomes. By highlighting the potential
impact on quality of life, economic prosperity, and public safety, strategic
communication helps to garner support and enthusiasm for the referendum
among diverse stakeholders.

Build trust in a plan and the people behind it. This is the foundation for bridging
the gap between policymakers and the public and translating abstract proposals
into relatable narratives and real-world outcomes that resonate with citizens.
Communicating transparently, authentically, and empathetically is essential for
fostering meaningful connections with citizens.

This will mobilize grassroots activism and drive voter turnout. By crafting
compelling narratives beyond the numbers, engaging storytelling, and targeted
outreach efforts, advocates can inspire citizens to participate actively in the
democratic process, rallying support for the referendum and galvanizing action at
the ballot box.

Earning support for a bond referendum is more than just securing financial resources, it’s about building consensus and mobilizing support for the common good. By prioritizing relationship-building, emphasizing the value proposition to the lives and experiences of the citizens, and employing strategic communications, civic servant institutions can maximize their chances of success. It’s not just about the numbers – it’s about understanding the needs of a community, telling a compelling and impactful story that illustrates how a successful referendum responds to the needs, and utilizing a process that strengthens the community and inspires action towards a shared vision for the future.


Akwi Nji is a Communications and Engagement Specialist at Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering. Her expertise is in K12 public relations, brand storytelling, and bond referendum support.  Akwi brings a creative edge and an effective multidisciplinary approach to utilizing the power of communications that ignites empathy and trust in stakeholders.

Her most recent work includes a nearly two-year long bond planning process with the Cedar Rapids Community School District, rebranding of Waterloo Community School District to engage the community in preparation for their high school consolidation efforts, and brand story development for Marshalltown Community School District.

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