A key element of Beyond Your Base’s pre-referendum strategy is to assemble a citizen task force to vet potential referendum proposals. These committees, which often consist of business, civic, and education leaders, play an important role in making sure our clients’ funding proposals have a fighting chance of success at the polls. During the pandemic, Beyond Your Base has been involved with more than $360 million of successful tax-related referenda that have addressed the capital improvement and operating needs of school districts and other public entities in Illinois and Colorado. Our quick pivot to adapting to the virtual world played no small role in achieving this success. When COVID-19 hit, we were concerned that Zoom and other videoconferencing tools would not be a good substitute for in-person task force meetings. To our surprise, the virtual approach to these meetings has been quite successful. Given their convenience, participation in virtual task force meetings has actually increased. Committee members also seem to be more at ease sharing their thoughts and recommendations in a virtual setting. Breakout groups, online polling, chat windows, and other tools have also allowed us to keep things engaging and productive.
Yes, there have been plenty of barking dogs, key ideas shared with a microphone muted, committee members accidentally leaving the breakout room, rogue chat rooms, and an inability to read body language. However, there has been a “we’re in this together” attitude that has allowed citizen task forces to survive and thrive.
Will we continue to do task force meetings virtually? Probably not all of them, but they will undoubtedly remain an important part of our pre-referendum toolbox as we continue focus on engaging taxpayers and other stakeholders to deliver capital improvement projects that are truly community-driven.