Virtual Candidate Forum Guide

A candidate forum is a public event where candidates running for office are invited to express their positions on AAUW issues. Whether for a local, state, or federal election, a candidate event is a great way to engage your community around an upcoming election, to build support for the issues that matter to AAUW, and to learn more about the candidates running to represent you. This guide provides easy tips for organizing and executing a successful candidate forum.

  1. Plan ahead for your platform.
  2. Select a format.
  3. Invite the candidates.
  4. Work in a coalition.
  5. Generate an audience.

Plan Ahead

Pick a time and date to host your forum. Avoid religious or government holidays, dates when other community functions are scheduled, and business hours. Select a digital platform that will attract a broad range of community members, including which are most popular in your area.

Select a Format

A candidate forum can take place in many formats. Possibilities include

  • Candidates give prepared remarks, and attendees ask follow-up questions from microphones in the audience.
  • Candidates are asked prepared questions on themes important to AAUW and your community.
  • Candidates are asked questions that the audience submits on index cards. At the end, candidates provide closing statements, with an equal amount of time given to each candidate.

Regardless of your format, you’ll need a moderator to introduce the candidates, start the dialogue, and keep the discussion moving. Ask a well-known, nonpartisan member of your community to serve in this role — she or he will help generate interest in the event and add credibility.

Invite the Candidates

Send an invitation letter to the candidates well before the planned event and follow up with a phone call. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, AAUW must extend an invitation to all major-party candidates in that election. Be flexible; it may take some time to find a date that will work for all the candidates’ schedules. When inviting candidates, send them information on AAUW issues and the AAUW Public Policy Priorities.

Familiarize yourself with AAUW’s Board of Directors’ policies before holding a candidate forum. The policy book includes guidelines that all AAUW states and branches must follow during any election-related events. 

Work in a Coalition

Consider co-organizing your candidate forum with a like-minded organization. Working in coalition allows you to reach more people, increase AAUW membership, and gain additional exposure. The extra hands will help you divide the work so you can plan a bigger event, and you can share networks for better publicity.

Generate an Audience

Spread the word to local AAUW branches and national members in your area via branch Listservs, newsletters, policy chairs, and social media. Send invitations to AAUW college/university partners, coalition members, and other guests.

And last but not least: invite the public! Utilize social media to publicize it, submit an announcement to free community bulletin boards, and share the invitation in newspapers and community cable outlets.

Once you have your candidate forum in mind, email to let us know about your plans!