10 Tips for Successfully Raising Money in a Political Campaign
Since President Barack Obama’s election victory, many people have been inspired to run for public office. One reason for this new found interest in politics is that candidate Obama overcame what is arguably the most difficult aspect of campaigning – fund-raising. Prior to Barack Obama’s campaign, it was a widely accepted conclusion in political circles that a candidate could not raise enough money to be competitive from small donors. In addition, the prevailing wisdom was that in order to raise the big money needed to win elections, the candidate needed name recognition in order to reach large donors. Post Obama, the paradigm has shifted. We now know that with the right plan and message, anyone can run and win an election.
In this article, I will provide you with a basic foundation for raising money in a political campaign. These tips will help you get your campaign started and avoid the mistakes that most first time candidates make when they begin fund-raising.
Have a plan. You must design a fund-raising plan which includes identifiable goals and incremental benchmarks. Your fund-raising goals should be aligned with the overall dollar amount needed to fund your campaign. You can find an example of a fund-raising plan at my blog, www.spatterblog.com.
Raise money from your friends and family FIRST. The money you receive from your friends and family will be your seed money. You’ll use it to cover essential campaign start up costs during the infancy stage of your campaign.
Create a call-list. If you’re running for office, you should have a mental list of people inside and outside your circle who you will be soliciting for campaign donations. Put that mental list on paper and have someone on your campaign staff add names to the list daily. A sample call list can be found at my blog, www.spatterblog.com
Always use a call sheet when calling potential donors. A call sheet is a template which allows you to input the donor’s contribution history, talking points, and hopefully, contribution commitments. When calling a potential donor, you’ll need to connect with the donor on an issue he or she cares about. The talking points section allows you to hit those points during the conversation. For example, if the donor cares deeply about animal rights, you will want to discuss your support for animal rights legislation during the call.
Follow-Up. If you recall from tip #4, the call sheet contains a space allocation for contribution commitments. If the donor makes a financial commitment over the phone, ask the donor whether he or she will be mailing a check or making an online payment. You should encourage the donor to make an online payment because it is quicker to process and you will have access to the money almost immediately. Whereas with a check, you will be forced to allow time for the check to clear your account. However, both payment options require that you make a follow-up call to the donor if you do not receive the promised contribution. I would allow two weeks for checks mailed from out of state, one week for checks mailed in state, and 3 days for online payments. You should set aside an hour each week to make reminder calls to your contributors if you chave not received the campaign contribution within the allotted time frame.
Be first. Early bird gets the worm where political fund raising is concerned. You must be the one to make the first initial contact with your donors, not your opponent. Compile your contact list before you even announce your campaign and hit the ground running.
Don’t be shy. Many candidates are too proud to ask for campaign contributions over, and over, and over. However, there is really no way around it.
Tell People what their money is being used to buy. For example, if your campaign needs 1000 yard signs, ask a donor to commit to purchasing 25 yard signs for a 0 contribution. If donors know where their money is going, they’re more likely to give.
Get the big endorsements early. Everyone loves a winner and everyone loves to help a winner. The more big endorsements you have, the more you look like the winner and the easier it is for you to raise money. So make sure you go after editorial, organization, and individual endorsements early in your campaign so as not to allow your competition to gain momentum.
Make the calls yourself. No matter how old or rich you are, it still makes you feel important to hear from the candidate directly as opposed to a member of his or her staff. So set aside time each week to make fund-raising calls in person. Don’t just pawn it off to your staff.
Yvette Carnell is a political consultant and editor of www.spatterblog.com. She is a former Hill Staffer and member of The American Association of Political Scientists and The American Association of Political Consultants.