Three Keys to Successful Political Fundraising

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Fundraising plays a very important part in getting a candidate elected into public office. Political campaigns and events are critical for raising awareness among voters, and often take large sums of money. Therefore, political fundraising is very important to a candidate’s success. These 3 keys will help ensure that your candidate is well known, and that your political fundraising events are a success.

Key #1: Raise Awareness

Public awareness is the first essential key to successful political fundraising. After all, people won’t donate to a candidate unless they know not only “who” the candidate is, but details about their background, education, beliefs, etc. So what’s the best method of making people aware of your candidate and of your fundraising efforts?

Raise Awareness through Technology

When it comes to building awareness, the latest technology is your best friend. Social media and the internet allow you to reach a large number of people quickly and effectively. These methods are often less expensive than more traditional media like television or newspaper ads, so they are great for when your campaign is just starting out.

Start by building pages and accounts on social media for your candidate. Find out what your target audience uses the most – it might be Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram. Create pages and profiles on the best networks, and use these accounts as platforms to get the word out. Use social media to open dialogue with local business, voters, and others who can assist in spreading the word.

Set up a custom fundraising website where people can come to learn about your candidate and why they are running for office. This is also a great place to process and receive donations from supports. A website like this is often very easy to setup, and can more than pay for itself in the long run. Offering an easy, simple, secure way for people to donate can really help your fundraising efforts – both online and offline.

Microtargeting

When it comes to successful political fundraising, microtargeting is one of the latest and greatest methods. Microtargeting is based on a technique called data mining – combing through collected personal data to extract what’s useful to your campaign. The data is then used to microtarget specific people, with tailored messaging that can really help to get their attention. For example, an unemployed dock worker might receive a message about how your candidate supports the local construction industry, while a mom of 4 might receive messaging about how education or family care is important. These customized messages really help to catch people’s attention, and improves the chance these people will support your campaign as your message is something that speaks to their specific values and concerns.

Traditional Media

While social media and the internet offer a lot of potential for building awareness, don’t discount the effectiveness of more traditional media. TV advertising, while it can be expensive, is a great way to bring your candidate into the public eye. Billboards, leaflets, and direct mailings are other traditional methods to draw attention. Place lawn signs on highly trafficked areas and roads to get people used to seeing your candidate’s name.

Key #2: Host Political Fundraising Events & Get Involved Locally

Once people are aware of your candidate and your campaign, it’s time to start getting involved locally and hosting events. Both of these methods are wonderful ways to build even more awareness, and will often even attract local journalists which results in more PR and free advertising.

Get Involved

Getting involved in local movements and events is a wonderful way to build awareness for your candidate and to potentially gain free advertising. Look for events that your candidate can attend, like a clean-up day at a local park, or the opening of a new local business. Often times, journalists and local news crews will already be at these events to cover the story, and may give your candidate the chance to be interviewed or mentioned on TV or in the newspaper. Post your candidate’s schedule and which events you’ll be attending online and on social media as well as your fundraising website.

Host Events

There are many people who may not respond or donate because of advertising or a direct mailer, but will be happy to donate for the chance to attend a party or a dinner. Hosting major fundraising events like formal dinners is a very effective way to target high level donors and raise a large amount of funds. Send out invitations at least 4 weeks in advance, with clear instructions on attire and venue. Low, medium, and high donation levels should be available for guests to select, with what’s included at each level. For example, a high level donor might attend the dinner and have access to a VIP party afterward. Allowing for these distinctions helps keep donors happy and able to contribute to a successful fundraiser. Learn more about fundraising event ideas.

Key #3: Stay Connected

Staying connected is the last key that is absolutely critical to your political fundraising success. Thank each and every donor promptly for their contribution. For higher level donors, a personal hand-written thank you note from your candidate can be very effective. It lets donors know that they are appreciated, and that you truly care about them and their involvement in your campaign.

Remember that you will often ask for donations multiple times throughout your campaign, so make sure first-time donors feel appreciated and acknowledged. This will make re-solicitation much more effective. You may even want to call some donors out by name, especially if it’s a local business or someone who’s well known. Thank them with a note, as well as publicly on your website and on social media.

 

Guest post provided by DoJiggy – a company that’s been helping nonprofit and community organization achieve success in their fundraising efforts by utilizing affordable, easy-to-use online fundraising software solutions. DoJiggy.com / @DoJiggy

Campaign Budgeting 101 – Fundraising

True or False:

You have to spend money to make money.

False!  Well, sometimes it helps, but it’s certainly not mandatory, especially in the beginning.  The amount of money you set aside for fundraising purposes will largely depend on how you plan to fundraise.  Many candidates hear about $1,000 plate dinner fundraisers and get it in their heads that this is a ‘normal’ way to fundraise.  Not at all, my friend, not at all!  Here are some typical fundraising methods real, down-to-earth, local candidates use:

  • Sending a fundraising letter to friends, family and potential donors
  • Calling people who’ve donated generously to candidates in the past and asking them to contribute to you as well
  • Asking people for money in person (specifically people who can afford to give $500+ to start with)
  • Hosting an event and charging people to come to it
  • Accepting donations online
There are about as many ways to fundraise as there are candidates running for office.  Creativity is a very useful talent in this category, because you’re going to have to think up some creative ways to fundraise without spending a small fortune on a ‘traditional’ fundraiser.

Here are some of the things you’ll need to spend money on under the ‘fundraising’ category:

  • Stationary, envelopes and thank you notes (this could be considered an administrative cost instead)
  • Postage
  • Event invitations
  • Food
  • Venue rental
  • Transportation, in the case you have a meeting with a PAC Director considering donating
  • Admission to GOP networking events where you intend to meet potential donors

As you can see, the real spending doesn’t happen unless you decide to hold a formal event, and even in that case, there are plenty of ways to cut costs.  The goal of fundraising is to bring money in, not send it out, so remember that when you’re planning your fundraisers and make sure you’ll getting the most bang for your buck. However, budget yourself a realistic amount – the last thing you want to do is give yourself such a tight fundraising budget you can’t actually raise any funds.

Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly how much to budget for fundraising – after all, a great deal of that will be determined by your fundraising goals.  I can tell you that raising $100,000 doesn’t have to cost that much more than raising $10,000.  I can not stress enough that the bulk of the money you raise will come from sitting down with donors and asking them for money.  And it costs zero dollars to do that.  The difference between a $100,000 goal and a $10,000 goal is not how much money you spend on a fundraising event, but rather the people you ask for money and how much you ask them for.

So what are the steps to developing the Fundraising section of your budget?

  1. Research potential donors through your state’s online campaign finance directories and with the help of former candidates’ lists.
  2. Compile a list of potential donors, including friends and family, complete with name, address, phone number, notes on how much they’ve donated in the past and what you intend to ask them for.
  3. Compile a list of PACs that may donate to your campaign and research their requirements.
  4. Estimate the costs of sending an initial introductory fundraising letter – include paper, printing, envelopes, postage, etc.  I recommend doing this by hand – your list will likely be somewhere between 50 and 200 addresses.
  5. Set tentative dates for fundraisers – front load them into the schedule if possible to save room for grassroots/GOTV efforts closer to election day.
  6. Estimate the costs of venue rental and food based on a ‘typical’ number of attendees – you’ll need to talk to former candidates and local GOP leaders to get a rough idea.
  7. List all your potential costs and total them up.  Then start looking for ways to save money.

How do you save money on throwing a real fundraising event?  Here are a few examples I’ve used in the past – bear in mind these are mostly for city council up to state representative level campaigns:

  • Have a relative/friend/supporter throw a backyard barbecue and charge $25-50 per person to attend.  The buns and burgers are a small in-kind donation from the host, so be sure to note it in your campaign finance paperwork.
  • Have a supporter who owns a restaurant?  I’ve been lucky enough on a couple of occasions – they’ll often provide the space and food (note the in-kind donation!) during non-rush hours.  Depending on the venue, you could charge anywhere from $20 to $200 for the event.
  • Host your fundraiser at GOP Headquarters if it’s relatively nice.  They’ll probably let you use the space for free.
  • There are often big supporters who can’t shell out tons o’ cash in donations, but have spaces that would be perfect for themed fundraisers, such as:
    • Pro-2nd Amendment party at the gun range.  It’s wise not to have an open bar at this one!
    • Pro-life rallies at church facilities
    • Pro-Israel rallies at synagogue facilities
    • Barn dances in districts with lots of farmers (my favorite districts!)
And here are just a couple of bonus tips for you:
  • A good rule of thumb about fundraising event admission: Charge at least 2 times and no more than 5 times the cost of a regular meal at the venue.  So if your fundraiser is at McDonalds, charge $10-25 to attend; if it’s at Ruth Chris Steak House, charge $150-$375.
  • Make sure your donors are aware of any limitations to how much they can contribute – the last thing you want to do is return a check because it’s over the legal limit you can accept from an individual.  If a donor has already reached a federal or state mandated maximum, you should let them come to any event for free – usually they’ll bring paying friends!
  • Dress to impress, but don’t always make your supporters.  Black tie fundraisers are, eh, okay I guess, but the boot-scootin’ kind are way more fun, and cheaper to pull off, too.

How to Run for Congress – How to Raise Campaign Cash

run for congress how to raise campaign cash
  1. Read Ten Quick Tips for Effective Fundraising and Ten Things You Need to Know about Campaign Fundraising.
  2. Write a list of all the people you know – from family members to business acquaintances.
  3. Go to OpenSecrets.org, and your state’s campaign finance regulatory website and pull down lists of donors from within the past couple election cycles to former Republican candidates within your district, especially those who donated to previous campaigns for your particular seat.
  4. Organize this list in excel and include columns that list
    1. Total donation amount
    2. Type of campaign donated to
    3. Address
    4. Phone
    5. Email (if there is one)
    6. Occupation (this is usually listed)
    7. Anything else there’s even a chance of you needing in the future
  5. Write an introductory “Hey I’m running for office, give me money!” type letter, and send it to your personal list and donors over $XXX amount (it’s your call, because average donation sizes vary dramatically).
  6. A week or two after the letter has dropped, call up donors and set up meetings to discuss their support of your campaign, starting with the biggest/richest donors.
    WARNING: Be sure you have a professional-quality written campaign plan before meeting with high-dollar donors, lest you look like an amateur with no plan.
  7. Ask them to write you a check for $XXXX dollars at the meeting.  Be sure to ask for more than you think they’d give, but not something well outside of reason.  Tell them you will follow up with them.
  8. Never stop calling and meeting with high-dollar donors.  This should be something you do almost daily.
  9. If they don’t give you a check at the meeting, call one week later to follow up and ask for the donation again.  If they did give you a check, follow up to say thank you and invite them to your first fundraising event.
  10. Always send thank you notes for donations.  Send thank you notes for meetings with no donation, asking again for the donation.
  11. Plan, organize and put on a fundraising event.  Doesn’t really matter what kind or what theme, so long as people show up and pay.
  12. Repeat steps 5-11 throughout the entire campaign, all the way to election day.