One of the primary qualifications that you are certifiably crazy for deciding to run for public office is you now have to spend your hard earned money and ask friends, family and strangers for money so you can run for political office.
Make no mistake, even if you don’t put in $1,000, you are still spending your hard earned money. Whether that is gas, time from work, meals with supporters, etcetera, you will have skin in the game.
That being said, you are running. Whether you are nuts, glutton for punishment or care more about your community and country then the sacrifice donors and you are going to make, you cannot win without raising money.
Think of a campaign as a small business – a start up. You have a product (you) that supposedly can make people’s lives better (your agenda). You need to raise capital (campaign contributions) so voters (consumers) can get to now you (the product) and your benefits (platform/agenda).
So here are some simple tips that if followed, will help you raise money:
1. Why Are You Running? If you can’t answer that question in 60 seconds or less (elevator pitch), why will anyone want to donate to your campaign? Why would your better half, significant other or family support you? Don’t even think about filing or asking for money until you know why you are running for political office.
2. Personal Donation. Are you going to put money into your campaign? Will you make the first contribution? Potential donors want to know you have skin in the game. Why will they be expected to give when they know you haven’t donated anything? If you are not wealthy, tell them what you are going to donate regarding time, gas money, etc. They need to know your sacrifice. For example, I had a friend who ran for office who spent over $2,000 in gas money when he ran for office. That didn’t show up on disclosure forms, but it is still real money. Final note; whatever money you put into the campaign, make sure you can lose it. It is like gambling in Vegas, do not bet what you can not afford to lose.
3. The List! Anyone running for political office should not proceed unless they can make a list of family, friends, associates and business colleagues they feel comfortable asking for their money first. For example, if you are running for state legislature, you should be able to compile a list of 30-50 people who can give, $250, $500, $1,000 or more to your campaign. First money is truly the most important money. If you can’t do that, you may need to reconsider running. You can use your rolodex, iPhone, business cards … even your Christmas card list. If you can not ask family and friends to help, do not run.
4. Small Donors. Social media and email have done a lot to change the scope of campaigning and raising money, but a mistake people often make is that if they put up a donor page on their website or do an email blast, they think money will miraculously appear. This is a fairy tale. To raise money online you need to NAME ID and MESSAGE. Again, why are you running? Your message has to hit an issue that is important, creates passion and strikes a chord with potential donors. Also, raising money with direct mail and via emails is not cheap. Most never turn a profit.
5. Phones Calls. If you are not willing to spend a minimum of an hour a day making fundraising calls, you either need to readjust your campaign budget or not run. You have heard the old saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Same applies to political donations. It is a grind. One you have to be willing to pay the price to be successful.
6. Candidate Fundraising Responsibility. You, the candidate, will always be the NUMBER ONE fundraiser. Yes, you can hire a fundraiser. And yes they can open doors for you, but you have to close the sale. You, today and always, will be the reason they give money.
7. Staff and Family. While you are the NUMBER ONE fundraiser, this is a team effort. Family, staff, friends, business associates, etc. should all take up the mantle and help raise money and make introductions. Family and friends know you best. They can tell your story with sincerity. Make sure you ask for their help. Don’t’ assume they know what they are supposed to do. Note: again, this is why it is important before you decide to run that you have buy-in from family and friends. A team effort is easier then a solo act.
8. Fundraising Network. Build a finance committee of 10-20 people who all agree to donate personally and agree to raise XX amount. They should be willing to call their network, host events for you and recruit other finance committee members. Once you recruit them, stay in touch with them. Give them updates on the campaign, let them know your positions, etc. People who feel involved, stay involved.
9. Thank You Notes. Write real, hand written thank you notes to potential donors you meet and those who donate. Texting and email are distant second option. We live in a society where “speed is king,” and many show their gratitude with a thank you text or email. Nice, but not personal. Sit down and write a hand written thank you. If you don’t understand why this is important, there is not much I can add.
10. Donor Database. Besides your personal lists, have supporters and your fundraising team help develop a target list of potential donors. They need to be worked over and over until they say “no.”
11. Campaign Budget. Your campaign budget should reflect what you can realistically raise. Not what you hope. Don’t approach this with rose colored glasses.
12. Fundraising Never Stops. Fundraising is never beneath you. Now get at it.