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5 Campaign Fundraising Mistakes That Can Derail Your Efforts

When I was growing up, a teacher once told me that succeeding in life is as much a result of not doing the wrong things as it is doing the right things. When it comes to raising money for a political campaign, I would have to say that I agree with that statement.  Here are five common mistakes that I’ve seen repeated again and again by inexperienced candidates.  They are easy to avoid, if you can spot them.

Call Reluctance

I know.  Who likes the idea of picking up the phone and asking someone for money?  It’s hard enough to ask friends and family for even worthy causes such as your church or children’s little league team.  To make it worse, you’re actually asking people to support you and sometimes you may not know the people you are asking all that well.  You envision all the terrible things that can happen and a sense of deep foreboding begins to overwhelm you.

Relax, take a deep breath and repeat this phrase: It’s just a conversation.  Spend most of your time asking questions and getting to know the potential donor.  Begin with an end in mind and toward the end of the conversation tell them who you are, why you’re running, and why you need their support.

Ask for their support and let the silence hang there until you get a yes, or a no.  Calling for contributions is uncomfortable when you begin, but over time it will become routine.  You may have to contact a potential donor several times before the check is in hand.  Hang in there.

Poor Organization

Fundraising is an activity that produces lots and lots of data.  You have names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, notes, contributions, expenditures, papers, and well you get the idea.  If you don’t develop a system for processing all of these inputs, you may find that you are paralyzed by the clutter and chaos you’ve created.

Create a clean environment where you can conduct your fundraising.  Gather lots of folders, file trays, whiteboards, and devote a file on your computer just for keeping up with fundraising data and documents.

Make sure you have good campaign software that is specifically designed for political fundraising and tailored to fit the size and budget of your campaign (visit MyCampaignTreasurer.com for more details).

Whatever you do, don’t let small things such as writing thank you notes, returning phone calls, or entering business cards into your software program pile up.  Small things, left unattended, become big headaches.

Setting Low Expectations

Don’t let people tell you that the economy is down, there are a lot of races to compete with, or that people simply won’t give.  That’s a bunch of malarkey.  Set reasonable stretch goals based on the numbers of calls, events, letters, emails, and other contacts you intend to make.  After a while, you will be able to figure out how many people you must dial before you get a real person, how many people once reached actually give, and what amount on average you are receiving.  Using these numbers, you should be able to determine the amount of work you’ll need to put in to raise the money required to fund your campaign.

Reinventing the Wheel

Political fundraising has been around for a while.  Ask candidates who have done an outstanding job at fundraising how they did it – don’t talk to the underachievers or the mediocre.  Read a campaign fundraising book, research articles from experts, reach out to your state political party for guidance, and engage a campaign fundraising consultant if your budget allows.  There’s nothing new under the sun, so find the knowledge already available and apply it your way.


Einstein said that compound interest was the 8th wonder of the world.  In fundraising, there is parallel to be drawn.  The earlier you start the more donors you will reach and the longer you communicate with them the more you will receive from each donor as you gain their trust.  Many aspects of optimal fundraising cannot be rushed.  So what are you waiting for?  Get started today!

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