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Campaign Fundraising Ideas

Often, people will look for campaign fundraising ideas online. A better approach is to understand and implement best practices while avoiding mistakes. Here’s a quick distillation of key concepts that can help start your campaign off right and keep it on the right track. 

Is Campaign Fundraising Important? Fundraising is the water that makes your grassroots grow. Grassroots campaigns without adequate funding can quickly find that they’ve failed to realize their true potential. While voter contact mechanisms such as canvassing, phone banking, and social media engagement are low cost and rely largely on volunteer efforts, campaigns still incur expenses related to these undertakings along with start-up-costs in printed collateral, websites, and later with office infrastructure such as phones, rent, utilities, food for volunteers, fuel, etc. as the campaign matures. Candidates with races that target large numbers of potential voters will find that direct contact efforts alone will not make them sufficiently competitive to win on Election Night, and may have to employ direct mail, radio, online, and perhaps even television advertising in order to build adequate awareness about their campaigns. All other things being equal, the candidate who has more money will often win the day, and we all know of underfunded candidates who lost but were the better person for the job.

How Much Money Do I Need? Determining your fundraising budget is not a matter of guessing or relying on historical figures from past races. You must define what voter universe you are targeting (number and type of voters), through what contact mechanisms you will target them (canvassing, phone banking, radio, TV), how many contacts you must make through each medium (how many knocks, calls, and ads it will take to make an impression), and what kind of overhead you’ll incur to effectively and efficiently get the job done (office rent, phone, utilities, paid staff, etc.). Start at Election Day and work backward, determining what money must be raised in order to be expended in what time period. Also, remember that your fundraising budget does not exists in a vacuum, but rather must be increased in order to at least achieve parity, or better yet surpass, that that of your opponent.

How Do I Get Started Raising Money for My Campaign? First, know exactly who you are, why you are running, what you believe, what makes you different than your competition, why you can win, and how potential donors can help you. These are the questions on every donor’s mind, so be able to answer them before you ask for the first nickel. Create a Candidate Fact Sheet with details about your candidacy that answer the questions above along with a simple Contribution Form that collects all the donor data that your campaign needs and is required by law. You can fill the Contribution Form out when asking in person, or mail it to follow up on phone solicitations.

Who Do I Ask for Money? Sit down with a legal pad and list all of your spheres of influence. Examples would be family, friends, business associates, fellow employees, former classmates, members of organizations you belong to, and acquaintances. In a spreadsheet, list out how much you feel you could reasonably expect them to give, and ask them for that amount. The second group of individuals you will approach are those who historically give large amounts to campaigns in your area. You can find out this information in publically disclosed state, local, and federal election commission documents. Also, think of the individuals who might side with you because of what they stand to gain, shared ideology, or their opposition to your opponent. These last two sets of individuals will take longer to cultivate, so start early.

Cultivation of donors cannot be rushed. The earlier you begin the more money you stand to raise. Spend your time cultivating your largest donors first and then work your way down the ladder. When you are asking for money, know how much you feel an individual cab give based on your research. Always ask for more than you feel the individual can afford. In fundraising, if you leave money on the table, it may be hard to pick it up later.

Why Do Donors Give to Campaigns? Donors give because of personal relationships with the candidate, passion for shared ideology, access to the candidate, opposition to your opponent, peer pressure, and for the social interaction campaign involvement can bring. But, the biggest reason donors give is because they were personally asked by the candidate or someone they respect on the candidate’s behalf.

What Mechanisms Should I Use to Raise Campaign Money? You should ask for campaign contributions through the following methods listed by descending importance: personal visits, personal phone calls, formal and informal events, email solicitations and social media, and direct mail. Most donors will want to hear directly from the candidate for state and local races. The larger your race is the more money you will likely raise from mass marketing efforts, such as letters, email, and social media, but these methods are only supplements to direct calls, visits, and events which will produce the lion’s share of your revenue.

How Do I Meet My Campaign Fundraising Goals? Plot activities on your campaign calendar that will force you to focus your efforts and create artificial deadlines. Here’s an example to consider. If you know you must raise $10,000 in a particular month, place one campaign reception on the calendar for $5,000 to target high-end donors, a BBQ for $1,500 to target mid-small sized donors, a candidate call-a-thon for $2,000, personal visits for $1,000, and an email/letter campaign for $500 to get you to your total.

You cannot control how much money you raise on any given day or week, but you are completely in control of the activities or actions your campaign will execute. Instead of setting goals like, “Raise $250 per day in the month of July,” break down your goals into something manageable and measurable. Here’s an example: Our campaign will make twenty fundraising calls per day, schedule one fundraising visit per day, add five people to the database per day by getting potential donor referrals, and send out two PAC packets per week. Put these goals on a checklist for each week and make sure they are accomplished. Set aside a specific time each day when you will commit your efforts solely to fundraising and do not allow for any distractions or more enticing campaign activities to ensnare your attention. If you create and execute measurable inputs you will have measurable outputs in campaign revenue.

What Are Some Common Campaign Fundraising Mistakes?

1) Distraction. Do not let activities such as speaking at Rotary Club, attending luncheons, reviewing proposals, or doing campaign research online distract you from your fundraising efforts. There will always be something more fun to do on a campaign than raising money, but there is little else more important. So, get the hard work of raising money done first, and then reward yourself by engaging in the more exciting aspects of campaigning.

2) Excessive Expense. You want to spend the vast majority of your money on voter contact. Keep fundraising expense and logistics simple and affordable. Events are for raising money for voter contact, not for entertaining guests or the excitement of planning a party.

3) Disorganization. Have a clean, organized space devoted to conducting your fundraising efforts. Have file trays, manila folders, stationary, dry erase boards, and fundraising tools on hand. Use an affordable campaign fundraising software program to manage your donor database. You will make hundreds or even thousands of fundraising contacts during your campaign. If you do not have a deliberate protocol for capturing data, logging contributions, following up on pledges, writing thank you notes, segmenting donors, and measuring an event’s effectiveness, your campaign can quickly get overwhelmed by fundraising minutia and lose much of its effectiveness and momentum. Develop a system and use it without fail.

4) Call Reluctance. The majority of candidates have a genuine fear of asking for money. Remember that you’re not asking for your personal benefit, but that you are asking them to make an investment so that your shared values can be used to guide the government that serves your potential donor.

5) Procrastination. Fundraising is the one element of running a campaign that cannot be expedited. Building relationships and gaining trust takes time. The earlier you start the process the more people you can reach, and you will raise more money per person which translates into a larger campaign budget for your efforts.

I hope you have found these tips to be helpful. Now go out and raise some money!

Brandon Lewis, Owner/Founder – www.MyCampaignTreasurer.com

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