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Hiring a Campaign Finance Director
There are few roles as important in your campaign as that of the Finance Director. You will likely spend more time with this individual than any other member of your campaign staff. First, this person will be your earliest hire since your efforts early on will primarily be focused on raising money. Secondly, unlike many grassroots political activities that can be delegated, fundraising requires the direct involvement of the candidate. Your finance director will help facilitate all the activities related to raising money so that your time can be efficiently and effectively focused on communication with donors.
When it comes to hiring a campaign finance director, most campaigns find themselves in one of these three situations:
Small Campaigns – these endeavors may only raise from $5,000 to $100,000 in total receipts. As a result, these campaigns do not find themselves in the position of being able to hire a full-time finance director. Instead, they will often engage a fundraising consultant for an initial consultation, map out a finance strategy, and then execute it to the best of their ability with the limited resources at hand. Sometimes, even hiring a consultant for an initial consultation may be out of their financial grasp as they choose to marshal their money for voter contact and other campaign activities. As an alternative for gathering some fundraising know-how, they may turn to other elected officials or perennial volunteer fundraisers in their community. Also, looking online for blogs or articles about campaign fundraising or looking for books on political fundraising is also a way to bridge the knowledge gap.
Medium Campaigns – these endeavors typically raise between $100,000 and $1 million in receipts. These can be state senate races in urban areas, congressional races in smaller, rural markets, or county wide races in medium-sized markets. Typically, these types of campaigns will hire a fundraising consultant on an hourly or retainer basis and pair them with a less seasoned or less experienced campaign staffer who will be on the ground full-time executing the plans and instructions on a day to day basis that are laid out by the consultant. Often, in campaigns of this size, there will be a campaign manager who may also be saddled with the lion’s share of administering the fundraising game plan in tandem with the candidate. The advantage to this plan is that you get excellent advice and guidance (if you choose a good consultant) but you do not pay for the day to day execution of the plan. The drawback is that in fundraising the devil is so often in the details, so you will likely miss some of the opportunities and raise less money overall than if you had a professional fundraising consultant on the ground full time as your finance director.
Large Campaigns – Large campaigns, especially state-wide efforts such as a race for governor or U.S. Senate, will usually choose to hire a seasoned fundraising consultant who will begin with their campaign very early and stay with them for the duration of their campaign. Most states will only have a handful of fundraisers with institutional knowledge about donors and the politics of the state. These consultants often work for a percentage of the funds raised in a campaign and take ownership of all campaign finance activities. Typically, because of the expertise they posses, the work they must put in to be successful, and the compensation they demand, it is unlikely you will see these individuals in mid-sized campaigns.
The examples above are what I have typically seen play out in campaigns regarding hiring a political fundraising consultant or campaign finance director. That is not to say that there are not anomalies. If a campaign is lucky, they may happen on a person who is rising in their practice and get a great bargain because they are looking for experience. A campaign may even catch a superstar who is between election cycles and needs a challenge or the cash.
I hope this article has helped you gain a better understanding about how most campaigns are organized from a fundraising standpoint. Good luck, and good campaigning.
Brandon Lewis has worked as a political fundraising consultant and staff member for U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, State Senate, State Representative, and local political campaigns. Lewis has also worked in the non-profit arena on projects ranging from capital campaigns to grassroots fundraising. Founder of www.MyCampaignTreasuer.com, Lewis’ web-based fundraising application allows candidates to raise more money for their federal, state, and local campaigns through a simplified, focused approach.
Lewis is also author of How to Raise Money for Political Office; The Original Guide to Winning Elections Through Aggressive, Organized Fundraising. It offers a comprehensive, practical approach on how campaigns can raise more money for their campaigns in an efficient and effective manner.