At SpeakEasy, we know that there are no such things as “off years” in elections. Any given Tuesday could hold significant implications for local communities. This is especially true for the thousands of candidates and campaign operatives working around the clock in advance of our elections this fall. In our
Pathway to Victory: Raising Money
Having a strong fundraising presence is essential for a successful campaign, but it’s often the most dreaded part. We know you want to have the financial backing to drive your campaign across the finish line and by following the steps outlined below, you can do so without too much stress.
Keep reading for a few of the tips you’ll find in 101 Steps to Victory: A How-To Guide for First-Time Political Candidates. This free e-book outlines the 101 most important things a first-time candidate needs to know to keep their campaign on the path to victory. And check back with the SpeakEasier blog in the days and weeks ahead for more of our 101 Steps to Victory.
Get ready to open your campaign bank account — properly — and link your website to an e-commerce service.
This will take from a day to a week, depending on whom you are dealing with and what could go wrong. Many jurisdictions have a series of steps you must take to do this legally. Get the guides and go over them with your treasurer. You need to prepare now to give yourself time to get it right before you launch.
Determine your campaign budget, expected expenses, necessary expenditures, etc.
This is helpful when done in conjunction with your campaign plan (more on that later) but it’s really important that you are able to see the costs that are coming down the pipeline — this is especially helpful as fundraising motivation.
Write a fundraising plan.
Here is the basic fundraising plan every successful candidate uses. Say you need to raise $50,000 to be successful. Make an initial roadmap that looks something like this:
100 contributions of $500 = $50,000
250 contributions of $250 = $50,000
500 contributions x $100 = $50,000
1,000 contributions x $50 = $50,000
2,000 contributions x $25 = $50,000
Notice how all the categories add up to your goal? That’s because there are lots of ways to break down even a big goal. You should take this grid and fill it in with everyone you know, putting them into one of the categories. Don’t take these amounts as fixed. If you know people who can give $5,000 and this is allowed — have a higher category.
Try and put as many people as possible into the higher categories — that will mean fewer calls you need to make. Don’t know how much they can give? Better to ask for too much than too little. If you have time, the giving history of people is usually public record. If they gave $500 to the last school board race they probably can give at least that to you. But apply some intuition here.
A basic plan will also include a schedule of regular appeals via email. Perhaps you might want to send a snail-mail appeal, but these days that is not always necessary. In a typical year you will also probably want to schedule a few in-person fundraising events. This year, you can move these online. An initial kick-off — and then maybe a few more around key events (like a campaign finance deadline). But remember, keep costs low.
Try and recruit some help here if possible. Do you know five or six people who can be a finance committee? They can help in a couple of ways — first, they can ask their friends for donations. But they can also provide you lists of people to ask — since you might not know enough people now to get to your goal.
Want to know the secret to success here? It is simple. Ask everyone. Sincerely thank everyone who gives. Ask friends for lists to call. Don’t ask for too little. Make regular email appeals focused on specific goals or needs: “Can you give us $50 now so we can print our next important mailer?” But most of all — don’t give up. Stay positive, keep asking and you will get there.
Having trouble asking people for money?
Self-funders frequently don’t do very well. Why? Because when you ask people to give to your cause, you are creating a list of supporters who are invested personally in your success. These donors help recruit other donors, they spread the word about you on social media, they invite you to community events they know about and introduce you to friends and colleagues.
It’s also important to keep in mind the people you’re asking for money aren’t just giving to you as an individual, they are giving to the platform and policies that you are advocating for. A lot of people want their kids to have smaller class sizes, but not a lot of people have the courage to do what you’re doing by running for office. You have shared values, and for those values to succeed, it takes teamwork. Some people run, some people donate — now, go ask them for it.
Learn it, love it, embrace it. If you’re not familiar with it, you will be: Call time is the dedicated time on your schedule to call donors and ask for money. Our experience proves that rigid, structured, well prepped call time ensures a candidate’s success when it comes to dialing for dollars. For a successful call time session, we recommend the following:
1. Set yourself up in a room alone, or with a staffer or volunteer with fundraising experience to take notes.
2. Set a finite amount of time for your calls and don’t let anything that is not a family emergency interrupt you. If your call time is from 6:00 – 8:30 on Thursday night, you need to ignore every text message, email and phone call that is not directly related to the calls that you are making. (The plus side of this is that you can count down the time until it’s over.)
3. In order to make that block of time most efficient, prep your calls beforehand. Know who you are calling, what their numbers are and have an idea of how much you should ask for right in front of you, as well as a system for taking notes. Are they able to give $100 now and $100 in a month? Great — you need to write it down and record it in your fundraising database so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
A lot of candidates we work with reward themselves after their call time block. For some, this is a glass of wine. For others, it’s a bowl of ice-cream or the latest Game of Thrones episode. Whatever it is, have something to motivate you through those calls. You deserve it.
PRO TIP: Do you know people who currently serve in elected office? If they offer to support your campaign, ask them if they will join you for a session of call-time — with their call lists. This exercise allows you to be personally introduced to a host of known donors who already give to someone who clearly is supporting you. It’s a great way to get some dollars in the door.
Looking for more information about what it takes to run for office? Download our e-book designed to walk candidates through the process of running – and winning – their first political campaign. And be sure to check out more from our Pathway to Victory series!
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