Fundraising is without a doubt one of the essential elements of running a successful political campaign.
Even in the digital age of inexpensive Facebook ads and practically free mass email sends, winning an election takes a fair amount of money.
Your campaign needs money to send mail, buy yard signs, and to pay for any campaign staff you might require.
Even though that’s all true, fundraising is a daunting task known to frighten or stress out many good candidates.
Sometimes, a good person who has good ideas to make the community better will decide against running for office because the thought of raising money is overwhelming.
Don’t let that be you!
In 2007, my former business partner and I ran a city council campaign for a business owner in Riverside, California named Chris Mac Arthur.
While Chris was an accomplished entrepreneur with an interest in politics, he’d never ran for elected office.
He didn’t have any experience in political campaign fundraising nor did he have an established network of donors.
But Chris Mac Arthur was (and is) a hard worker.
He followed our advice and put his nose to the fundraising grindstone.
In both the June Primary Election and the November Runoff Election that year, Chris met his fundraising goals which enabled him get his message out to the voters
Coupled with his inexhaustible ability to walk precincts, Chris’s fundraising helped propel him to victory in both elections.
That first time, inexperienced candidate did what you need to do:
He did what it took to get elected.
In December, Chris Mac Arthur is completed his third term on the Riverside City Council and retired back into private life.
He leaves office with a solid record of accomplishment and having made history in his home town.
Chris was re-elected to the Riverside City Council in both 2011 and 2015 without any opposition — the only time that had ever happened twice in Riverside, California.
His tenacity on the campaign trail and serious fundraising abilities probably had a lot to do with that.
Chris Mac Arthur graciously provided the following advice to candidates as they embark upon their fundraising journey:
Take Potential Donors out for coffee.
It is critical that you meet them in person.
A potential donor is more likely to contribute if they meet you and develop a like and trust for you.
Sell them on your message and how you are going to work to win the election.
At the end of you face to face meeting, make sure to hand them a fundraising invitation.
This is your “ask.”
(Brian’s Note: It’s also important to ask for a specific dollar amount. You can read more about that here.)
Make sure to follow-up again, by phone or in person, before your fundraising event.
A potential donor is more likely to contribute and continue to give you money, once you are elected, if they see you as a “real person,” wanting to serve and not just another politician, looking to climb the political ladder.
Make sure to call your fundraising list of potential donors or repeat donors, 2-3 weeks before your event.
Set aside 2-3 hours on 2-3 days, until you call every name on your list.
Get a big cup of coffee or water, strap yourself in, put you head down and start dialing.
This allows you to “work” your list in “bite size” sections. This will help you to not feel overwhelmed by the task.
The best time to make fundraising calls is between 2-4 in the afternoon, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
(Brian’s Note: This has worked for Chris and many other candidates, however a recent research shows that mornings are the best time to get people to say “yes” to requests.)
Monday is not a good day for most business people. They are dealing with issues/problems that may have occurred over the weekend.
Thursday is a “getaway day.” A lot of business owners take Friday off.
Fundraising is not hard if you work to build relationships with your supportive donors.
Make sure to always send a hand written, thank you note, after you receive a donation, after a fundraising event.
Stay humble and realize that the more dollars you raise as a candidate or elected official, the less dollars you are going to have to pull out of your own wallet to fund your campaign efforts.
Fundraising is necessary to win your campaign.
Don’t be afraid to make fundraising phone calls or ask people for money.
Set aside time to dial for dollars and meet up with donors.
In other words, follow Councilmember Chris Mac Arthur’s advice and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.