One of the most crucial aspects of a winning political campaign is fundraising. It’s also the component that most candidates despise. But if you want to win an election, then you need to learn how to be a good fundraiser. And guess what? It’s a lot easier than you think.
Fundraising is a necessary part of political campaigning because money is the gas that fuels the engine of your campaign. Without cash on hand, you can’t afford to send out mailers, air radio or television advertisements, put out yard signs, run Facebook ads, or even purchase a good website. If you don’t have money in your campaign account, your campaign isn’t going anywhere.
Most people feel a bit slimy when asking people for money. If that’s what’s stopping you from fundraising then please read Paul’s article on how you can fundraise and still feel good about yourself before going any further here.
But please don’t shrug your shoulders and walk away from running for office because you don’t think you can fundraiser. Our communities need leaders, and if you don’t raise the money to get your message out to the voters, it’s not just your chances of election that’ll suffer, it’s your community.
Don’t let fundraising overwhelm you. The amount of money you need to raise may seem pretty big, but don’t let that dissuade you from doing it. And don’t let fundraising overwhelm you by making it too complicated.
Every candidate I’ve ever worked with who succeeded at fundraising, either on their own or with the help of a professional fundraiser, only needed five things to meet their fundraising goals so they could win their election.
1. A List
Fundraising requires a list.
Now don’t freak out because you don’t have a list. You have a list. You probably have multiple lists and don’t even know it.
Your list already exists in your mobile phone’s directory, your email contacts, on Facebook, in LinkedIn, and written down in your old fashioned address book (if you still have one).
That’s where you’ll find the names and contact information of many potential donors.
This technique is known as “Back of the Envelope Fundraising” and is explained extremely well in Paul’s article about jumpstarting your fundraising.
You can also build a potential donor list by pulling the campaign finance reports of other candidates who have ran for office where you are now seeking office. Campaign finance reports going back the last five years or so, will provide you many solid prospects for your list. You may need to go look for additional contact information of these donors, but with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google it’s not an impossible task.
It shouldn’t necessarily a task you need to be doing, but it’s a good one for a volunteer or a staff member to be doing (if you can can afford one).
2. A Pitch
Donors want to hear two things and two things only: Why you’re running and how you’re going to win.
Get your fundraising pitch down pat before you start making calls. Know exactly what you’re going to say and be ready to answer questions. This article provides a more detailed path for putting your pitch together.
Once you know your pitch you must make it as clearly as possible.
You can’t be rambling or incoherent about why you’re in the race and how you plan to win on Election Day. To raise money, you have to come off both knowledgable and confident. This will make a huge difference with your donors and your rate of success in raising money.
3. A Phone
It doesn’t matter if it’s your home phone, your office phone, or your iPhone. You can’t call up potential donors and ask them for money if you don’t have a phone. Pick a phone and use it.
Whatever phone you choose, please make sure it’s a number that 1) you’ll receive return calls on and 2) you’ll make a priority to answer because there’s a good chance someone with money is calling you back.
When you call be sure to ask the potential donor if they are free to talk. Given that a lot of people are primarily using their cell phones today, just because someone answers your call, it doesn’t mean they have time to listen to your fundraising pitch. Ask them if they are free to talk. If they are, get rolling on your pitch. If they’re not, find out when a good time to call would be.
Also, no matter what, under no circumstances are you to ever request a contribution from anyone (whether it’s a family member, a potential donor, or your biggest donor) for money on a text message! It’s not only tasteless, it’s downright offensive and could cost you a donation you would have received had you simply picked up the phone and dialed their number.
4. A Chair
Once you have the first three items, you’re ready to learn the real secret of behind all successful campaign fundraising. You ready for it?
Here it is: Sit down with your list and start making calls. To do so, you’re going to need a chair. Make sure it’s a good one.
You might be sitting there for a while, so select a chair that’s comfortable and that you like. If it’s not a good chair and sitting in it for too long hurts your back or you easily get stiff, then find a chair that works for you.
This may seem like a stupid item for this list, but trust me it’s not. You need a chair you can sit comfortably in for clips of 45 to 50 minutes at a time, for a few hours several days a week.
You’re allowed to get up and move around, use the bathroom, or deal with other business for 10 to 15 minutes of every fundraising hour, but the rest of the time your butt needs to be in that chair making your calls.
5. The Time
You can have all of the other things listed above but if you don’t have the time, none of the others matter.
As a candidate, your time is the most valuable commodity of your campaign. You will be pulled in countless different directions. Some of them will be important, most will not be. Setting aside time for fundraising is vital to your chances of winning.
You need to set aside a few hours mosts day of the week. How many hours and and how many days will be determined by two things: 1) how much you need to raise, and 2) how much you’ve been able to raise.
Once you set your fundraising schedule you must protect the time. No matter what, you must make the time for your fundraising calls sacred.
If you don’t protect your fundraising time, you will quickly fall behind, If you fall behind in fundraising, you won’t reach your fundraising goals. If you don’t meet your goals, you won’t be able to get your message out to the voters. You will likely lose your election.
Don’t let that happen!
Protect your fundraising time, hone your pitch, sit down in your chair, pick up your phone and call your list.
That’s what it takes to raise money on a political campaign and that’s what it takes to win.