How Fundraising Events Can Kill Campaigns

Warning:  Fundraising events can kill campaigns.

Listen, these events definitely have their place in any campaign, but as a  campaign professional, I generally don’t encourage campaigns to host too many.  Here’s why.

Fundraising events cost money.

This is one of my big problems with fundraising events. They always cost a lot of money.

Invitations cost money. Mailing inventions cost money. You’ve got to have food and that costs money as well.

Venues cost money. And most restaurants or halls require that you buy their food, their booze, and spend a minimum amount.

This is likely on top of the actual cost of the venue. Many even require that you use their staff and pay a fee on that.

If the event is at a home there are still costs for food, invites, maybe even paying for a server, bartender, music, parking, etc.

Fundraising can be a huge financial pit.

It is always amazing to me how many candidates really want to have fundraising events and see it as the only way to raise money.

But I can’t count how many fundraising events I have been to that obviously cost a lot of money for food, the venue, the beverages and so on that few people showed up to.

Many fundraising events might be well attended, but the cost of hosting them is so high that the profit margin is dramatically diminished.

Fundraising events cost candidates time and energy and take away from voter contact.

When campaigns spend time organizing events they are not spending time reaching voters.

Events are stressful and tiring for candidates and staff.

If you and your staff spend time and energy deciding on an event menu, ordering food, organizing a playlist and interview DJ’s they are not reaching voters.

That is wasted energy that will not get you one vote.

Fundraising is not fun and is a major headache for most candidates and their campaigns.  So make fundraising as easy as possible.  Just go to the people that give money and ask them for money.

Most campaigns will generally want to host one event or have one hosted for them.

What if a supporter wants to host a fundraising event for you?

Great, let them host the event, let them organize and manage the event, let them pay for all the costs.

As for your involvement, you give them a list of do’s and don’t  – items such as venue, groups, attendees, and messaging that you are not comfortable with.

You show up to the event and you send a thank you card to any donor.

I have seen many well-meaning supporters that want to host events for candidates.

In the end, the event is all about the host and costs the campaign time and money.

Or, some hosts that are totally well-meaning and supportive of the candidate doesn’t really have the skills, resources or time to pull an event off.

If you have a professional fundraiser let them evaluate the merits of any event proposal.

I always wonder at these events,”Would it be better if the host just wrote a check for the amount the event cost and gave that to the campaign?”

For sure, there is a level of  cache when it comes to certain people hosting an event.

The host may be able to reach out to a community that you don’t know?

If somebody offers to host an event for you always ask these questions:

  • What is the event going to cost me?
  • If hosted, how much is the host spending on the event and could they just write a check instead for the amount?
  • Is the host tied into people in the community that I have not been able to connect with?
  • Who will the host commit to bringing to the event?
  • Are the people coming to the event people that I could just simply get on the phone or meet in a coffee shop and ask for money?
  • How much money does the host think they will raise?
  • Will the host commit to making up the difference at the end of the night?

The Best Fundraising Events I have seen.

The best fundraising events I have seen are with a half dozen potential donors – a few more – maybe up to a dozen- or it can be just a few people.

These should be people that are involved in local politics for one reason or another, write checks, and if they like you can find other people to write checks.

You get together for lunch or in a small conference room at a hotel or restaurant or even at someone’s house or office.

The candidate makes their pitch, answers questions, builds relationships and get contributions.

These don’t cost a lot, don’t take a lot of time, and generally pay off big time.

A final word on fundraising events.

As a candidate, you must be very protective of your time and money.

Everyone loves a party but steer clear of the extravagant gala and committing your campaign’s time and energy from planning and hosting large fundraising events as much as possible.

And if you are dead-set on having a large fundraising event, cheap and simple is the rule.

I have been to fundraising events for Presidential candidates where the food would make meals at the local greasy spoon seem like a five-star affair.

Don’t hire entertainment. Get it for free or close to it or just don’t have it.

It can’t be said too many times. Keep any event cheap and simple.

For sure this article is a little negative.  And that is not the point of it.

The point of this article is about you being successful as a candidate and not throwing away valuable time and money. Campaigns are about communicating with the voters and anything that gets in the way of that in no good for you

Campaigns are about communicating with the voters and anything that gets in the way of that in no good for you

Always keep in mind that you, the candidate, or the campaign manager, must have the proper insight for making sound judgments regarding the two most important assets your campaign has at its disposal – time and money.

Take a walk through Back of the Envelope Fundraising.

The lessons in Back of the Envelope Fundraising can be used throughout your run for office and keep you from killing your campaign.