Fundraising can be time consuming and isn’t always fun. However, without an organized fundraising effort, it’s hard for a campaign to succeed. That’s why we often say, “Everything in a campaign is more important than money, but it all costs money.” With the right strategy, fundraising can be a great way to connect with more voters and achieve your campaign goals. We know many of us have mixed feelings about money, but at the end of the day, this is about people wanting to make our country better and supporting your race is a way they can do that because they cannot run themselves. Wondering how to fundraise most effectively or spice up existing fundraising strategy? The staff here at New Politics came together to share our expertise, and offer you five tips to up your fundraising game.
Be clear about your values. Your values are the foundation of your campaign and your message - they define who you are and why you’re running. Your values are central to your pitch to voters, to how you will recruit and mobilize volunteers, and how you’ll attract donors to your race, so you should do that important values-reflection work before you start running. It may sound simple and obvious, but a surprising number of people run for office without being able to answer, clearly, concisely, and consistently, “Why are you running?” Whether it’s with their vote, their time, or their money, people want to know why they should invest in you. So be clear on what your message, and communicate it with clarity. Put your values at the center of your fundraising pitch, and make sure your staff is on message as well so they are representing you and your campaign to others in an authentic, values-aligned way.
Organize your personal network. You want to start your campaign with a good idea of how to mobilize the members of your existing community. Take the time to sit down and list out all your contacts--friends from high school, your college classmates, your current and past colleagues, those you served with, parents of your kids’ baseball team. Check Facebook, your Gmail Contacts, your iPhone Contacts, LinkedIn, yearbook... Think deeply about how they might be interested in helping your campaign, whether it means donating or knocking on doors. Remember, it’s better to underestimate people’s generosity than overestimate it, so be realistic about how and how much your friends will want to invest in your campaign. Then, call through your list and make your asks! People give to people, so regardless of the type of race, many of your network will give because you are asking and they are supporting you. And, the more organized you are in analyzing your personal network at the onset, the easier you will be able to grow your network exponentially. Think of it this way: your existing network is the base of your fundraising (upside down) pyramid. You need it to be solid to be able to build your subsequent layers.New Politics Tip: When you speak to someone you know, ask them to connect you to two other people they think would be interested in speaking with you.
There’s no silver bullet. We hear a lot about the stories that lead to an outpouring of campaign money -- whether it’s a campaign video that goes viral or a sudden designation as a “top targeted race” that will lead to a lot of money with little effort. But those extraordinary events are the exception, not the norm, and you shouldn’t build a campaign expecting for them to happen. There are no shortcuts, so stay committed to your scheduled call time, because we know that connecting with people individually is effective. The more you put off calls, or delay attending events--the more you’ll have to do later, which takes away from other important campaign priorities and goals. We know: Being on the phone day in and day out asking for money may not feel aligned with why you decided to run, but it’s unfortunately a critical part of most campaigns today and it’s often the most efficient way to reach your donor community. Asking people one-on-one can be an important way to honor the investment that others are making in you.
Make hard asks, but be genuine and gracious. Never shy away from being clear about what you’re asking for -- including how much you hope someone can donate or raise for you. People want to support you but they need your help to know what would be useful. Remember, people know how much to give to their church, they know how much to give to their local non-profit, but most people do not have the frame of reference for a political campaign. So don’t be shy, but of course, always be gracious and remember that it means a lot for someone to invest their hard earned dollars in your campaign. From personal thank you notes to follow-up phone calls, make sure those who invest in you know you appreciate their support.
Fundraising is also about friend-raising. Grassroots fundraising is important because while generous high-dollar donors can be helpful for reaching a fundraising goal quickly, the $10, $50, and $100 donations show widespread support on the ground, usually from people who are also voters. Even $1 shows someone’s commitment to voting for you, which is the ultimate goal, so building your finance plan is a balance between high-dollar fundraising to efficiently make your goal, and spending time doing grassroots fundraisers to grow your local support a dollar at a time. We suggest using these events to really feel the movement you are building in your community--pack the place and use these events to talk to engage different parts of your community, whether it’s a “Backyard Politics” for veterans, another for teachers, and another for small business owners. This is your chance to talk about policy and hear what is on your future constituents’ minds, while also doing the necessary fundraising work.
We hope these tips gave you some ideas about how to fundraise effectively and have fun while doing it. Have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to send them our way. And sign up for our email list to stay updated on all things New Politics.