(This is the 2nd part of a 2 part series on political fundraising. Part 1 is available here: Political Fundraising 101)
For many candidates, asking friends, colleagues, or supporters to make a donation is scary and unappealing. But political fundraising need not be frightening. Making an ask can even be (gulp!) a pleasant and enjoyable experience. The two most important areas to consider in making an ask are planning and process. More on both below.
Planning the Ask
Before you make any ask, whether it is for money or for time, for tickets to an event, or for volunteers for your campaign, be sure you’re ready:
1. Decide Who You Are Asking: Who are you asking? Is it an individual? A political action committee? A party organization?
2. Decide What You Are Asking For: Are you asking for money? How much? Are you asking someone to come to an event or to volunteer? When? In what capacity?
3. Understand That There Will Be “No’s”: And that’s ok! Fundraising is like baseball… even the best, most experienced practitioners receive lots of “no’s.” Don’t let them get you down. They’re part of the game.
4. But Expect a Yes: Attitude matters in fundraising. If you go into a fundraising ask assuming you will get a no, you probably will. Remember, your mission matters! You’re trying to get elected (or helping someone else get elected) in order to make a positive change in the community. Go into every fundraising ask expecting a yes, and asking for a yes.
5. Show People How They Can Make a Concrete Difference or Reach a Concrete Goal: People like to know that their donation is doing something specific and concrete. If at all possible, ask them to contribute to help do something specific, even if it is only to help you reach your own personal fundraising goal. For example, “Would you contribute $50 to help us buy 25 yard signs?” or “I’m trying to raise $1,000 for Jim Reynolds, who is running for Congress. Will you donate $100 to help me reach that goal?”
The Process: Anatomy of an Ask
Great, you say: I’ve built relationships, I’ve planned out my ask. But tell me… how do I actually make an ask? The best way to make an ask (any ask, whether for money, time, volunteer hours, or anything else) is by following these simple steps:
1. Get the pleasantries out of the way. Talk about the kids, the family, work, the last time you saw the other person. Get the small talk out of the way first.
2. Make a transition. Once the small talk is out of the way, make a transition so that people know the topic has changed to something far more serious. Good transitions include, “Listen… I want to talk about something important,” “I’ve got a serious question for you,” or, “Jane, I need your help.”
3. Make the connection. Once you’ve moved into more serious conversation through your transition, remind the prospect of the connection that you personally have with the campaign (if you’re not the candidate), or the connection that the person has with you (if you are the candidate). For instance, “Jim, as you know, I’m helping Sara Jenkins run for school board…” or, “Colleen, you’ve always been such a good friend, ever since we met in the first grade…”
4. Make them understand what is at stake. You want to make sure that the person you are talking to understands the impact of this campaign… why it is important… why they should care. For example are, “Samuel, our state’s economy is in trouble. Instead of fixing the problem, our governor has spent the pats year playing golf and redecorating his office” or “Janet, I’m running for office because our schools matter. I can’t stand idly by while they continue to deteriorate, on the inside and out…”
5. Make them understand why you need what you are asking for. This is the background for your specific ask. Why are you asking them to come to an event? (“We’re trying to raise $10,000 to launch our campaign”). Why are you asking them to give $200? (“We want to run more radio spots this week”).
6. Make the ask. Remember to make it a question, and to ask for something concrete and specific.
That may seem like a complicated formula, but once you practice it a few times, you’ll see that is actually quite natural, and makes for a pleasant experience. Using this formula, your ask may sound like this:
Hi Ruth, how are you? How are the kids? (Pleasantries)
Listen, I’ve got something important to ask you. (Make the Transition)
As you know, I’m running for county commissioner this year, and you’ve always been a strong supporter of ours. (Make the Connection)
Our county has been running huge deficits for the past decade, and now our roads and schools are suffering. I’m running to change that and make our kids and our infrastructure our county’s top priority. (Make them understand what is at stake)
Ruth, as you know, campaigns are incredibly expensive. Our polling shows we can win, but know we’re going to need to raise $50,000 to run this campaign. We’ve already raised $30,000 of that total, but we need to get to $50,000 or else we won’t be able to be competitive. (Make them understand why you need what you are asking for)
Would you be willing to contribute $500 to help us reach that goal? (Make the Ask)
Don’t be afraid, as part of your planning process, to write out a script for yourself so that you’ll feel more comfortable once you’re on the phone with your contact. And remember, always profusely thank everyone who responds to your ask, and be sure to thank those who say no for their time and consideration. For more articles on raising money for your campaign, check out our Political Fundraising Archives.
Have you read Winning Elections at the Grassroots, Local Victory’s complete manual for running a grassroots political campaign? It’s part of our Complete Guide to Getting Your Campaign off the Ground Kit, and is available only from Local Victory.