One of the simplest, yet most advanced strategies that you can use to maximize your campaign fundraising is building fundraising networks.

It’s simple, because once you understand the concept, you’ll be able to put it in practice almost immediately, even if you are running a small campaign. It’s an advanced strategy, though, because most candidates never implement it. Instead, most campaigns rely on simply having the candidate make calls, and add in some direct mail, online, and event fundraising.

I’ve been involved with fundraising for dozens of candidates and committees, and the most successful of them have used political fundraising networks to supercharge their fundraising efforts. You can too.

What is a “Fundraising Network?”

Simply put, a fundraising network is a group of people who agree to fundraise on behalf of a certain candidate or campaign. They may make direct asks, hold events, send out letters and e-mails, or make phone calls… but in some way, shape, or form, they go out and raise money for the campaign.

And, here’s the most important part: the people in your fundraising networks raise that money from people they already know. You’re not asking people in your fundraising networks to call people the candidate knows, or to go out and put together events for the candidate’s personal network. No… people in your fundraising network raise money from friends, family members, neighbors and business contacts in their own Rolodexes.

The Importance of Building Political Fundraising Networks

Fundraising networks are important to your campaign for several reasons:

First, they allow you to multiply your fundraising efforts by making sure that lots of people are out fundraising for the campaign, instead of just relying on the candidate to do all the work. The candidate will always be the fundraiser-in-chief for your campaign, but good fundraising networks will ensure that he or she is not doing all of the work alone.

Second, fundraising networks dramatically increase the donor universe for your campaign. Your candidate only knows so many people, and only has enough time to get to know a certain number of people before Election Day. Fundraising networks bring hundreds of new prospective donors into the fold – every person you ask to be part of your fundraising network knows dozens, if not hundreds of people who they can approach for a donation to your campaign.

Types of Fundraising Networks

There are lots of different types of fundraising networks you can build for your campaign. The simplest and most common form of fundraising network is the Finance Committee. This is a group of people who are committed to raising the money the campaign needs to win. You can learn more about Finance Committees by reading our article How to Set-Up a Strong Finance Committee for Your Campaign.

Another common type of fundraising network for mid-sized and large campaigns is a Young Professionals or Young Leaders group. This is a group of young, working age professionals (usually 21-40 years old) who band together to support the campaign in many ways, including through fundraising.

A Young Professionals group is a type of “affinity” group, because membership is based on a common train or “affinity,” in this case, the age of the members. Your campaign can also set up other types of affinity groups, including senior citizen groups, groups based on job, industry or hobby, groups based on geography or location, etc.

Making Expectations Clear

In order to be successful, your campaign will need to make the fundraising component of your groups clear to the members.

For a Finance Committee, the entire raison d’être of the group is to fundraise for the campaign. For other groups, like young professionals groups or similar affinity groups, fundraising will be just one component of the group’s mission, which might also include communications, events, volunteering, getting out the vote, etc.

No matter what, though, it is very important that the campaign make the fundraising component clear as it searches for members. If someone joins one of your fundraising networks without knowing that fundraising is key component of their responsibilities, they won’t live up to your expectations.

How to Build Fundraising Networks for Your Campaign

To build strong fundraising networks for your political campaign, you need to be deliberate. This means that you need to proactively set up each network, determining the target membership, the benefits people will receive for membership, and the activities of the group.

Then, you have to ask people to join. The best way is to ask them face to face, or on the phone. Some campaigns have also gotten great results from sending out letters to potential members, and then following up with a phone call from the candidate.

Remember, serving as part of a Finance Committee or other campaign fundraising network is a big job. Members will be asked to reach out to their friends, family and business associates to ask for money for the campaign. You will need to explain that to them and ask them to join a committee, which requires asking in person or over the phone.

For the Finance Committee, the ask must normally be made by the candidate. For some other networks, like a Young Professionals Group, the ask can be made by a leader in the local young professionals community who is already part of the campaign committee, or by a staff member or the Finance Chairman of the campaign.

How to Run Your Fundraising Networks

In order to keep your fundraising networks motivated and on target, you should hold regular committee meetings to present campaign information, provide fundraising opportunities, and keep your members moving.

Your campaign should give your fundraising network members lots of support to help them fundraise on your behalf. Some things you can do to help them include providing them with collateral materials (e.g. brochures, posters, donation envelopes, etc.), training them on how to make great fundraising asks, and setting up fundraising events for them to invite their friends and colleagues to.

The people in your fundraising networks require support, motivation, and thanks.

Be sure to provide your committee members with lots of recognition, and to thank them regularly.

Remember that your fundraising network members are volunteers – they are helping you because they support your candidate, not because they are being paid to do so. Keep reminding them how important they are to you and how much you appreciate their work.

Your campaign and candidate should do your best to make fundraising network members feel like an integral part of your campaign team. The best way to do this is to provide your network and committee members with lots of campaign-related benefits in return for their help. Some common benefits include special update newsletters, exclusive lapel pins, invitations to events with the candidate, etc.

Fundraising networks can be a huge help to your campaign in raising the money you need to win. During your next election campaign, use a Finance Committee and other fundraising networks to multiply your efforts and expand your fundraising universe.

Photo Credit: Chris Potter