One of the best ways to raise the money you need to win a political campaign is to build a fundraising network.  A fundraising network is a group of supporters who are committed to helping your campaign raise funds.  These supporters hold events, ask friends and colleagues to donate, and introduce the candidate to people they know who have the capacity to make a donation to the campaign.

When most candidates hear the term “fundraising network,” they think of major donor networks… groups of mega-donors or “bundlers” who help raise very large donations for national and statewide campaigns.  While these are the types of fundraising networks that are most often discussed in the news, the truth is that every candidate, including those running for small, local offices, can and should use fundraising networks to raise money.

We call these lower-dollar networks “grassroots fundraising networks.”  Here are 5 ways to build a strong grassroots fundraising network to raise money for your local campaign:

#1 – Start with the Candidate

Small, grassroots fundraising networks need to start with the candidate, who is the fundraiser-in-chief for the campaign.  Successful political fundraising starts with the candidate asking his or her friends, family, colleagues, neighbors and other acquaintances to donate to the campaign.

The second step in successful fundraising is for the candidate to ask those same people… people that he or she already knows… to help the campaign raise money by introducing the candidate to others who can make a donation.  These introductions can be one-on-one, through events, through phone calls and e-mails, or whatever works best for the campaign.  Those who support you can also make direct asks to their friends and associates and collect donations for the campaign, if they are comfortable doing so.

#2 – Make Personal Asks

The only way to get people to join your fundraising network (e.g. to get people to agree to help you fundraise) is by personally asking them to do so.  Unless you are running for President or a in a competitive statewide election, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get people to help you raise money by simply sending them an e-mail or snail mail letter with an ask.

Instead, the candidate will need to either ask people in person or pick-up the phone to ask friends and colleagues to help.  As the campaign moves on, the candidate will also have opportunities to ask other politically-connected people in the district to help, even if he or she doesn’t already know the candidate.  But these asks must usually be done in person or over the phone in order to be successful.

#3 – Be Clear about Goals and Responsibilities

One of the biggest mistakes that local candidates make when setting up a grassroots fundraising network is to be wishy-washy about what you are asking people to do as part of the group.  If you ask people to “help with fundraising” without ever asking them to perform specific tasks, don’t be surprised if things simply don’t get done.

Tell people what kind of fundraising help you need… Be specific!

Set clear goals and responsibilities for supporters who have agreed to help you raise money.  You can ask them to complete simple, easy-to-understand tasks, such as:

  • Introducing you to 3 people who might be interested in donating to the campaign
  • Sending out an e-mail fundraising appeal to their entire network
  • Hosting (or co-hosting) a “meet the candidate” event or a fundraising event for the campaign
  • Selling tickets to your next large fundraising event

The opportunities to help are endless, but people won’t be able to help fundraise unless you tell them exactly what you need them to do.

#4 – Offer Training and Guidance

For many of those who are helping you raise money, this may be their first experience with being a political fundraiser.  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen ardent supporters of a campaign desperately want to help with fundraising but fail because they simply didn’t know the right way to raise money.

The best way to overcome this obstacle is to offer training and guidance to your volunteer fundraising team.  Teach them how to stay within the political fundraising laws and regulations.  Show them how to make a great fundraising ask.  Give them scripts to use when making fundraising calls and sending out e-mails.  The more you teach your supporters how to be great fundraisers, the more successful they will be.

#5 – Make it Easy to Fundraise

Your campaign should make it as easy as possible for your fundraising network to raise money on your behalf.  The easier it is for people to fundraise, the more money they will be able to raise.

The best ways to make it easy for volunteer supporters to fundraise is to make sure your grassroots fundraising network members have everything they need to raise money, including brochures, donation envelopes, invitations to your fundraising events, etc.  You should also be sure to provide a way for your fundraisers to get information back to the campaign and to set-up meetings between the candidate and potential donors.

I am a big believer in building strong political fundraising networks for local campaigns.  Use these 5 tips to set up your next fundraising network, and remember to recognize and thank those who are helping you raise the money you need to win your next election.

Photo Credit: Cydcor