Fundraising events are a staple of political fundraising, and for good reason. People enjoy events, and they are a great opportunity for those who support your candidate to get some face time with him or her without having to be a major donor to the campaign.

For campaigns, events present a great chance to not only raise a significant amount of money, but also to rally the troops and get supporters more engaged in the campaign. There are dozens of types of events your campaign can hold, from low-dollar barbeques to high-dollar galas and everything in between. No matter what type of event you will be holding, use the tips in this article to raise much money as possible for your campaign.

3 Key Points to Remember When Holding an Event

There are three key points to remember when holding a political fundraising event… three points that many campaigns fail to grasp:

#1: Events Take Commitment

You can’t just “throw together” a fundraising event. If you do, your event is sure to disappoint you. I have seen lots of campaigns hold events where only a handful of people showed up and the campaign lost money on the event. This is almost always a result of the campaign’s lack of commitment to the event.

Political fundraising events take preparation, work, and the dedication of enough resources (time and money) in order to be a success.

#2: Successful Events Require Making Asks

Far too many political campaigns think they can run a successful event simply by mailing out a couple of hundred invitations and waiting for the checks to come rolling in. That’s not the case.

As with any type of fundraising, if you want your events to be successful, you will need to pick up the phone and ask people to come and to donate… and your Finance Committee and event Host Committee will need to do the same.

#3: Events are Only One Part of Your Fundraising Strategy

No campaign should be relying solely on fundraising events to raise the money it needs to win. Events are great and can be a significant source of income, but your campaign will also need to raise money through personal asks, through the Finance Committee, through the mail, online, etc. if it wants to win.

The Importance of an Event Host Committee

As you begin planning your next political fundraising event, it is extremely important that you put together an event Host Committee to help you fundraise.

Many campaigns put together Host Committees to do the work of planning the event. They ask their host committees to design and mail invitations, plan out the decorations and the menu, set-up and break-down the event, etc. Don’t make this mistake!

The truth is that all of these planning details are the easy part of holding a fundraising event for your campaign. The hard part is the fundraising… asking people to donate, selling tickets, and getting people to the event. Your campaign can handle the logistics… you need a Host Committee that will help fundraise!

The purpose of your event Host Committee is to fundraise for the event… not to handle planning details.

Every political fundraising event should have a Host Committee comprised of supporters who either agree to give a large donation to the campaign as part of the event, or who agree to sell a certain number of tickets to the event, or both.

For example, you might hold an event where each Host Committee member agrees to make a $500 donation to the campaign and sell 10 $100 tickets to the event.

The only way to put together a great Host Committee for your event is to get on the phone (or sit down with potential members face-to-face) and ask them to be on the Committee. Be up front about the requirements, and make it clear that the purpose of the Committee is to fundraise not to plan. Be sure to recognize the work of your Committee members at the event and to thank them profusely for their hard work on your behalf.

Setting Event Tiers

The next step in the planning process is setting the ticket prices and the tiers for your event. Remember, most political fundraising events should offer tiered ticket prices so that your event can attract donors at many different levels.

For example, you might hold an event that is $100 per person, with an additional VIP cocktail party before the event that is $500 per person. Or, you could hold an event that is $250 per person, with a $50 per person after-party/rally. Be creative.

Event Invitations: Snail Mail and E-Mail

After you have your host committee together and have formulated your event tiers (as well as set a date and found a location for the event), you’re ready to send out your event invitations.

In my experience, every political campaign event should be using e-mailed invitations, and most should also be using snail mail invitations as well. E-mail invitations are cheap and easy, but they also tend to get lost in the shuffle. Many people still enjoy getting snail mail invitations to events, and they really make an event stand out. Unfortunately, they can also be rather expensive for your campaign.

My suggestion is to select nice, but not super-expensive paper invitations and use them, in conjunction with e-mailed invitations, for any event where the ticket price is $100 or over. For events under $50 per person, use only e-mail invitations. For events between $50 and $99 per person, it’s up to you… if your campaign has the money, try paper invitations, and if it’s not cost effective, next time you will know to only use e-mails for that level event.

Really Selling the Event: Making Calls

Invitations are important, but as I mentioned earlier, you can’t just send out invitations and expect your next political event to be a roaring success. If you want to raise a lot of money through your event, you’ll need to pick up the phone to make calls.

In addition to making calls to ask people to be on the event Host Committee, your candidate (as well as your staff and Finance Committee) should be making calls to as many people as possible to ask them to purchase a ticket to the event.

A good strategy is to make calls to everyone who received a paper or e-mail invitation to the event to ask them to come. These calls should start approximately one week after the invitations went into the mail, to give them time to arrive at people’s homes and offices.

Likewise, your Host Committee members should be calling through their Rolodexes, asking their friends, family, business associates, neighbors, clients, vendors, etc. to purchase tickets and come to the event.

Event Preparation Timeline

While every event and campaign are different, here is a simple event preparation timeline that will work for small and mid-sized political fundraising events:

More than Six Weeks before Event

  • Choose event type and begin planning event structure
  • Decide on event food and beverages, entertainment, etc.
  • Choose event speaker(s)
  • Make calls to find people for Host Committee
  • Print up invitations and programs
  • Print up tickets and deliver to Host Committee
  • Set up catering, entertainment, parking, tents, chairs, etc.

Four to Six Weeks before Event

  • Mail invitations
  • Contact Host Committee to check progress
  • Make calls to solicit attendees

Two to Three Weeks before Event

  • Contact Host Committee to check progress
  • Make calls to solicit attendees
  • Make follow up calls for invitations
  • Decide on decorations for event space, if any
  • Solicit volunteers to work ticket/name tag table

One Week before Event

  • Contact Host Committee to check progress
  • Last minute ticket sales

Day before Event

  • Call caterer and other vendors to confirm
  • Meet with Host Committee to collect checks or call to check on sales

Day of Event

  • Collect all checks / credit card payments, etc.
  • Set up ticket / name tag table
  • Decorate space (if necessary)
  • Hold event

Week after Event

  • Pay final vendor bills
  • Mail thank you notes