One of the most important things you can do to make sure you raise enough money to win your campaign is to set up a strong finance committee. In many of the elections I have worked on, the campaign’s finance committee was the difference between raising enough to win and scrimping by to a narrow defeat.
What is a Finance Committee?
The finance committee for a political campaign has one goal, and one goal only: fundraising.
A finance committee is a group of people who agree to help your campaign raise money. This group of supporters holds events, introduces the candidate to new potential donors, sends out fundraising letters on behalf of the campaign, is active online and on social media, and of course makes a sizeable personal donation as well.
Sometimes, a campaign’s finance committee is simply called “The Finance Committee.” Other times, it may have a special name, like “The Patriots” or “The Smith for Major Leadership Committee.”
Likewise, some campaigns have multiple finance committees. There may be one committee where the members are asked to raise $10,000 each for the campaign, and another more senior or “executive” committee where the members are asked to raise $50,000 each for the campaign. Or perhaps the campaign has a regular finance committee as well as a young professionals finance committee and a special committee for the legal profession.
No matter how many finance committees you have or what they are called, the goal for the committee is always the same: to raise money for the campaign.
In return for their help, members of the finance committee usually get special campaign-related perks, like exclusive lapel pins, monthly meetings with the candidate, or special events just for committee members.
Setting Up the Committee
In order to recruit a phenomenal finance committee, the campaign needs to prepare by doing a couple of things:
First, the campaign should determine the fundraising goal for committee members. Every person on your committee should be tasked with raising a specific amount for the campaign. For small campaigns, this might be $1,000. For larger campaigns, it might be $100,000. Whatever the goal, make it clear. If prospective members won’t commit to raising that much, they should be placed on another committee or asked to become a different type of volunteer.
Second, the campaign needs to decide if there are any other goals for committee members. These goals can include things like sending out a certain number of fundraising letters for the campaign, holding one or more fundraising events, or recruiting additional members for the committee.
The goal for your finance committee is simple: to raise money for the campaign.
Lastly, the campaign should design a list of perks or benefits that committee members will receive. In return for their help, members of the finance committee usually get special campaign-related perks, like exclusive lapel pins, monthly meetings with the candidate, or special events just for committee members.
Remember that these are campaign-related benefits. No campaign or candidate should ever offer a committee member a governmental benefit or privilege or a government job or appointment in return for their help. Such an offer is definitely unethical and most probably illegal, depending where you are running for office.
Recruiting Members – Making the Ask
Once you have all of the prep work out of the way, the only thing left to do is to draw up a list of prospective finance committee members. The prospects should know the candidate, support the campaign, and have a large network of friends and colleagues who have the capacity to donate to the campaign.
Once this list is drawn up, it’s up to the candidate to make a personal ask to each person on the list. The best way to do this is to spend a day calling everyone on the list, telling them about the committee, and inviting them to come to a no-obligation first committee meeting.
At this meeting, you can explain more about the committee, give the prospective members an insider’s view of the campaign (e.g. the campaign manager can go over recent polling or the research team can talk about some of the cutting issues in the election). Then, ask everyone to join the committee and give them a date for the second meeting.
Prior to the second meeting, call through the list again and directly ask people to become members. Those who say “yes” will become the basis for your campaign’s finance committee.