A fundraising plan is vital to the success of any modern campaign, even the most local. Larger than life California politician Jesse Unruh once said “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” While local candidates know that fundraising is important, too often they assume that once their campaign gets rolling, the money will take care of itself. Candidates reason that local groups and supporters will flood the campaign with money once the campaign’s message gets out. They could not be more wrong.
Campaigns need money to operate, but in order to get those contributions to fund the campaign’s activities, real work needs to be done. Rare indeed is the donor who, unsolicited, sends a check to the campaign. Successful fundraising requires that the campaign in general, and the candidate in particular, spend quality time planning and executing a fundraising plan. Winning candidates on every level — federal, state, or local — need to realize that in order to win, the candidate himself will have to spend a minimum of 50% of his time fundraising.
Why a Plan?
Clearly, most candidates dislike fundraising. They often feel it is beneath them to ask for money, or are not convinced that it is the most important thing they could be doing with their time. But in order to do the loftier activities often associated with campaigning, such as making speeches, sending out literature, and holding events, the candidate must spend a significant amount of time fundraising.
The most important component of a campaign’s fundraising success is the fundraising plan. Even though fundraising seems simple — you just ask for money, right? — a winning campaign has a fundraising plan in place that takes into account the campaign strategy and overall budget. The candidate and the campaign have (we assume) sat down and mapped out what they need to do to win. Now, they must sit down and figure out how they plan to raise the money to do those activities which will put the campaign plan into practice.
While the fundraising plan will vary based on the campaign strategy, several components are key to every plan, in every race:
1. The Finance Committee
The name “Finance Committee” can be deceiving. This committee isn’t really responsible for executing the fundraising plan — that task falls on the shoulders of the campaign manager, campaign staff and volunteers or, in a larger race, the fundraising director. The roll of the Finance Committee is to provide contacts who can be solicited for the donations which are vital to the campaign’s success. The Finance Committee provides a starting point for the campaign’s political fundraising network.
Each member of the Finance Committee should be supporters of the candidate who have wide ranges of contacts they can solicit to support the campaign. Each member is generally expected to contribute to the campaign, and then pledge to locate a certain number of others to do the same. The committee can be composed of local businessmen, professionals, socialites, and political contacts, among others. The only requirement is that they support the candidate financially and pledge to get their (preferably numerous) contacts to so also.
The fundraising plan simply must include a detailed strategy for raising funds — in other words, it must answer the question “Where will the money come from?” Common answers to that question include direct solicitation for contributions, campaign events, direct mail, political action commitees and, of course, the Finance Committee.
Similarly, the fundraising plan needs to answer the question “When do we need the money?” Generally, political vendors require partial, if not full, payment up front. They do this because of the volatile nature of political campaigns. Thus, in order to send out a mail piece or perform a get out the vote effort, the campaign needs to have the funds, up front. The fundraising plan, therefore, needs to take into account when literature drops will be done, when media spots (if any) will air, and when yard signs will go up.
4. Legal Requirements
Most state and local governments, like the federal government, require candidates for all public offices to report all contributions the campaign receives and all expenditures it makes. Before soliciting contributions, the campaign should check with the local, county, state or federal governments to determine what the reporting requirements are and how to fulfill them. The fundraising plan should take these requirements into account, and appoint a person whose job it is to see that the law is followed.
Now, Do It!
With a detailed fundraising plan in place, the campaign is ready to execute the fundraising strategy. By following the plan, and continuously tracking fundraising efforts, fundraising won’t be as taxing on the campaign or the candidate. That way, the campaign can raise the money it needs with as little hassle as possible.
For more great tips on developing your fundraising program, check out Raising Money from High Dollar Donors, part of Local Victory’s The Complete Guide to Getting Your Campaign Off the Ground Kit.