Political action committees (PACs) are prevalent in many state and federal political campaigns, but raising money from PACs is very different from raising money from individuals. Today, I want to talk about how to raise money from PACs for your campaign.
Note that for purposes of this article, we are talking about standard state and federal PACs that donate directly to candidate campaigns, not “Super PACs” that make independent expenditures. For a deeper explanation of PACs, read What Are PACs?
Here are 4 key tips to help your campaign raise more money from political action committees:
#1 – Don’t Waste Your Time
PACs like to give to candidates who look like they are going to win. If you are running an underdog campaign, it may not be worth the time and effort to go after PAC funding. Similarly, there is more money available from political action committee for bigger races. Thus, if you are running in a local election (e.g. school board or township commissioner) it is highly unlikely that you will be able to raise PAC money.
Even if you are running in a bigger race and have a real shot at winning, remember to spend most of your time focused on raising money from individuals, not PACs. Most of your donations will come from individual supporters, so that’s where you should spend the majority of your time. Only after you have your individual donor systems working should you start to focus on PAC fundraising.
#2 – Build a Relationship
Many campaigns think that the best way to raise money from political action committees is to send out dozens of letters to every PAC in their area, asking for money. These campaigns soon learn that sending out cold letters to PACs is a waste of time and money.
Instead, start by trying to build a relationship with the PAC. Get in touch with a local representative of the PAC or some of the staff members. Set up a meeting to introduce your candidate. Stay in touch with them after the meeting and send them updates on your campaign. Build a relationship – then make your ask.
PACs are a lot like individual donors – they give to candidates and committees they trust and feel comfortable with.
#3 – Put Together a PAC Kit
Your campaign should put together a “PAC Kit” that includes information that the PAC will need to make its funding decision. This kit should be a folder or wire-bound booklet that include things like the candidate’s bio, contact information for key staff members, copies of recent speeches and brochures, and position papers on topics of interest to the particular PAC you are pursuing.
Put together a number of copies of your PAC kit, but remember that each political action committee focuses on different issues, so be ready to include specialized information in each kit you distribute.
#4 – Make an Ask
You’ve identified a PAC that would be a great fit for your campaign. You set up a meeting, and built a relationship with the PAC’s staff. You’ve communicated with them, you’ve been in touch, and you think they may be interested in donating to your campaign. Now what do you do?
Many campaigns simply sit and wait, hoping a check will come in. This is a mistake. Like all political fundraising, once you have built a relationship with a political action committee, the next step is to make an ask.
This means that you need to set up a meeting where the candidate visits the PAC director or the staff member you have been dealing with and actually asks for a donation. The ask needs to be a question and should be for a concrete amount. Instead of saying you “hope XYZ PAC will consider supporting your campaign,” you need to ask, “Would you be willing to make a $5,000 donation to support our campaign?”
People don’t give unless they are asked. The same is true for PACs.