Most political candidates don’t like raising money. While we’ve talked on Local Victory before about why raising money for a campaign is not slimy, smarmy or evil, the fact is that many candidates and operatives still don’t like to do it. For many of these folks, the reason is that they are holding on to certain myths about political fundraising that simply aren’t true.
Today, we present – and disassemble – the four most common myths about raising political money:
#1 – My Friends Will Resent Me for Asking for Money
For many candidates, the idea of raising money seems particularly scary when a consultant or campaign manager comes in and tells them that they should start the fundraising process by asking their friends, family, and colleagues for money. Candidates often think that their personal network will resent them for making the ask.
The truth is that a candidate’s friends and family are generally the most enthusiastic supporters of the campaign. These days, everyone knows it takes money to win an election, and in most cases your contacts will not be surprised or offended when you ask them to make a donation. In fact, they will gladly invest in your campaign.
And remember – you have to be able to raise money from your own network if you’re going to successfully launch your campaign. It is important to be able to raise seed money for your election effort, and the easiest place to do that is with people who are almost certainly going to say “yes” – your own friends, family and coworkers.
#2 – If My Ideas are Good, I Shouldn’t Have to ASK for Money
I hear this one all of the time: “I have the best ideas of anyone in the campaign. I won’t have to raise money, people will want to donate. Once I spread my ideas, the money will come rolling in.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Very few people give money to a campaign unless they are asked. This is doubly true for state and local candidates. Fundraising is hard work, and it takes a clear and cogent strategy to raise the money you need to win your election. Every candidate, no matter how strong their character is or how good their ideas are, needs to actively fundraise.
#3 – The Party Will Raise the Money for Me
No. Just no. I know the local party chairwoman told you that if you get into the race they would be behind you financially. I know you went to the state committee meeting and everyone told you that you could count on their support. Maybe they even meant it. But under no circumstances should any candidate or campaign ever assume that their political party will raise the money for them.
Things happen in politics. Allegiances change. New candidates enter the race. Self-funded candidates enter the race. Polling information comes out. Issues change. People lie.
The only group the campaign can count on to raise the money it needs to win is the campaign team itself. Every campaign should have a plan to reach its fundraising goals on its own. I’ve seen far too many campaigns get sucked into believing fundraising promises, but the checks never arrive. If you’re doing the work on your own, and the party does end up helping, it will be icing on the cake.
#4 – I’ll Focus on Getting My Name Out There First, then Raise Money
This is a very tempting myth for candidates to believe. The thinking goes that if the candidate raises his or her name ID and the campaign spreads its message, more people will be willing to give and thus fundraising should wait.
This line of thinking isn’t totally flawed. Once you raise your name ID and spread your message, more people will be able to give. But you cannot wait for that to happen to start fundraising.
First, you will need money to raise your name ID and spread your message – both can be expensive propositions. Second, even if you have the money in the bank to do both of those things, you still need to start fundraising now, otherwise your opponents who do start now will be able to outflank, outmaneuver and outraise you. Your campaign fundraising should start the minute you decide to run.