How to Run a Political Campaign: Political Campaign Fundraising

How to Run a Political Campaign: Political Campaign Fundraising



a California Legislature once said that money is the Mother's Milk of politics indeed absent money you can't do much but walk around and ring doorbells in a jurisdiction with more than a thousand households it takes more than ringing doorbells to win an election printers TV stations radio stations the post office the webmaster your staff the phone company are not going to provide services to you for free and even if they wanted to it would be illegal they have to be paid so let's talk about money it's not a dirty word it is an essential part of the process you should not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for it if you are it means you fear rejection that you are afraid of being told no and if that's the case it's probably because you think your campaign is more about you than about your cause what do I mean by that it's very simple let's suppose you had a sick baby girl who needed an expensive operation to save her life you don't have health insurance and you don't have the money you would not and should not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask friends and relatives to help why the cause is not about you it's about something far more important by the same token if you are running for the right reasons running to advance a cause an idea or a platform that is going to improve the lives of your constituents and you honestly believe in what you are trying to do there is no reason you should be embarrassed to ask for help your campaign should be about a cause bigger than you if it's not you need to give more thought to why you're running the first rule of fundraising know the rules if you don't find someone who does make sure your committee is properly filed that you know what the contribution limits are who you are allowed to take money from when and how you are required to report your contributions and expenditures what you are required to divulge about your contributors your vendors and your staff the rules are different in every jurisdiction there is a set of rules for federal candidates a different set of rules in each state in many cities in America have their own rulebook for City Council in mayoral races the second rule of fundraising don't let anyone on your staff raise or deposit money until they have been fully briefed on the rules in rule number three obey the rules you are running to be a lawmaker if during the course of a campaign you are exposed as a lawbreaker it will not advance your career in public life and if your excuse for breaking the rules is that you didn't understand them you will look like a fool there are four general sources of campaign contributions tier one family and trends they are the first ones you ask tier two people who should want to give you money tier three people who can be persuaded to support you if you are running a good campaign and tier four people who despise your opponent let's go through those one by one tier one the people you ask first your easiest sources of campaign money are your family and friends your parents grandparents siblings aunts uncles cousins their spouses and their children don't want to ask your family for money then don't run if you've asked all your relatives and none are willing to help rethink what you are doing it's a sign that something is wrong once you've asked every relative you can find then go to your friends who are your friends high school classmates college classmates people who attend your church members of clubs and organizations you belong to acquaintances people on your Christmas card list your rolodex people in your contact list people you do business with your barber hairdresser plumber mechanic dry cleaner attorney doctor dentist wine merchants if you can't remember all of the people you do business with go back through your checkbook and look at all the people you paid for something during the last two or three years finally go through the yellow pages and look at the occupations chances are you'll remember the name of someone you know who sold you a computer fix the one you have sold you flowers your golf clubs your insurance your car your new stove or the real estate agent that's sold you your house these are the people to ask first and I often to suggest to candidates that they quietly raise money from the tier one group before they make a formal announcement for if you are able to say at your announcement that you have already raised a lot of money it enhances your credibility at the get-go and makes it more likely that reporters will regard you as a serious candidate tier two these are the interest groups in ideological organizations which should want to give you money they are those that agree with your platform your cause and your agenda or ideological organizations that agree with your issue positions small business owners trial lawyers unions and lobbyists are used to giving campaign contributions and they are used to being asked where do you find these organizations pour over the contribution records of candidates who have previously sought the office you are now seeking for example if you are a Republican running for the state legislature look at the organizations or PACs which gave to the Republicans who have previously sought the office look at the PACs which give to Republicans in your state or the Republican caucus in the state legislature check the list of registered lobbyists in your state and look at who they give money to in most places that is a matter of public record if you find that the I love bunnies PAC gives money to other Republican candidates running for legislative seats chances are they may be willing to give you money if you happen to be pro-life look for organizations and people who have given to other pro-life candidates likewise if stopping illegal immigration is your cause look for entities who gave to candidates like you if protecting the environment is your passion you'll find plenty of organizations that support pro-environment candidates when you tell these people why they should be supporting you don't be afraid to ask for their endorsement if a prominent environmental organization endorses you it sends an important message to the environmental community and maybe get money from people you don't know which leads us to tier 3 people who may give to you if you are running a campaign money does not grow on trees and even well-heeled groups like plain of trial lawyers aren't going to give a lot of money to someone with no chance of winning if however your campaign is on track and you are running a competitive race you'll find there are plenty of people who may be willing to help you how do you find them start with the people who have already invested in your campaign here's a pretty good rule of thumb anybody who has given you $1,000 know someone else who can give you $1,000 so once you've raised what you can from the tier 1 in tier 2 groups go back to your contributors send them a letter or an email or have another a meeting with them tell them that your campaign is going well show them your budgets and some good newspaper clippings or some promising poll numbers things that prove you've made progress and that you have a good chance of winning and ask them to ask their friends to help you you'll find yourself making friends that you did not know you had they will be people who have given to candidates like yourself in previous campaigns people who are moved by your cause or your platform or those that give to you because your friend Joe says you are a good person where they have a check there are a myriad of ways that your contributors can help you find more contributors which I cover in more detail later in this DVD but here it is in brief ask them to get on the phone with their own friends and solicit money on your behalf oh and make sure they know the rules before they do if they aren't comfortable calling their friends suggest they send an email to their friends if you have to write it for them do it what's in the email hey friend I recently gave Cindy a campaign contribution because I believe she will serve us well in the state legislature her heart is in the right place she's right on the issues she's running a great campaign and she has a good chance of winning please visit her website at WWDC um and see for yourself Oh and please join me in supporting her campaign your campaign contributors can also send snail mail to their friends or host cocktail parties or dinner parties if they'd rather not do emails or phone calls finally there is what I call the tier 4 group the people who don't like your opponent if your opponent is an incumbent chances are they've made a decision or cast a vote that upset a constituent or an interest group or somebody who has a fat checkbook and if you are running a competitive campaign chances are that those who are really pissed at the incumbent will find you if your opponent is not an incumbent don't be afraid to highlight your opponent's platform to people in groups likely to be upset by what they see let them know they have a compelling interest in stopping this dangerous person from holding public office and that the surest way to do that is be giving a donation to your campaign these are the common sources of money let's take a look at the seven methods of raising money they are candidate solicitation surrogates solicitation direct mail emails into Internet fundraising cocktail parties dinner parties large and celebrity events let's go back to that first one candidate solicitation you have to be willing to ask for money for reasons I stated previously if you can't go find something else to do there is a right in a wrong way to ask the dues be excited and act like you're having fun even if you are not if you act bored and miserable you'll leave the meeting empty-handed treat your meeting seriously beyond time well dressed properly groomed professional and be specific in your request know what you are going to ask for before you begin the meeting if you leave a meeting or finish a phone call without knowing what you are going to get and when you're going to get it you did not close the sale the don'ts don't be shy don't be embarrassed don't be mushy mouth don't beat around the bush about what you want and for crying out loud don't ask for too little if you do you'll not only insult your contributor you'll walk out of a meeting with $500 when you could have had 5,000 if your potential contributor can't do what you are asking they'll let you know once you have asked for the contribution don't blabber be quiet and let your friend respond to your request if they tell you they can't do what you are asking don't end the meeting ask them for a smaller amount or ask them what they might be able to do and finally if the answer is no don't presume that it is an O forever the person who says no today may well become a yes during the course of your campaign how to distinguish between those you phone and those you see people who can give you the max are usually worth a meeting meetings with wealthy people you don't Nowell are imperative if the person you are soliciting is a close relative or a lifelong friend or someone who lives in a far away place usually a phone call will suffice regardless remember your etiquette number two surrogate solicitation these are people who ask for money on your behalf those early contributors or friends who invested in you who are now soliciting money for you from people you don't know be sure they know the rules before they start asking make sure they know what the limits are and who is allowed to give and who is not and if they've never done it before offered to give them a tutorial on the etiquette of the ask give them a goal in a deadline if your friend Bob thinks he might be able to raise you $50,000 and has agreed to try ask Bob to have it done in two weeks because if you don't give Bob a deadline there will be no deadline and if you've given Bob two weeks check in with Bob after one week and ask him how it's going three direct-mail there are people and contributors in the United States that still don't know how to use email who don't know how to find a website and have not the foggiest notion of how to make a credit card donation over the Internet they are older than the average contributor but that doesn't mean they don't have money to give there is a saying in the Direct Mail business better to send a crappy letter to the right person than a beautiful letter to the wrong list if you're raising money by snail mail make sure that you tailor your appeal to the list you're sending it to if it is a pro-gun group let them know you are a pro-gun and that your opponent is a danger to the Republic don't mix into the copy your position on trees immigrants abortion or gay civil unions they are on the pro-gun list because they are pro-gun and you should not assume that they share your position on anything but guns want to make sure your letter is read on the envelope put it user line-like urgent help me stop so-and-so from taking your gun or urgent please open immediately use pictures in your letter people read pictures before they read copy in a striking picture that conveys the essence of your message will help ensure that the copy is read finally your letter must have urgency you must make the case of why you need the money and why you need it now otherwise the reader will set it aside to draw dust there is another kind of Direct Mail that I have used with great success if you have a contributor that wants to help you raise money but does not want to make phone calls or send email or use snail mail draft a testimonial letter for your friend when it's approved offered a printed on your friend stationery then give it to your friend to sign three days later send your own letter to the same list and make a direct request for money include a return postage paid envelope the message in your letter should reinforce what was in your friends letter number four emails and the internet the Internet has revolutionized political fundraising in the United States in Urdu this light years ahead of where it was eight years ago Barack Obama did not break all fundraising records by sending snail mail he did it in cyberspace the Internet is a communications tool and Obama used it better than any other candidate who ran in 2008 your website will attract visitors some will want to volunteer or help or give you money make it easy the volunteer email signup contribute button should be visible not just on the homepage or the last page but on every page of your website when visitors leave their email address talk to them update them frequently on your campaign events and fundraisers with well-written and attractive email messages that contain graphics and photos and send them emails asking for money when they give thank them and ask them to ask their friends for money and to share with you the list of those they solicited then by all means keep your website interesting and up-to-date stories and late-breaking news should be on the front page of your website to keep it sticky finally make it interactive the more traffic you have the more people who see your website the more likely you are to receive a donation five cocktail parties if done well they are fun and they will raise money then poorly they flop and embarrass everybody you need a host I always insist that the host be a contributor who has already invested in the campaign how do you find a host ask people who have contributed to your campaign you need an invitation list that should come from your host and should include his or her friends relatives business and professional associates if your hosts tells you that none of his friends would want to come to a cocktail party then find another host what you charge will depend on what your host tells you about their friends and what they're capable of doing I've been to cocktail parties where the price of admission is a thousand dollars and somewhere it was fifty the invitation should go out at least three weeks before the event the most important responsibility of your host is to get people to the party have your staff offer to help with the food and beverages so that your host can concentrate on getting people to the event those invited should be asked to send a check before the event do not leave things to chance be in touch with your host every two or three days is you near the event about the progress of the phone calls and the number of people who plan to attend done well you'll have a successful party what happens if you're three days out and only five plan to attend when you would hope for fifty I know it's a little late to cancel on the other hand it's going to be a little embarrassing to have five people sitting around sipping wine and munching carrot sticks what to do move it to a small room invite some staff and volunteers to make sure you have what looks like a crowd six dinner parties this is my definition of a successful dinner party a host with a lot of wealthy friends agrees to find 10 of his friends to come to dinner at his house they pay $2,500 for the privilege of spending two hours with you the guests are so impressed with your manner intelligence and agenda that they each agree to raise $25,000 from their friends and associates by phoning their friends hosting a cocktail party or a dinner party of their own out of one dinner party your campaign yields $25,000 and you receive commitments for another 250,000 sound silly it's not if you're running for the US Senate or a statewide office or Congress if you are running for a lesser office scale a ticket price to an appropriate level and use a technique that has worked for scores of political candidates dinner parties by their nature are smaller than cocktail parties more intimate and the guests are better heeled and have a bigger rolodex than those who would pay $50 to attend a cocktail party that is why there are worth two hours of your time instead of the two minutes you might spend talking with the guests at a wine and cheese event like cocktail parties they need to be well organized your host needs to be deeply committed to your campaign and have already made a sizable commitment the invitation list should come from your host not you after all the purpose is to introduce you to people you don't already know or those who may not have yet given to your campaign if it is a big ticket dinner put some class into the invitation nice stock attractive font and make sure the invites go out at least three to four weeks in advance then stay in touch with your host to make sure all the seats are filled again make it easy on your hosts to do what is most important getting people to the dinner offered to have your staff handle the details of getting the invitations printed hand addressed buying the food preparing the meal and cleaning up after the event the last thing you want to do is overburden the spouse of the host seven large in celebrity events do you know a prominent athlete a musician a TV personality an actor is there a prominent political figure willing to make a guest appearance at your fundraiser celebrities are a draw the more prominent they are the bigger the draw people have paid good money to meet Sharon Stone and those who need access to powerful politicians will pay good money to rub shoulders with a key Committee Chairman governor or influential legislator if you don't know any celebrities talk to your donors in your close circle of advisers or members of your Finance Committee chances are they might or know someone who does once you have a commitment from a celebrity find a suitable location and advertise the event send an invite to people who have left their email address on your website highlight the event on the homepage of your website run banner ads in your local newspaper send a press release to the media announcing that celebrity X is making a guest appearance and by all means get the money before the event those who want to come should be required to send their check or make their donation in advance so that you know in advance how many people to expect at-large celebrity events you do not need to go overboard on food or beverages like food and wine will usually suffice anything more is a needless drain on your campaign account don't know a celebrity and can't find one you can still do a large event hire a band have some volunteers cook hot dogs and chili and invite the public to come to your dog and bean rally for $12 a person have your staff in Corps volunteers peddle tickets have a raffle offer to give something away advertise the event on your website into your email list and make sure you have what looks like a crowd putting a hundred people in a room that holds 1,000 will make your event look like a flop if you're expecting a hundred put them in a room that comfortably holds my tea invite the media give a good speech and the reporters will note the large crowd in the growing momentum of your campaign these are the common means of raising money remember to keep it legal make it fun if one of your guests should drink too much at your event take them home should you drink not alcohol in fact I ask my clients to give up alcohol during a political campaign but if you must drink wait until the end of the day and never drink and drive if you've had one have your staff take you home and one final thing not all people who give money to political candidates do so for altruistic reasons there may be those who want a contract or an explicit promise to vote a certain way on a bill or a guarantee that you will play a certain way if they pay never succumb to the temptation to promise or do something that is illegal the world can be an ugly place from the inside of a prison cell you've seen pictures of politicians stuffing cash into their pockets saying things over the phone that got them indicted or impeached or videos of candidates offering something in return for campaign contributions they forgot a simple rule that you should remember never say or do anything in public or in a private meeting that you would be a shame for your mother to see on YouTube I'm Jay Townsend thanks for listening

10 thoughts on “How to Run a Political Campaign: Political Campaign Fundraising

  1. I know every campaign and office is different, but do you have a general guide for how much you should seek to raise for any given office?
    Obviously, the Mayor of New York would be different than the Mayor of Monroe Louisiana. But you said one should expect around $250k for a State wide office, Senate or Congress seat.
    I would naturally think it would cost more to campaign for Senate or Governor than it would for US Congress. Especially if you have 30+ districts covering about 1 million people vs 2 seats representing 39 million.
    Your videos are awesome and incredibly informative.

  2. I'm seriously thinking about running for the Green party here in Scotland and everyone needs to start somewhere right? This translates well here in the UK (bar certain laws) and this has really inspired me to actually do it instead of just seriously contemplating it. I doubt running for the Greens will ever get me anywhere but that's not the point. If and when I ever write my memoirs I will be sure to give you a name check Jay haha I promise you that Sir 😀

  3. Thanks Jay, you are a lot of help. It still seems so big though. All I know is that our County is corrupt and I talk to people everyday who are fed up. Our Sheriffs Department rapes prisoners and the people get stuck paying the $13.5 Million judgement in the form of increased sales tax. A halfway constructed bridge stands as a monument to the corruption of an official who wanted to make his land more valuable while a far FAR smaller bridge necessary for many to travel in the area will never be replaced (washed out) because our County doesn't have the money. Over 100 G's gets embezzled….. the Public dumpsters are removed resulting in inconvenience for many and increased dumping on the back roads whilst the Commissioners reject a new proposed Waste disposal option that would have saved the county thousands. The police are largely viewed to be revenue thugs filling our jail so much that a cell with 4 beds has 6 men crammed in it. And I believe these people could be a lethal threat to me if I challenge them. But someone has to do it. This has to end.

  4. Me and a group of friends are trying to reclaim and old football/soccer stadium and this video has helped to inform me about fundraising thank you.

  5. do large corporations donate to political campaigns?  Do they donate directly, or through a political party?  But if they donate directly, there may be conflict of interest?

  6. Not certain about the points made but ,if anyone else wants to discover event planning online course try Pyzork Instant Events Professor (just google it ) ? Ive heard some super things about it and my co-worker got amazing success with it. 

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