Here are some tips to help kick off your political fundraising campaign.
Start with Friends and Family
This is the most common way that local candidates raise initial seed money. Just making the ask can be tough, but if you want to raise money, you need to reach out to potential donors. You can start with family, colleagues, friends and wealthy supporters for donations. You can reach out directly or through mail. Tell your prospects why you are running, why you think you can win and how their support can help.
Hold a Fundraising Event
Many campaigns start with a ‘kick-off’ fundraiser event. The goal is to collect money and spread the word about your campaign. The event can be a sit-down dinner, auction, golf event – whatever you think will work. Use the seed money you collected from friends and family to bankroll the event. If you have a more formal event, include a special place for VIPs and charge more for those tickets.
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Make it Easy To Donate
Online donations are the norm. Set up a way to accept online donations. A campaign website lends credibility and creates a hub for your online campaign. Many people will not donate through a Facebook post or a Twitter link. A campaign site provides a fixed place to send donors so they can learn more about the campaign and donate. Just remember that a campaign website exists as a conduit through which to raise money, not as a means unto itself.
Use Online Channels
Having a good online presence, even a small one to start, tells potential donors that you are serious about winning the election. Raise awareness through your personal Facebook and Twitter contacts. Ask them to become the first followers of your campaign’s social media accounts. Use those channels to keep followers informed and to ask for money throughout the campaign. Advertising through these platforms can help you reach more local voters.
Don’t be afraid to ask for large donations, especially from those who have the means. If you ask for too little, you may short-change yourself.
Always follow up with some sort of acknowledgement. A personal note makes a great impression on a donor. It will increase the likelihood that they will give again.
A successful campaign for local office takes a lot work. In a competitive local election, every vote counts. Fundraising is just a part of the process. Be prepared to devote hours each day to fundraising calls, and more time at fundraising events. Putting together a solid plan will help you get started.
Finally, remember that your campaign is responsible for complying with the laws of your state and jurisdiction. If necessary, seek legal advice.
A bank checking account serves several purposes. It allows you to accept political donations and contributions from supporters, and to make campaign purchases.
Open your political campaign checking account as early as possible. Campaign finance laws in many states require that a campaign bank account be established in order to legally deposit political donations and make payments for campaign expenses.
Prior to opening a campaign bank account, you may need to establish a political campaign committee with your local county Board of Elections. The name you use for your campaign committee is the name you will use to open the bank account. The bank will require committee paperwork along with personal identification.
You may want to open an interest-free checking account rather than an interest-bearing savings account. Any interest earned on a campaign bank account must be reported in your finance reports. Considering how little banks pay in interest these days, the small amount of money to be gained is hardly worth the additional effort required by your committee treasurer to report.
While a candidate’s personal funds can be used for campaign purchases before a campaign bank account is established, those purchases are generally treated as an in-kind donation or as a personal loan. Once the campaign is underway, the committee treasurer should handle the political funds and keep track of income and expenditures. For larger campaigns, it may be a good idea to hire an accountant to make sure no overspending occurs and to keep track of contributions and where the money goes.
Because of financial filing requirements, it is important to keep detailed records of every account transaction. Keep statements, records and receipts in a safe place. They should be held indefinitely in case questions later arise as to your campaign finances.
As always, be sure to know and follow your local election laws to the letter!