Fundraising Ideas for Political Campaigns
Beyond asking individuals for money, you must supplement your political campaign with other sources of income. The most obvious source is the traditional meet-and-greet fundraiser. Less obvious avenues for obtaining donations also are available, all of which are legal.
A meet-and-greet event has two purposes. The first is to meet the voters, which is essential when you start campaigning. This technique works as it forms a lasting impression. The second purpose is to raise funds.
A successful meet-and-greet must be set up weeks in advance. Contact the host, who can be one of your volunteers or another supporter. Ask them to put on a neighborhood event. Provide them with as much support as you can, such as creating flyers or posting on social media. If possible, walk the neighborhood with your supporter to rally plenty of people to attend.
The host is responsible for providing snacks and drinks. You should offer to provide some as well, though most hosts are happy to provide the goodies. Ensure that plenty of campaign material is available to hand out as your host goes door-to-door.
To the event you bring campaign material and yard signs. Bring a basket or tray into which people can place donations. You might even “prime the pump” by placing some money in the basket. If you have donation envelopes, set them in the basket, though any small envelope will do.
During the event, be social. Ensure that you meet everyone. Be cheerful and positive. Remember people’s names. Practice your small talk.
At some point you’ll be asked to make a statement or prepare a speech. Be short and sweet with your message, and then open for questions.
Ensure that you thank everyone for coming. Above all, thank the host.
- Not everyone donates at a meet-and-greet, mostly because many people are not political and don’t understand that a donation is part of the deal.
- Avoid knocking any opponents. Don’t say anything you don’t want repeated. These are voters, not a group of intimate friends. If you say something stupid, it may get out.
- Technically, the full cost of the meet-and-greet is an in-kind donation. It’s up to the host to report the money spent, which you can ask for, but they may not provide it.
- You must report any donations made during the event in accordance with the campaign finance rules for the election.
- Cash donations in the basket are difficult to track, which can be an issue if the pot is quite large. Divide the total amount of donations by the number of attendees and state that amount on the campaign’s financial forms.
Ensure that you ask to appear at organizations to share your campaign message. Not every organization — specifically, nonprofits — can donate to a political campaign. Still, you want to get your message out. Every group you can meet with is a plus.
One reason to visit specific organizations, such as a group of realtors, builders, unions, or associations, is to obtain their endorsement. When you ask to meet with such groups, ask whether they plan to endorse someone in your election. You don’t need to ask about a donation; the endorsement often comes with the donation.
- Work in advance to set up meetings with various groups. These groups rarely reach out to candidates, so you don’t want to discover that they’ve already held candidate interviews and made endorsements.
- A donation isn’t always coupled with an endorsement.
- Some organizations may offer volunteers instead of endorsing. For example, members may volunteer to go door-to-door or do a literature drop for you.
- Negatives can be associated with organizations endorsing you. It’s legitimate for opponents to claim donations from such groups are “special interest money” or that you’re “in the pocket” of such groups. Be prepared to deal with such attacks ahead of time.
Election and campaign finance laws differ from state to state, but in most places it’s perfectly legal to fund yourself. Campaign contribution limits may apply to you, or they may not. And you might also be able to make your campaign a personal loan.
On the positive side, a donation to your own campaign is seen as a sign that you believe in yourself. Many political observers view a campaign loan, essentially seed money, as a good thing. It shows you have skin in the game.
On the negative side, do not completely fund your campaign. Many candidates do so because they don’t want to seem beholden to special interests (or so they claim), but the truth is that people don’t like asking for money. Yet, ask you must.
- Some millionaires completely self-fund, and they’re successful. This practice is known as “buying yourself a seat.” No examples of this working at the local level come to mind, but statewide and nationally, it happens frequently.
- Campaign loans are supposed to be paid back through other donations. Even so, because most campaigns never raise enough money, you may end up closing your campaign with a debt — even if you win.