By Holly Robichaud
At the end of a campaign there is nothing worse than finishing with a positive cash flow. You want to reach Election Day with a slight debt, but not an overwhelming one. Hence your GOTV philosophy should be to leave no stone unturned and no national sized debt.
It is easy for a winner pay off their debt. However, a candidate should only go into debt on the amount he or she can personally afford to lose. There are no guarantees in politics, so don’t bet the farm on a victory. Creditors usually go after candidates personally when they fail to collect from their campaign committees.
Upon victory you will hear from numerous non-donors that they knew you were going to win and that they were with you all the way. This is where running a debt can be helpful. Even though the train has left the station as far as the election is concerned, these people will still try to buy a ticket by sending in a late donation. These notorious checks will be dated a week before the election and arrive two weeks after the votes have been counted. As the saying goes –everybody wants to be with the winner.
If the campaign debt is larger than the post-election fundraising bump, then schedule a fundraiser in January. Not only invite your master list, but also expand your invitation list to include your previous prospects who failed to contribute.
Retiring a debt for a losing campaign is not so easy. What can defeated candidates do to get themselves out of a financial hole?
The principles for erasing a debt are basically the same as fundraising during the campaign with a few exceptions. For example attempting to raise money from the PAC community is pointless. They don’t give money to defeated candidates. Many times they turn tail and give to the newly elected-incumbent in order to gain favor. So waste your time on them. Also paid phone banks are useless.
The first step is for the campaign to thank all of their donors and volunteers. Don’t try to resolicit your list until everyone has been properly thanked. If you skip this step, then you can expect your returns will be very limited. Remember, your supporters are just as heartbroken about the defeat as you are. They need to know that you appreciated and that you feel their pain.
The next step is to set up either a finance committee conference call or meeting. You want to take this opportunity to explain why it was important to finish the campaign with a slight debt and how you want to do the right thing by paying off the people who extended the campaign credit. Usually finance committee members are the movers and shakers in the community, so being upfront with them will help post campaign rumor mill. Furthermore, if you want to take another stab at running again you will most likely need these people on your team once again. You don’t want to leave them with a bad taste in their mouth. Members should be asked to help by making another donation that does not exceed the legal limit or they can solicit a few friends for some bucks. Also holding a small house party at their home can help generate funds.
Call, call, call. Dialing for dollars is a key component for debt retirement. The candidate needs to once again retreat to the phones to get in the big donations. It cannot be overstated enough 4 figure checks don’t just magically appear. Candidates need to ask for them.
To mail or not to mail? Yes, resolicit your list via the mail. The letter should be short and sweet. Once again you want to acknowledge the recipient’s loyal support for the campaign before asking for money. The letter should clearly explain why it is important to pay off people who advanced the campaign a credit and how you need to do it urgently.
The last step for solving your campaign shortfalls is to hold a fundraiser. Do not resort to this tactic until you have made a good effort with your candidate calls. As you know a fundraising event has lots of overhead and it is harder to net a profit. Also avoid scheduling it in December during the holiday season. The best way to ensure success is to recruit a host committee of people willing to sell tickets for the event. You want to be making money before you open the doors to your event.
Retiring a debt is the candidate responsibility. It can be done as long as he or she is willing to put in the effort. Please be warned candidates who fail to pay off their debt will have problems if they try run for office again.
Holly Robichaud of Tuesday Associates, has 20 years experience in helping
Republicans get elected to office. She specializes in strategy,
direct mail fundraising, voter contact programs, and campaign fundraising
in general. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.