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Key Elements to a Successful Fundraising Plan

By Holly Robichaud

It cannot be stated enough that nowadays money is the mother’s milk of politics.  Money is the second most pivotal component of a victorious campaign.

It is expensive to campaign and it keeps getting more costly to run for office each cycle.  Ten years ago you did not need a web site or a blogging strategy.  These new communication tools plus the higher costs for postage and electronic media significantly add to the bottom line.

In a campaign there are always hundreds of ideas on how to spend funds, but a rare few quality ideas on how to raise it.

Twenty years ago the prototype fundraising plan was a group of wealthy businessmen who raised most of the money through personal contact.  Today, campaign fundraising is a complex task involving events, finance committees, personal solicitation, phones, the internet, and direct mail.  You raise more money in small average amounts.

The key to fundraising is not only a well-connected finance committee, but also an integrated direct response program.  Just as you need to develop a campaign plan for contacting voters, you need an aggressive fundraising plan to raise sufficient funds to get out your message.  Your finance plan will serve as a roadmap to raising sufficient funds in a timely manner.

There are many different types of donors—big money people, direct mail respondents, and event goers.  The trick is to maximize each type of donor.  Committees that only focus on events do not build large profitable master files.  Committees that only use personal solicitation leave significant small donors untapped.  Therefore, you need specific programs designed to reach specific types of donors.

If you want to be successful in fundraising, then employ these seven proven techniques:

1. PERSONAL SOLICITATION

In all successful campaigns candidates must spend a considerable amount of time calling high-dollar donors.  Your first step is to identify these possible donors.  They are people who make a good living and are capable of making a sizeable donation.  For legislative races candidates should be calling people who can contribute $250 or more.  Congressional candidates should contact $1000 types and above.

Next you need to schedule calling hours for the candidate.  At least 50% of the candidate’s campaign time must be devoted to dialing for dollars during the early stages of the campaign.  You have to schedule this time like it is an appointment or the candidate will avoid it.  (Sometimes you even have to put a babysitter in the room to make sure the candidate is actually calling.)

After your candidate has called a big contributor, the campaign must send out a follow-up letter and keep track of the response.  If the pledge does not arrive within the week, another letter must be immediately sent to remind them.  For Congressional campaigns or higher, get a credit card number at the time of the call.  

2. DIRECT MAIL

Direct Mail fundraising is like building a field operation in a local campaign.  Raising small donations from a larger number of people not only fills your coffers, but it also expands your volunteer base.  It is a means of reaching a broad base of individuals and raising funds.   Remember, for every donor you obtain, you have touched ten voters with a positive message.  Furthermore, once someone has donated, they will continue to contribute.  In other words they double-down their bet on your candidacy.

Prospecting mail usually yields a 1 to 2% return while resolicit letters can produce 10 to 20%.  Resolicitation is the key to getting direct mail to be profitable.  You should resolicit donors every 6 to 8 weeks during an election year.

# for Donors Average
Contribution
2% of Return
(Prospecting)
10% of Return
(Resolicitation)
20% of Return
(Resolicitation)
250 $25 $125 $625 $1250
400 $25 $200 $1000 $2000
500 $25 $250 $1250 $2500
1000 $25 $500 $2500 $5000
1500 $25 $750 $3750 $7500
2000 $25 $1000 $5000 $10000
5000 $25 $2500 $12500 $25000

Who should you mail?  A good place to start is friends and family, business associates, members of church and other organizations your candidate is involved with.

Please note that your mail should also push people to make a donation online.  Email donors should also be re-solicited every 6 to 8 weeks.  (Presently online donations can significantly boost the war chest of higher office campaigns.  On the other hand most people still donate through the mail for legislative campaigns.)

3. TELEMARKETING

Telemarketing is an important component of the campaign’s direct response program.  It will support and enhance your direct mail program.  Phones can add 1 to 2% rate of return on direct mail pieces.  You need to carefully call target audiences.  Scripts and procedures should be developed to ensure that the appropriate message is communicated; feed back and contribution information from the donor is received and properly recorded, and at the end of the call the donor has a good feeling about your candidate and the campaign.

4. EVENTS

There are many people who give just to go to events.  They will not donate in response to a letter, but they will contribute to attend a party.  The key to events is planning.  It takes roughly 4 to 6 weeks to coordinate a successful event.  During the course of campaign you should hold house parties on a regular basis and schedule at least four major events.

The best way to guarantee success is to identify several hosts willing to contribute more than the ticket price or willing to sell ten tickets to be a host of the event.  By securing a strong host committee, you will make money before the event is even held.

There are two common mistakes most campaigns make when trying to plan events.  First, they let the overhead run amok which results in a very small net profit for the campaign.  The second biggest error is waiting months for a headliner.  Big names don’t sell tickets, so do not lose a whole re-solicitation period waiting for a dignitary to commit to a date.

5. FINANCE COMMITTEE

One way to alleviate some of the fundraising burden is to enlist others to raise money for the campaign by creating a Finance Committee.  Many times members have different contacts and can bring new donors into the campaign.  Finance Committee members do not have to be rich.  They only have to be willing to ask for donations, host events, or willing to send out a rolodex letter.  Salespeople can be very productive members.

An average finance committee can raise 10% of an overall campaign budget.  Very effective committees can raise up to 25%.  

6. TIMELINE

As you get closer to Election Day, the easier it is to raise money.  Although you need the bulk of your money at the end of the campaign, you will still need to raise significant funds during the early stages not only to create momentum, but to help raise your name identification so that you are in a position to win at the end.

Create a weekly and monthly timeline for your fundraising activities.  This will help you cash flow your campaign.  Make sure to include mail drop dates, events, finance committee meetings and phone banking.

Be aggressive in your planning.  No one has ever lost a campaign because they asked for money too often, whereas thousands of candidacies have ended due to lack of funding.  

7. THANK YOU NOTES

It is critical to thank every donor promptly.  Much of your success depends on re-solicitation, so you must acknowledge their generosity.  Failure to thank donors will result in lackluster responses to mail re-solicitation and events.
Holly Robichaud has over 20 years experience in helping
Republicans get elected to office.  She specializes in strategy,
direct mail, voter contact programs, and campaign fundraising.
She can be reached at Click here to contact this Author
 

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