There’s a reason why established politicians have the ability to raise such a large amount of money for their campaign war chests: after years of holding office and shaking hands, they’ve amassed a giant list of people and organizations they can count on to donate money for their next run.
If you’re a new candidate who is running in your first political campaign, however, the prospect of raising money to purchase mailings, commercials, yard signs, advertisements and other necessities can seem pretty intimidating. Who do you go to first? How do you ask for money? How do your deal with rejection?
In future posts, we will get into the techniques you should use to actually ask for money (which is the most intimidating and difficult aspect of campaigning for most candidates, by the way). Right now, though, let’s focus on how you should build your initial fund raising list.
Your potential donor list should be one of the first things you compile when you decide to run for office. It’s an accounting of every person or organization you think might donate money to your campaign (whether you know them personally or not).
When you start building your fund raising list, you’ll quickly realize why people who have numerous political, business and community connections can raise money much more easily. While it would be nice to rely on only a few affluent donors to provide you with all of the funds you’ll need to run a great campaign, the candidate who raises smaller amounts from a larger number of donors is more likely to win on election day.
The reason why more small donors is better than a few big donors is simple: the more people who give you money, the broader and deeper your support in the community. Every person who gives money to your political campaign–even if it’s a single dollar–is very likely to vote for you at the polls and tell their friends and family to do the same.
So, who do you jot down on your initial donor list? It goes without saying that you shouldn’t list anyone from whom who you can’t possibly imagine asking for money. Still, as a political candidate, you need to make a conscious effort to overcome any natural aversion to asking for money . . . and keep the number of “do not contacts” to a bare minimum.
Although some candidates don’t like to ask family members for donations, they can actually end up being one of your most reliable group donors. In fact, my own first political fundraiser was for family members only, and helped me raise a nice amount of campaign start-up money.
As you broaden your donor list, try to think of every friend, business associate, and acquaintance. Do they know you well enough to consider donating a few dollars for your campaign?
Finally, if you know any other former political candidates who did fund raising themselves, don’t be shy to ask them for a copy of their donor list. People who donate to one political campaign are much more likely to donate to another, and the list can also give you an idea of how much money they might have the ability to donate.
Once you’ve listed everyone who you think might be likely to give money, you’ll have a much better grasp on what kind of resources you’ll have on the campaign trail.