How to Find Donors for Your Next Political Campaign

This is a guest post by Joe Garecht, Smart Political Fundraising
As anyone who has ever run for political office can tell you, money is the lifeblood of a political campaign. Without money, you can’t afford a campaign staff, yard signs, a get out the vote operation or a victory party on Election Night. That’s why every political campaign needs to focus on bringing in a steady stream of donors… to make sure it has the money it needs to win.

Where do you find donors for your campaign? There’s no magic “donor list” that someone is going to hand you after you get a certain endorsement or win the primary. Fundraising is hard work, and it takes a willingness to take meetings, do lunches, and make calls to find donors who will support your campaign. Here are the four places where most campaigns are able to find a steady stream of donors:

#1 – The Candidate’s Personal Contacts

political campaign fundraisingThe candidate is the fundraiser-in-chief for your political campaign. Donors donate because they believe in the candidate… so where better to start fundraising than with the candidate’s own personal contacts?

The vast majority of successful campaigns start their fundraising efforts by having the candidate sit down with his or her Rolodex and “holiday card list” to dial for dollars. The candidate should be prepared to call family members, friends, business partners and colleagues, vendors, clients, neighbors, etc. to raise seed money to start the campaign.

The candidate should also meet in person with those people in his contact list that have the highest financial capacity – these prospects should be asked not only for a major donation, but also to help the campaign find new donors and raise the money it needs to win.

#2 – The Finance Committee’s Network

Every campaign should put together a Finance Committee to help the candidate with fundraising. The Finance Committee is a group of people who understand the importance of fundraising and agree to help the campaign raise money.

Your Finance Committee’s network can be a valuable source of donations for your campaign. Committee members can either make calls and do meetings on their own to ask for donations from within their own networks, or they can set up meetings and calls for the candidate. Finance Committee members may also want to set up small meet-and-greet events with the candidate to help her meet new prospective donors.

If the Finance Committee member isn’t doing the ask, he or she should be willing to provide a warm and supportive introduction to the candidate or Finance Director who will be making the ask.

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#3 – Prior Candidates with Similar Profiles

If your candidate is running for reelection or has previously run for office in your local area, then his prior donor list will provide a valuable starting point for your fundraising efforts. If your candidate has not run for office before, try approaching other candidates or officeholders in your area who have a similar profile (party affiliation, political philosophy, stance on key issues) as your candidate and ask them to share their donor lists with your campaign.

Many candidates and officeholders are willing to share donor lists with candidates who they support. Remember, though, not to simply pull names off of campaign finance filings. Not only is this an ineffective way to raise money, in many jurisdictions it is prohibited by law. Instead, directly approach the candidate or elected official, seek their support, and ask them to share their donor lists with your campaign. Many will say no, but some just might say yes.

#4 – Membership Directories

Does your candidate belong to any social clubs, country clubs, fraternal organizations, civic groups or other membership organizations? How about the candidate’s spouse, children, or parents? What about your Finance Committee members and other key supporters?

If the candidate, his/her spouse, children, parents, or other supporters belong to membership organizations or clubs that provide membership directories, these can be valuable fundraising tools for your campaign. Be careful, though… some clubs have strict rules about sending unsolicited mail by using the club directory.

Instead, have someone who knows lots of people in the organization sit down with the directory to go through it and begin to make introductions to the candidate. Membership directories can provide a great “memory jogger” to help your Finance Committee members and others remember who they know.

About the Author

Joe Garecht is the founder of Smart Political Fundraising and a speaker, author and fundraising consultant. Be sure to sign up for the Smart Political Fundraising Newsletter to get new articles delivered to your inbox every week.