So, you’re going to run in a local election but don’t have much money to spend on your political campaign? If you’ve decided to enter a race for public office but don’t plan to raise much money from donations, then there are a few strategies you can use to make winning more likely.
Make no mistake about it: having more money than your opponent is always a good thing in local elections. It is possible to win a political campaign with no money, but that doesn’t mean that you should completely disregard the important task of fundraising. Candidates who do a good job raising money usually do the best in elections, for many reasons.
Still, if there’s some reason why you absolutely must run a race without any funds, here are some tips on how to win a political campaign with no money. If you use your time wisely, work hard, and stay focused on what it takes to win, then anything is possible.
1. Start Your Campaign Early
. . . and when I say early, I mean really early. Announce your candidacy a year before election day, and start hitting the pavement right away. Most candidates don’t start campaigning until a few months before election day; use that to your advantage. By the time your eventual opponent’s campaign kicks off, make sure you’ve already visited the voters’ homes with literature two, three or four times.
2. Use Hard Work To Make It Impossible For Voters To Forget Your Name
My political campaign mantra is “the harder it is, the better it works.” Knocking on the door of every voter in your ward is hard, but it’s effective. Sending hand-written postcards to every voter asking for their support is tough, but it makes them remember who you are. The easy stuff — like walking in parades and sitting on your behind at public gatherings — are just lazy, ineffective ways to campaign.
3. Don’t Run a “Resume Campaign.” Tell Your Story, Instead.
Too many first0time candidates for public office think they need to treat their campaign like they are applying for a job. Don’t put your resume on your campaign literature; you might be proud of it, but the average voter will throw it in the garbage before they read any of it. Instead, tell your own personal story. Pick two or three “story points” and repeat them to the voters over and over, until they become the things that everyone thinks about when they hear your name. Your family, business, hobbies, service to the community or other personal details make great story points.
4. Focus On The Effective, Not The “Feel Good”
Beware spending your money on ineffective campaign ploys that many first-time candidates waste resources on. Billboards, radio spots and newspaper ads might make you feel good (“hey look, my face is everywhere!”) but they actually reach very few of the likely voters you should be targeting. Make sure every dollar you spend helps you reach a registered, likely voter. Visiting the homes of voters, sending mail to them directly and using targeted email and phone lists might not make you feel as good, but they are much better strategies.
5. Keep A Detailed, Meticulous Campaign Contact List
Your campaign contact list will win or lose your election for you. Keep detailed records of every person you meet during your campaign, what you talked about, and their contact information. A great contact list will come in handy in many ways; you can use it as a list of invites to fundraisers, requests for yard sign locations, reminders to get out to vote, and much more. And make sure that every time you meet a new person, you take a moment to send them a hand-written card thanking them for talking to you.
6. Don’t Give In To The Temptation To Go Negative
Going negative might work in big state and federal races, but it just isn’t as effective in smaller local political campaigns (and will often backfire on you completely). Stop worrying about what your opponent is doing, and just focus on working as hard as you can to get your name out there. Gossiping about your opponent might make you feel good, but it’s one of the biggest time wasters you can indulge in. Forget about digging up dirt about the other guy, and campaign as hard as you can for yourself, instead.