Fundraising Basics


The key to any successful fundraising endeavor, as you learn how to run for local office, is personally calling or meeting someone in person and making a financial “Ask.”  There is no shortcut.  What we can do to make this task easier is the proper background work to make the fundraising “Ask” the most effective that we can.

List Generation Is The Most Important Part

Your want to generate as large a list as possible and gather names, emails, and phone numbers. This list should include your personal contact list, business cards you gather at events, and people who have donated in previous elections to the same seat (this list is publicly available at the county or city voter registration office).

Once you generate the list, place a target dollar amount next to each person’s name so that you know how much you are going to ask for from each person.

Ask Everyone Yourself  

No one can do it for you. It is wonderful to get a friend or elected official to call and make an ask on your behalf or introduce you.  We call this finding someone “hard to say no to.” But ultimately the best fundraisers are the ones who call themselves. And make sure you ask for a specific dollar amount.

Call People Multiple Times

You will be leaving lots of messages.  You should spend 8 hours a week calling for donations.  Always find new reasons to call and “update” people on your campaign. The bottom line is that persistence pays – literally.

Your friends and family will contribute to your campaign because they like you.

Institutional donors want to support the winner. Your job is to ensure these folks know you are going to win. The best way to do that is to call them persistently. Get them talking about how hard you are working.

Call People Who Donate To Other Political Candidates

Even if they don’t know you they understand the importance of political donations and are the most likely to give. Get donor lists from elected officials who support you and call these people. Start the phone call with something like, “Mayor Jane Blake asked me to give you call regarding me candidacy for City Council…”

The Face-to-Face Meeting Game

If you meet with someone and you walk away without money or an endorsement, especially if you think they are going to generically “help you” in the future, they won the game! Their goal is to have you walk away liking them, but not having to commit anything to you. Your goal is to walk away with a firm commitment to support you financially. Talk about a specific amount and ask when you can pick up the check. Don’t let them win this game!

Fundraising Events

Hosting fundraising events can take a lot of time and resources and a small event takes just as much time as a large event. More than anything else, an event is a good tool to get checks in the door by creating urgency around the timing of the event. Potential donors can’t keep putting you off when you have a specific event coming up.

However, if you are going to do an event, do it right!

  1. Don’t spend money. Try hard to get food and drinks donated and don’t use a venue that charges. People are not coming to the event for food – they are coming for you. Every dollar spent on event overhead is one less dollar you have for voter communication.
  2. Pack the house. You are better off with an overcrowded small room than a decent crowd in a large venue that will feel empty.
  3. Diversify the crowd. Like your campaign announcement letter, you want to ensure your events are attended by representatives of multiple industries. The goal is for people to look around the room and be impressed by the interest groups supporting you.
  4. The Introduction. Either the host or a veteran elected official should introduce you. Have them highlight why your election is so important, why their support matters, and how you are going to win.
  5. Your speech. Keep it simple and short. Thanks attendees for coming, their financial support, and provide a few key messages about what you hope to accomplish and how you will win. Make sure they know you are the hardest working person on the campaign.

What If I Can’t Stand Asking For Money?

If you don’t wake up every day excited to ask people for money then you are…. NORMAL! However, you have to get over it quickly. Without resources, you will be unable to deliver your message to voters at the right time. One thing to keep in mind is that you aren’t asking people to just give you money, you are asking them to support your candidacy. These are two different things.

Your fundraising pitch can go something like this:

Our campaign is off to a tremendous beginning. We already have the key endorsements of X, Y, and Z. I am committed to running a grassroots campaign, going door-to-door, and personally asking for votes. To do that, however, we need to print a leave behind brochure that will cost $5,000. Every dollar raised gets us closer to printing that brochure. Do you think you can help us get there with a $250 donation?

In other words – help them help you.

Want to know more about fundraising and learn even more tips and tricks? Contact me anytime with your questions and to receive a complimentary 30-minute candidate telephone coaching session.



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Nonpartisan actionable tips and tricks to win local elections by Gary Davis. Gary Davis has coached over 200 candidates running for local and state office while also serving in three local elected positions, including Mayor, City Council, and School Board. His passion for serving in local office and helping others get there drove him to develop the Run for Local Office Candidate Coaching Program, Blog, and Website.