The most effective way for local political campaigns to raise money is still the ‘old-fashioned’ way — by making calls and holding events. Personal contacts and solicitation are still an integral part of the fund raising process. Under no circumstances will the Internet magically bring in money! Your campaign website exists as a conduit through which to raise money, not as a means unto itself.
Regardless of how you raise money, your local campaign is responsible for complying with the law. Learn as much as you can about compliance in those jurisdictions where you are most likely to raise funds. If necessary, seek legal advice.
Anatomy of an online donation
Below is a summary of a payment process for online donations:
- After clicking a “Donate Now” button, visitors enter their billing and other requested information into a web form. Then they submit their information to start the payment process.
- After submission, a Payment Gateway takes over. The Payment Gateway is a service process responsible for verifying and electronically moving funds. The donor’s credit card is electronically verified and then charged. Then the funds are then deposited into a Merchant Account. This account may be in your name or in the name of the payment vendor.
- When the payment transaction is complete, the donor is shown a confirmation page and sent an e-mail confirmation. At this point, a record of the transaction becomes available for your reporting purposes – and the donation process is complete!
Third party processors
Third party payment processors provide a simple and relatively inexpensive way to accept payments online without the extra cost and obligation of a merchant account. To compensate, transaction fees are somewhat higher than for merchant accounts.
For smaller campaigns, the simplest and best route to talking payments online is to partner with a third party payment vendor. Payment vendors offer different packages and services, and have differing fee structures
Your campaign will need to verify its non-profit status before they can begin using a payment vendor, so you’ll want to set up your account early to give time to be verified. Be prepared to offer additional proof about yourself as a candidate and your organization.
Plenty of campaign fundraising services provide forms, tools and data tracking. (Online Candidate is open and can integrate with any online fundraising service.)
Your online pitch
Besides a link, your campaign website will need a page describing why you would like payment. This page should have your “Donate Now” button to allow your donors to take action. Start your contribution page with a few short sentences about how and why a donor’s gift will make a difference. There’s no need to go into great detail about your campaign, and at no point should the donor be distracted with links to other organizations or information about other giving opportunities.
Your contribute page should note any legal requirements that your campaign falls under, such as:
- No corporate funds may be used for a contribution.
- That the donor be an American citizen or resident alien.
- That the donor does not exceed the maximum legal contributions.
- That the political contribution is not tax deductible.
Also, list an address where checks can be mailed (yes, some people prefer snail-mail) and to what organization the contribution should be made out to.
The web alone won’t solve your campaign’s fund raising needs. A local candidate still needs to do door-to-door, make phone calls and hold fundraising events. The web can, however, give you additional means through which to accept donations.