A campaign for local office will face a number of challenges. One of the first and largest obstacles is raising enough money to become a viable candidate.
Depending on your location and the local voting demographics, a campaign for local office can easily cost a few thousand dollars. If you live in a city, the costs may even reach millions of dollars. If you want an idea of what your election campaign may cost, research previous successful races for the same office.
Most candidates don’t have a lot of funds to put up themselves. Initial seed money is required to get things started – along with a campaign bank account. You’ll want to put together a financial team to help track donations and expenditures.
Here are some tips to help kick off your political fundraising campaign.
Start with Friends and Family
This is the most common way that local candidates raise initial seed money. Just making the ask can be tough, but if you want to raise money, you need to reach out to potential donors. You can start with family, colleagues, friends and wealthy supporters for donations. You can reach out directly or through mail. Tell your prospects why you are running, why you think you can win and how their support can help.
Hold a Fundraising Event
Many campaigns start with a ‘kick-off’ fundraiser event. The goal is to collect money and spread the word about your campaign. The event can be a sit-down dinner, auction, golf event – whatever you think will work. Use the seed money you collected from friends and family to bankroll the event. If you have a more formal event, include a special place for VIPs and charge more for those tickets.
Make it Easy To Donate
Online donations are the norm. Set up a way to accept online donations. A campaign website lends credibility and creates a hub for your online campaign. Many people will not donate through a Facebook post or a Twitter link. A campaign site provides a fixed place to send donors so they can learn more about the campaign and donate. Just remember that a campaign website exists as a conduit through which to raise money, not as a means unto itself.
Use Online Channels
Having a good online presence, even a small one to start, tells potential donors that you are serious about winning the election. Raise awareness through your personal Facebook and Twitter contacts. Ask them to become the first followers of your campaign’s social media accounts. Use those channels to keep followers informed and to ask for money throughout the campaign. Advertising through these platforms can help you reach more local voters.
Don’t be afraid to ask for large donations, especially from those who have the means. If you ask for too little, you may short-change yourself.
Always follow up with some sort of acknowledgement. A personal note makes a great impression on a donor. It will increase the likelihood that they will give again.
A successful campaign for local office takes a lot work. In a competitive local election, every vote counts. Fundraising is just a part of the process. Be prepared to devote hours each day to fundraising calls, and more time at fundraising events. Putting together a solid plan will help you get started.
Finally, remember that your campaign is responsible for complying with the laws of your state and jurisdiction. If necessary, seek legal advice.