Political Fundraising

Online fundraising 2.For political candidates, it’s easy enough for them to know where they stand on most issues. That’s why they run for office to begin with. Candidates know why they want to hold office and what areas their expertise will benefit. The biggest barrier to elected office is often the hardest to overcome – it comes down to money. Money gives a campaign a fighting chance to spread its message and let voters know your political platform. Without money, a campaign simply cannot properly implement a campaign strategy.

Fundraising is one of the most important aspects of campaign planning. Even in the off-years for elections, raising funds is an ongoing priority. Many Political Action Committees and other 501c4 organizations raise and spend funds year-round. Getting a message out costs money, and the earlier a campaign receives funds, the easier it is to plan and pool resources.

Many Independent candidates may or may not have financial support when they decide to run for office. Because groups and corporations often plan their giving straight down the party line, if a candidate is a liberal-leaning Independent, the money will likely go to their Democrat opponent instead. The same holds true on the right side of the political spectrum. Independent candidates have to work harder for their money and set their platform in stone. This is why it is so critical for them to take measures to ensure that they are able to raise sufficient funds to finance their campaigns. Independents need to be able to fund an extensive PR campaign to get their name out there, and familiarize voters with their platform and how it differs from established political parties.

Why Do People Donate to Political Campaigns?

People give money to political campaigns for many reasons, but the top reason isn’t charitable. Political campaign donations aren’t tax-deductible, so appealing to people’s ideals, hopes, and dreams is a main reason people give to political campaigns.

• They believe in a candidate or party.

• They know the person who is asking for donations, and trust their judgement.

• A campaign has immediate needs to counteract their opponent, legislation, or other forces that can influence the outcome of an election.

• They were asked for money, and couldn’t find a good reason to say “no.”

The fundraising aspect of a political campaign must be taken seriously. Fundraising is not about begging, it’s about selling your candidate. Donors need to know that the work you do is important, and by asking them for funds to implement your ideas, you’re letting them participate in a part of the political process.

Who Contributes to Political Campaigns?

People and organizations across the country regularly fund political campaigns, hoping that their support will put the candidate they like in office. According to the Washington Post, nearly half of President Obama’s support in his re-election campaign came from small donors, individuals who gave $200 or less. In contrast, Mitt Romney’s small donor base was just 9% of his fundraising in 2011, with the 2/3’s of his campaign’s funds coming from high-income donors willing to give him the maximum ($2500) allowed by law.

Individual Donors

When a candidate runs for office, they often start their fundraising efforts by pooling their resources and network of family and friends. These are the people most likely to know and believe in the candidate’s skills and potential, and include:

• Immediate family and extended family members

• Personal friends

• Old friends from college

• Social clubs and church friends

• Co-workers

• Businesses

• Family friends

• Donors that have given to the party the candidate belongs to in the past.

and anyone that a candidate is on friendly terms with that believes in your candidate’s skills and character.

Special Interest Groups

Special interest groups support candidates that will promote or preserve policies that benefit their members or the people they represent. make no mistake about it, these types of donations come with expectations. Independent candidates have a more difficult time raising money from these groups, because they often seek to increase their influence by aligning with a specific political party. Groups that are considered special interests often tend to give late in the campaign, because they want to back the winner, not place their bets and waste valuable resources backing an early favorite.

Special interest groups include:

• Labor unions

• Chambers of Commerce

• Professional associations

• Political Action Committees (PACs)

• Industry lists

• Businesses

Oppositional Type Donors

Some political donors vow to support a worthy opponent of a candidate they simply do not like. They are not “pro” but “anti” in terms of giving. For example, the Koch brothers promised millions of dollars to President Obama’s political opponent in 2012. It’s important to remember that this category of donor does not actually like your candidate, but simply do not want to see the opposition elected. These donors do not find mud-slinging distasteful, and often give money to candidates as well as PACs that focus on the dirtiest aspect of campaigns. Basically, they have an ax to grind, and they’re disgruntled enough to be willing to invest cold, hard cash to air the opponent’s dirty laundry.

There are plenty of reasons that donors choose to support political campaigns, but the fundraising staff is the team that needs to be able to craft messaging to reach each of these categories. Don’t overlook the power of in-person fundraising, town hall venues, and other community events as a jumping off point to start reaching a new demographic. Fundraisers often find that their strength is not only in monetary numbers, but in the volume of supporters. The more supporters your candidate converts, the easier it will be to ask for support. Fundraising goes hand in hand with campaigning. Just remember that if you don’t ask, you cannot receive.

Melissa Brewer is a freelance writer and researcher in Washington, DC. She currently maintains a blog on progressive politics and feminism. She has worked in grant writing and fundraising for several nonprofits, and enjoys exploring new technologies that enhance activism and support for causes. If you’d like any ideas for your next campaign, get in touch.

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