Dr. Politics: Campaign Fundraising

By Dwight Patel

You can’t win a campaign just by knocking on doors, especially when you have a district of 1,000 homes or more.  You need money to pay printers, TV stations, radio stations, the webmaster, the post office and the phone company. 

The bottom line is that you need to raise money and you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for it. If you are, you may have a fear of rejection, and if that’s the case, you may be thinking that your campaign is more about you than about the cause.  Remember that if you are running to advance a cause, everything you do is about the cause.  After all, keep in mind that you are not asking your friends, family and strangers for money for yourself -- you are asking for money so that you can go and fight for their cause, which will improve the quality of life for your constituents. If that’s not the case, then you might need to take a second look at why you are running for office.

The first rule of fundraising is this: know the rules or find someone else who does.  The election rules are different for federal, state, county and municipal candidates. You need to know and understand the rules for the office you are running for, such as: know when to file and what to file; what the contribution limits are, and when to report to the state board of elections.  You can get into real trouble if you don’t file or get hit with a fine if you file late.  Remember to obey the rules, because if you plead ignorance, you’ll look like a fool. 

If you don’t have a viable donor list, here is how you can create one: Go through your Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts, since these are people with whom you already have an existing relationship, and you can reach out to them with a personal touch.  Be sure to call these people. You can’t just send out an email and expect people to give, so if you do send an email, follow up with a phone call and you will get much better results. 

Four Common Sources of Campaign Contributions

  • Family and Friends
    • Parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and cousins’ spouses, if you are uncomfortable asking your family for money, then don’t run. After you have asked every last relative, go to your friends, including high school classmates, college classmates, people who attend your church, members of clubs and organizations you belong to, Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, lawyers, doctors, plumbers, realtors, and friends on your Christmas Card List (if you still send them).
    • It’s a good idea to approach some Tier One donors so that you actually have money on hand before you make a formal campaign announcement.  It is always great to work into you announcement that you have cash on hand.
  • People Who Should Want to Contribute to Your Campaign
    • Special interest groups such as small business owners and associations with like-minded goals should want to give you money because they share your values. And where do you find these people?  It’s a little-known secret that your state board of elections has candidate filings that will show which associations gave money to someone who ran for your office in prior years. Also, look at the PACs and organizations that donate to other Republicans.
  • People Who can be Persuaded to Contribute to Your Campaign
    • Money doesn’t grow on trees, so it stands to reason that well-funded organizations won’t donate to you if they hear you are just teetering along and running a poor campaign.  However, if you develop the reputation of running a good campaign and look like a viable candidate, you can persuade these people and organizations to take a chance on your campaign. And here’s a useful tip:  Anyone who gives you $500 or more knows someone else who can do the same.  You might have them arrange a meeting with their contact. If so, remember that you will only get one chance to persuade them to support you, so use your time wisely. 
    • You should also go back to all of your previous donors via email to let them know that your campaign is going well and include positive press clippings.  Ask for more money as long as they haven’t maxxed out to your campaign.  If they have maxxed out, ask for referrals.
  • People Who Dislike Your Opponent
    • These people are very likely to give to your campaign if you can prove you are a viable candidate.  How do you show you are running a viable campaign?  With organization, positive press, and visibility. 

Final Thoughts

Those of you who running for office can contact me at dwight@bethesdaarchitects.com to schedule a time to record a 30 second video that will be played at our Lincoln Day Dinner on  April 25, 2018 at the Rockville Hilton.  You can find more information about the Lincoln Day Dinner by going to http://www.mcgop.com/ldd2018.  I highly encourage all candidates to buy a ticket and attend the dinner, or better yet, put a table together.  When I was 21 and ran for the House of Delegates in 1994, I put a table together for my campaign, and today, we still share memories about that evening when U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was the speaker.  Our Lincoln Day Dinner speaker this year is my old friend Governor George Allen of Virginia. Governor Allen is a great guy and a big supporter of Maryland Republican candidates.

As always I can be reached at dwight@politicalarchitects.com with questions or comments.


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