Campaign Finance Resources

Raising money can be tricky. Our resource pages will help.



Importance of maintaining database in off years

Why should you constantly maintain a database?

  Campaign season is (to put it lightly) a busy time for everyone. The work is endless, the hours long, and the resources never quite enough. All done in the pursuit of election day, where with breath held in anticipation, everyone waits for the results to come in. It’s the climax of months or years of work.    And then it’s over.    Win or lose, almost everyone breathes a sign of relief and takes a break. Ties come off and everything is a bit more relaxed. And while campaigning never seems to entirely cease, some tasks begin to take on less importance. Tasks that once consumed hours of precious time don’t necessarily require the same focus. It’s understandable, you don’t need to knock on doors the day after an election. But what about the data? What is done with the thousands of names, phone numbers, email address, and contribution records once an election is concluded?   Well, they’re stored in the database, right?   Hopefully.  

"Data is the new oil"

Let me explain. There are static assets and dynamic assets that a campaign requires to run effectively and efficiently. Static assets could include yard signs or other necessities that don’t change. Dynamic assets are things like a voter’s profiles, which contains data that is likely to change over time.    You don’t really need to stock up on yard signs right after the election. Maintaining a comprehensive database of voter data is something that you should consistently adding to, improving, and refining. Think about a contact you have in your phone. If they changed their phone number, you’d want to make sure that it’s correctly updated in your phone.    A good database is, on a larger scale, just like maintaining a numbers in your phone. If an address changes, update it. If you want to know how much someone gave last election, make sure it’s stored in the database.    Paraphrasing a popular quote, data is the new oil, because the world now relies on data to power its business. And where you refine and store that data is just as important. So choose a platform that was built specifically to store data that you need. We’ve created a pretty good one in DonorDesk!



UI redesign of DonorDesk
When we created DonorDesk, one of the most important things that we wanted to focus on was the way that users interacted with the platform. We spent years working in systems that felt like they had been designed twenty years ago, and hadn’t been updated since.    Think about that. What does that say about how the company views its users? Would you buy a phone that hadn’t been updated in years? Of course not! So why shouldn’t you expect a software company to hold themselves to the same standard.    Even though we introduced our platform to the world just a little over a year ago, we thought we could do better, that we owed that to our customers.    We’re proud to announce that we’ve released a UI redesign of the entire system! Everything still works the way it should, but now it looks better while doing it. At our core, we believe in providing our customers with a modern, intuitive platform. That includes the way it looks. So we chose a design that’s similar to many of the social media platforms you’re used to looking at. This makes it easier to get familiar with. And with some bold pops of color and a fresh font palette, we simply took some of the work out of your work.   We’ll continue to make DonorDesk the best that we can. This redesign is just one in a long line of constant improvements that will continue to make us the best political fundraising CRM on the market!



Is it a good idea to work across multiple platforms?
If you’re like most professionals in the fundraising industry, you are probably working across multiple platforms. You may have contacts on an Excel sheet, events in a CRM, and notes in a shared document.    What are some of the disadvantages of this?  
  1. Integrity of data
  2. Redundancy
  3. Multiple subscriptions
  4. Training
  Integrity of data Data integrity is the accuracy of your data. Take a contact profile as an example. If you’re working across multiple platforms, every time a phone number changes you’ll need to update it in each platform. As you add more places where the data is stored, the greater chance for you to forget to update the data in each one.    Redundancy Redundancy is unnecessary work, such as do the same work more than once. Unfortunately, when you have the same data in multiple places, you’ll have to update it more than once.    Multiple subscriptions Not only does time cost money, but so do software subscriptions. And some are very pricey. Adding more to your list adds up quickly, so finding a one platform that covers everything is worth paying for.    Training Most platforms have been developed with a novice user in mind, so the learning curve isn’t as steep as in the past, but they do take time to master. Training employees adds time. An intuitive platform reduces the time you need to master it.    So what we’ve concluded is working across multiple platforms offers a greater chance for erroneous data, more work, and expense.   The solution? There are specialized platforms that cater to specific industries. DonorDesk is an example of a platform that has everything you need to run a fundraising operation without the need for other subscriptions. 



The different types of donors you’ll encounter – Industry
Otherwise known as lobbyists. They represent the interests of companies, associations, non-profits, and a host of other entities, and are tasked with supporting candidates and politicians who will support them. Finance, oil, tobacco, these are all examples of industries that donate to political campaigns.   These are professional policy watchers. They are astute, so don’t try and play semantics with them. They usually don’t play in smaller races, but expect to see them in state and federal races. Their contributions typically are larger than regional and ideological donors, and possibly more importantly, their endorsement can lead to the support of local unions, businesses, or community organizations.



The different types of donors you’ll encounter – Regional
What are regional donors?   These are your constituents (i.e. the people you want to represent). They are your neighbors, friends, the people at your grocery store, anyone who lives within the confines of your district. These are the people who you are most accountable to. They determine whether you get elected or not, so it's very important to not only understand them, but to also have their support.    Regional donors vary in their ability to contribute. Wealthy district? There are probably wealthy donors in the district. Less wealthy? Donors won't be able to write checks that are as generous.   Regardless of their net worth, it’s important to show strong fundraising from this group. Strong regional financial support shows that you have strong support with the people in your district.    You’ll meet regional donors anywhere you go in the district, going door to door, at local events, and most other places you’ll campaign. Ask for their support. They’ll comprise what is known as the First 300. We’ll go into more detail about this in another post.



How to be a better candidate – Create a finance plan 
If you budget at home or for your business, why wouldn’t you for your campaign? Allocate money to the necessary resources, but don’t waste campaign funds. Think of your funds as the trust that donors have put in your campaign - and spend accordingly!    Create a budget for everything from printed materials and advertising to travel and creating a website. How much you’ll need to spend depends on the position you’re running for, the district, and the opposition. A school board race might only need $1,000 to fund campaign essentials. A Senate seat, more like millions.    One way to get a ballpark estimate of how much your campaign will cost is to review disclosures from previous successful campaigns. Request campaign finance disclosure filings from your local or state board. Past spending can be a useful guide, but adjust the figures based on other factors. An incumbent who ran unopposed in recent years would usually raise less than one who had a strong opponent. Using these resource will give you a good idea of what you need to raise. 



How to be a better candidate – Find a great fundraiser 
And make sure they use DonorDesk! Well, they don’t have to, but like a good consultant, a good fundraiser will justify their salary. They usually have long standing relationships with donors in the community and can help you frame productive conversations you’ll need to have with people who will fund your campaign.   The best way to torpedo your campaign early is to dismiss the value of a professional fundraiser. If you’re running for a local race, or for the presidency, the law requires that nearly every dollar received and every dollar spent by a campaign needs to be reported. By law, anyone can view these reports, which show how much has been raised, spent, and left. These will be scrutinized and conclusions will be drawn. Make sure yours are strong. 



How to be a better candidate – Talk to a reputable consultant
Consultants make or break a campaign. Great ones make your odds of being elected much greater than an average consultant. They are very important, so you need to find a good one. They bring knowledge and experience, both of which are important during the early stages of a campaign.   One size doesn’t apply to finding a reputable consultant. A small mayoral race has different requirements than a congressional race. Strategy, scale, and needs are unique to each campaign — and you need a staffing plan that fits your campaign. In general, your consultant should work with you on developing a budget, creating campaign plan, and developing your campaign’s message.



How to be a better candidate – Have a clear and understandable set of policies
Once you have your answer as to why you are running, you should then be able to set your sights on defining what your policy positions are. The policies you support or oppose will define you against your opponents, so it is important to take time and care in determining where you stand on each issue.   Be able to explain what they are, why you support or oppose them, and what they can do for the voter. Voter want to support a candidate with a strong argument for or against an issue. It's alright if they don't support every position you take. However, it's necessary to know the voters of your district. If you're running against everything that they support,  why even run in the first place?   Finally, once you take a position, try and remain faithful to it. We’ve all heard a politician take a position one day and then oppose it another. Every time someone does this, they lose credibility. It’s OK to have an evolving view, but no one trusts a waffler.



How to be a better candidate – Articulate a clear vision of why you are running 
As mentioned in a prior post, even presidential candidates sometimes fumble questions like “why are you running?". There isn’t one correct answer to this question, but if you’re serious, you’d better have a good reason for running. Many people get started because they want to effect some change in their community, others run because it's a progression of their career.   Running for office for the right reasons is important, not only for gaining support, but also increasing your chances of victory. Lacking a passionate or clear reason will become obvious to voters very quickly. Think long and hard before you launch your campaign; you don't want to commit to a race you don’t want to be. Or even worse, you don’t want to get elected and realize you didn’t want the job in the first place!



Donors you’ll encounter – ideological
Donors are not all the same. They vary in their ability to give and benefits that they can offer to a campaign. Generally speaking donors can be considered one of the following: regional, ideological, and industry. Understand the differences between each, you’ll talk with a regional donor differently than an ideological or industry one. We’ll discuss ideological donors in this post and regional and industry in other posts.   Who is an ideological donor? The hippie that gave $16.23 dollars to Bernie’s campaign? That’s an example of a donor who would be considered ideological. They can be summarized as a donor who gives based on issues and beliefs that they have a strong support for or against, and give to candidates and groups that share similar views.   Ideological donors aren’t confined to a single geographic location. A candidate in California might receive a donation from someone in Washington D.C., for example. Their giving is based largely on the positions of a candidate, and thus aren't confined donating just to local candidates.    Like regional donors, they vary in their ability to contribute. Some send large checks, others may contribute $20. But because they are motivated by issue, these donors tend more be more vigorous in their support of candidates. 


Why are you running for political office?
Remember former presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s response to criticism during a 2016 presidential primary debate? In response to another candidate, he said that instead of running for president, he said, “I could be doing really cool things”. Needless to say this response did not resonate with voters.   How about Ted Kennedy’s long pause when asked why he wanted to run? As a candidate you may not have all of the answers, but your reasons for running for public office should be clear.   The point is that these aren’t great answers to a rather important question, why do you want to run for political office. To be an effective candidate, this is the first question that you should be able to answer.   The decision to run is different for everyone. Some may disagree with their local school board. Others run as a balance against an opposing party and their policies. Common amongst all is the desire to effect some sort of change, and just as important, they believe that they are the best person to do so.   So, what makes a good answer to this important question?   First, emphasize the significance of your experience. Most people running have achieved professional success, be it in business, law, medicine, non profit work, or some other field, and they draw upon this knowledge and experience to inform their positions and policies.   Second, describe what you are going to do for voters. Are you campaigning against tax hikes? Want to bring more federal funds to local schools? Tell the people what you plan on doing, and how it benefits them.   Finally, be confident in your answer. Speak clearly and slowly. Don’t overcomplicate your answer. You should provide a response that is easily understood. You’ll have time to elaborate on your positions later, for now it’s important to let people know who you are and what you support!


How to set a fundraising plan for your campaign – Set goals
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins   This post doesn't pertain to the practice of setting goals, more so, this is how to set reasonable expectations for what you should accomplish in a political race.   Determining how much money to raise is a goal that seems simple in theory, but in practice, you must consider the many aspects of your race when setting a benchmark.   For example, the significance of your race will set an expectation as to how much money you need to raise for the race. A local race and a congressional race are not the same. Federal races (House, Senate, Presidential) require much more capitol than state and local races. Therefore, one should assume that if you are running a state assembly campaign, your budget will be less than if you were running a congressional campaign. Simply put, set your expectations and raise money accordingly.   Your political affiliation is another variable. A Democrat in Alabama likely would raise less compared to a Republican, and a Republican in California probably won’t raise as much as a Democrat.   Finally, understand how your personal contacts are able to help, and your own financial situation. Plenty of wealthy individuals write themselves checks in large amounts, but there are caps on what a candidate can accept from a donor. Know what the limits in your race are. 

Take charge of your next campaign.

DonorDesk is trusted by some of the top consultants in the industry. We’ve spent years creating the best way for campaigns to manage their contacts, events and data. Let us help you get started today!


Choose a meeting date