The telephone as a fundraising tool
To get your message to your potential voters, you, as Candidate, will have to raise money. It has been said that money is the fuel that makes the campaign engine run smoothly. The telephone is a vital medium in your quest for sufficient funds to run a successful campaign. It is personal and the response is immediate. Calls are made by the Candidate, Campaign volunteers and by Professionals Organizations.
I. The candidate calls
TIP: If you, the candidate, cannot make fundraising calls, you should reconsider running for office. The Candidate will be the most successful fundraiser.
One of the first jobs a candidate must tackle is to assess his/her financial strength. A list of potential donors should be compiled immediately.
Who should be included?
Known political givers
Clubs, Churches, Associations, Colleges, Fraternities
TIP: Make sure that any name on a list includes full name, address, home and business phone. Notes on each person are helpful. Nicknames should be included so that thank you notes are more personalized.
TIP: The names should be categorized as to who can be called and who must be visited
personally. The candidate should indicate how much he will ask for and how much he can expect to rise.
TIP: Always ask for more than you think you will get. It is always easier to reduce the amount than to raise it. A wealthy person expects to be asked for a large sum. The candidate should have at least a 25% success ratio.
There should be a specific time set aside each day for telephone fundraising calls. It is often recommended that a volunteer or a staff person sit with the candidate so that he/she does not procrastinate. No one likes to ask for money. It is difficult work. It often feels degrading, but if you have confidence in your candidacy that will come across in your calls. Unless the candidate is financing the campaign him or herself, making fundraising calls is essential.
What amount you ask for is also a function of the office you are running for. If you are running for City Council and your budget is $20,000, then asking for $500 from ten people, $250 from 25 people is not unreasonable. If you are running for the State office and your budget is $60,000, then asking for $1000 from ten people, $500 from 25 people is not unreasonable.
A first time candidate will have a harder time raising large sums of money from outside of his close circle of friends and associates.
1. Money should be asked for early. This is usually referred to as “seed” money. As a Candidate, you will need to have “X” amount available to demonstrate the seriousness of your candidacy.
2. The ability of the candidate to raise money is often an indication of how successful you will be as a candidate. When someone makes a contribution to you, they are demonstrating their confidence in you, as a Candidate.
II. The campaign telephone fundraising calls
Fundraising calls are made by the Finance Committee, by volunteers who follow-up an event. They can also be used to quickly raise a specific amount of money.
A. The finance committee fundraising
One of the key assets of a finance committee is the ability to tap into additional names of potential donors to then contact them. Your finance committee should have developed a list of their personal associates and contacts. These calls should be made early in the campaign to increase the involvement The names of potential donors should be entered into the master fundraising list with full contact information and the notation as to where the name originated. Whereas the first call may soften the potential donor, additional invitations to events, newsletters and other activities will produce donations.
After the initial finance committee call, a determination should be made as to whether the candidate should follow-up with a call or whether a personal visit should be scheduled.
B. Event follow-up
TIP: Follow-up. Follow-up; Follow-up;
Telephone follow-up to any fundraising event is critical to its success. It has been estimated that you can double your attendance by a personal calls. It can be a short call, just reminding the potential donor of the event. It shows that you really want that person to attend and it is often harder to say “no” on the phone.
If you have sent out 500 invitations to an event, your campaign may not have the ability to follow-up all of the invitations. The lists should then be divided into the “A”, “B” and “C” level follow-up calls.
TIP: Follow-up calls for campaign fundraising events should begin no sooner than ten days before the event. People tend make up their minds at the last minute. People forget the date. People may have discarded the invitation as junk mail or just lost the invitation. If there is a celebrity coming, this should be part of the short telephone message. People like to be around famous and powerful people.
C. Raising a specific amount of money on the phone:
Raising money for a specific purpose is an excellent use of the telephone. It is most effective in the final eight weeks of the campaign. You have a specific amount of money that must be raised in a short period of time. For example, you need sh. 500,000 for a direct mail piece on a specific issue. Or, you need sh. 2,000,000 for a series of radio ads to counter the opponent’s media blast.
First, your campaign needs phoners and drivers with cell phones. Then you need to compile your call list. This should consist of former donors or known givers to your particular cause.
You call and ask for a specific amount of money, i.e. sh. 5,000,000. Your call should convey urgency. “If we can raise sh. 5,000,000 from 20 people tonight, we would be able to get our radio message out tomorrow. Would you be willing to contribute sh. 250,000? “If there is hesitancy, then you can lower the asking amount to sh. 100,000. If the person says “yes”, you tell them that Susan Smith will be by in 10 minutes to pick up their check. You get your money right away. The donor will be impressed at your effective operation. The pledge is immediately converted to a donation.
III Professional telephone fundraising
The candidate can make fundraising calls; the campaign can do some event follow up phoning and the finance committee can extend the fundraising outreach. However, larger campaigns with bigger budget requirements should use a professional telemarketing organization to make fundraising calls.
Fundraising Message: A Candidate’s Own Story
A political candidate’s fundraising message to a potential contributor is crucial. It will determine whether the contributor will or will not donate to the campaign.
There is the usual five-minute fundraising call pitch: “Hi my name is…and I am calling you today about my campaign for LC V. I am running for LC V because… My background is…. I believe in issues x, y and z. Can I count on a contribution of sh. 500,000 for my campaign for LC V from you?” Then the candidate answers any questions the potential contributor might have.
This is the normal pitch of any candidate, basically focusing on why he or she is running and asking for a specific amount of money. The problem is regular contributors have heard every pitch possible from presidential and local candidates. The way to separate your candidacy from the pack is with a compelling personal story.
“Why did the candidate get involved in politics in the first place?” “What drives the candidate to serve?” Combining the candidate’s personal story with the normal pitch is absolutely more effective then with the normal pitch alone.
Obviously, the use of issues can also motivate a potential contributor to donate. For example, when the candidate is speaking with a media person he or she would likely add, “I’m against the violation of the media rights in this area!” But after that, what could get potential contributor to get even more motivated? This involves the candidate’s own story. Every candidate has one and it should be worked on and refined so it can be told in an interesting and appealing way.