How to Raise Money for Political Campaigns: Stop thinking about money

Whenever we talk to a candidate or politician and ask “how can we help you” the answer is always: “help me raise more money.”

The problem with this is that if the thoughts going on in the candidate’s mind are “I need money, I need money, I need money money money money money…” then it’s no wonder that 99% of politicians in this country end up corrupt.

We understand the necessity for the candidate to spend time fundraising.  We’re not saying that the candidate should not fundraise.  Candidates must call through their network and have personal contact with donors.

What we’re saying is that money should not be the top concern for the candidate.  Their head fundraiser can be that person.  The candidate or politician has to be motivated by a different question, a question that should always be at the top of mind: how can I better serve my constituents?

When you lead with this question, it opens up a whole array of fundraising models that most politicians don’t ever use.

Continuous Town Halls are one of the best.  This model was perfected by Bernie Sanders, and involves going to specific constituencies to listen, educate, and mobilize.  They’re a great source of small-dollar donations. Learn how to do them here.

One-on-ones with organic leaders are another great way to increase your pool of donors.  These are people who are trusted by their own community, whether it be a church, PTA, housing project, workplace, or ethnic group.  By convincing them, you leverage their ability to motivate their community.  Jane McAlevey’s great book No Shortcuts has fantastic advice on how to reach out to them.

House parties are another great model.  Once you have recognized repeat donors or repeat volunteers, train them to give a house party. This is an event at their house or at some other location where their friends can learn about the candidate and the campaign and will have an opportunity to donate.  These events are easy to do and fun; they involve less work from the campaign and give volunteers a lot of creative power and agency.  They’re scalable and reliable small-dollar fundraisers.  There are many good blog articles on hosting house parties (this is one).

Fundraising is crucially important, but it should be a matter of process, not the single motivating issue for a candidate.  You have to work fundraising into every event you have.  Our next blog post explains the nitty-gritty details of how to convert every event into a small-dollar fundraiser.

If you’re doing an event because you need money, then stop.  That’s backwards.  That model leads only to more events targeted at richer and richer people.

There are so many events and meetings that a politician needs to do in order to do well at their job (of serving the people) that there shouldn’t be time for fundraising-specific events.  Raising small dollar donations is all about serving those who are not currently served by our government.  And lucky us, that’s almost everyone!  So you have tons of opportunity to convince regular people that you’re the only one who will actually stand up for them, because you probably are.

Unless you’re constantly thinking about how to raise more money, then maybe you’re not.