More than anything else, realizing you are valuable and worthy of other people’s support – their time, money and energy – will calm those fundraising jitters. It will also make you more attractive as a candidate. The confidence you have in your ideas and your campaign will go much further than the details of your pitch.
But you have to ask. Rarely – very rarely – does someone make a significant contribution without being asked! Making the ask is the job of the candidate. Donors, large and small, want to hear from the person they are being asked to invest in.
Begin by identifying those who will support you. Start with those who can’t say no – like your family – and build your fundraising lists out from there. Systematically mapping your network is critical to identifying potential donors, including those you might not have thought of yet. (Don’t worry, there are tools for doing this identification.)
Now that you’ve identified your potential donors, a fundraising plan is critical for keeping meticulous records and outlining your strategy. Research the seat you are running for and be sure to find out how much money was spent on the last few races; set an ambitious but realistic target goal. Your fundraising plan includes the campaign budget, voter persuasion and GOTV tactics, campaign finance filing dates, and legal campaign finance requirements for your state.
With the plan in place, it’s time to get out there and ask. Keep your messages consistent across your platforms, whether it’s face-to-face, over email, at an event or via your website. Make it easy for people to give to you, thank donors and then thank them again, and keep your donors informed of your progress. Schedule the all-important “call time” (also affectionately known as “Dialing for Dollars”) and make the calls.
When it comes to money, it’s important to engage skilled professionals (volunteers or paid) who can help you understand and follow campaign finance law.
A few truths about fundraising: You will spend most of your time as a candidate raising money. It’s a reality of campaigning: you need money to buy the things you need to reach voters. You will get better at making the ask each time. And you will be surprised by someone who gives you money, and by someone who doesn’t. It is hard work, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.