Fundraising Totals: To Release or Not to Release

Now that the second quarter is over, candidates and strategists weigh the option of releasing fundraising totals ahead of the filing deadline.


Now that the second quarter is over, candidates and strategists weigh the option of releasing fundraising totals ahead of the filing deadline. This is often a dangerous game of cat and mouse as the release of your fundraising prowess could be topped by your opponent. There is, of course, strategic benefit of releasing early and framing your candidate as the frontrunner, but what do you focus on in the release and how do you combat larger numbers from your opponent? Naturally, the most important number is the total amount raised. This demonstrates that your candidate can raise enough to be competitive; however, attracting a large amount from a small number of donors could be as dangerous (or as telling) as posting a small total. Earning an impressive draw from hundreds of donors sends a strong message, implying that not only can your candidate raise the money, but he or she can motivate legions of donors from all over the district, state or nation. This translates into true grassroots support and should earn equal billing with the total raised on any press release about your fundraising haul. It is also a good idea to highlight how much of your candidate’s contributions come from in-state/district. However, this is becoming less and less of an issue as insiders look to back candidates that can raise money from a national network of donors regardless of what race they are running. You will have to approach the in-state/district versus out-of-state/district claims carefully. Part of the early release strategy is to help frame your candidate as the frontrunner, but if most of your money comes from outside the state/district, you will need to be ready to explain why this is not such a bad thing without sounding like your campaign has little support from inside the state/district. The growing importance of the online campaign makes demonstrating the amount your candidate can attract over the Internet an additional grassroots support indicator. I have urged most of my clients to include the total of online donations as part of their release. Over the past several days, I have noticed that bloggers seem more attracted to the releases with the online donation totals as I’ve seen more posting on the amount of online contributions from the release than anything else. The online donation total is a telltale sign of an organized online effort. These days, it’s as good as reporting the total number of donors. Finally, how do you guard against your opponent releasing better numbers? The short answer – you can’t. The early release strategy, just like any other similar action in a campaign, is a risk. You could be out-raised. So my suggestion is to release as early as you can to earn media coverage anyway. If your numbers are thin and your opponent tops you, an early release could provide you a few days head-start with your spin. Waiting until you file on the 15th robs you of the opportunity to frame your haul positively.Tyler Harber is vice president and director of the political division for Wilson Research Strategies, a public opinion research and political consulting firm for Republicans. You can follow Harber at www.w-r-s.com or on Twitter @tharber.


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