Finance committees can be rewarding for a campaign, but are often difficult to assemble and their performances are mixed. When helping a candidate assemble one, make sure the members are within the peer group of the individuals they're soliciting. This usually hinges upon a combination of net worth and age similarities.
Second, finance committee members must have a strong relationship with the candidate or a particular interest in the outcome of the election – it's best they possess both characteristics.
Make it clear that finance committee members are expected to raise money and contribute themselves. Give them specific goals in both areas that are achievable yet slightly ambitious. Often candidates will confuse politicos and politicians with finance committee members. You must help them make this clear distinction.
For your first fundraising event, I recommend tiers for host levels such as patrons ($2,500), hosts ($1000), co-hosts ($500) and tickets ($250). You can make these levels per person or per couple. You may also ask people to give these amounts or give/raise the proceeds.
Creating tiered levels of support allows you to make specific asks of specific donors without leaving tremendous amounts of money on the table. Still, it only works if the candidate and the finance committee are aggressive in their solicitation and specific in their requests.
The idea is to raise 75 percent of your potential proceeds in hard pledges by listing an impressive host committee before the invitation is ever mailed. In this way, the invitation acts as an invoice and the event is little more than a formal affair for collecting checks.
Make certain that all larger potential donors who are capable of giving above your ticket price are approached prior to mailing out your invitation. While you can continue to recruit patrons, hosts and co-hosts for support and list them on a placard at the event or in subsequent email invitations, it is likely most recipients of the invitation will only give at the lowest amount unless asked otherwise prior to receiving the invitation.
State and local candidates often struggle with asking for specific amounts of support and you must help them fight the temptation to lower commitment levels at the first sign of resistance. In fundraising, you can always go down in price, but it's near impossible to go up from your original asking amount. Lower-dollar events, letters or email fundraising can be executed later in the election to reach this audience.
Lastly, put together a fundraising packet for finance committee members to help them recruit host committee members for the event. Include an event fact sheet, contribution form and a script for making “the ask” along with helpful tips on how to handle predictable situations with prospective donors. If you can, limit committee members to seven-10 calls and stress they have a strong connection with the people they select. Sending out personalized call sheets to recruiters and coding solicitors in your campaign fundraising database program is also a nice touch if you can manage it with limited resources of time and talent.
As a general consultant with down-ballot candidates, you have a lot more control over fundraising outcomes than you think. By educating, organizing and systemizing the financial aspects of your client’s efforts, you can produce tremendous gains in election outcomes and your firm’s profitability.
Brandon Lewis is the author of “How to Raise Money for Political Office.” He’s founder and president of MyCampaignTreasurer.com, a digital campaign fundraising boot camp and software solution for candidates, caucuses and staffers. To learn more, consider registering for C&E’s free webinar: How Can You Improve Firm Profitability Through Increased Fundraising?