Building an effective database is essential to fundraising success, yet it's often overlooked or goes undone because it's technical and time consuming. If your clients skip this step at the beginning of their campaigns, it will cause a significant reduction in fundraising performance for the remainder of the election. Here’s how you can avoid this.
First, pick a simple campaign fundraising software program and compel all of your candidates to use it. If it's not simple, it will never be used by your candidates, their spouses, staff members or volunteers who are often the folks you're depending on to get the job done. If you can’t demand this by fiat, at least make sure you send around a standardized Excel template that's to be used for all prospect data entry.
Then collect, aggregate and duplicate all the publicly available historical data for donors who have given in the surrounding areas and districts where your candidates will be running. I advise you to hire a data entry clerk to do this for all of your candidates and charge them for the service. If you don't do this, it's unlikely it will ever actually get done. I know a few general consultants who do this as standard practice and it pays off for them and their candidates in spades.
Third, help your clients exhaustively mine their personal contacts. I have often found that after going through a client’s phone, social media accounts, business files and taking them through a simple exercise where we explore all their circles of influence, we can find $50,000, $500,000 or $1 million in fundraising potential by simply assigning specific ask amounts and totaling them.
Fourth, pull together all the meaningful excel lists that are in your client’s sphere of influence into a folder called “raw lists.” These could be trade association, civic group, alumni and church directories where your candidate has actively participated. With your candidate’s help, filter out all the non-productive names and then import the remainder into your campaign fundraising software.
At this point, you should have three separate data sets in your database: historical donors, personal candidate contacts and high-producing directories.
When you complete this exercise, there should be little left for your candidates and finance committee members to do but make phone calls, follow up with emails and update the records as they go with new phone numbers, emails, notes and most important of all – pledges.
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?