“You have written a plan, right?”

It’s a question I usually ask the manager or general consultant at the start of any campaign. More often than not, I’m met with a blank stare or they tell me once they have my plan, then they will incorporate it into their plan.

Now, I know the days of management by objectives (MBO) have gone by the wayside, but I’m shocked by how many campaign professionals think they can just wing it.

I was brought up in politics to always start any campaign by writing a plan, especially a finance plan. This plan serves as the roadmap for how you get to get to your stated goals, as well as the tactics you’re going to use throughout that campaign.

Moreover, I believe the act of writing these details down helps you understand exactly what you need to do to get the job done. It also helps you see how your part of the campaign will incorporate into the other parts of the operation.

It’s the document you present at the beginning of a campaign to the candidate, the manager and (if you have one) the campaign finance chair to get everyone’s buy in. It’s also the time to get input, to make changes, delete things that any of those folks aren’t comfortable with and for you to stand your ground on items in that plan that you know you’re going to need to make your goals.

If you know the overall goal for the campaign is $500,000 and you only have a year in which to raise it, how are you going to do it? Fundraisers, phone calls, finance meetings? And in what quarters, months and/or weeks will these happen?

Now, not every day and every month is going be a financial homerun for you like the months of July and August are for us here in Florida. So taking into account those types of exceptions, you break down each quarter, each month and each week what you need to raise to get to the overall campaign goal of $500,000.

A plan is just that – a plan. Once you get into the campaign it becomes a fluid document, but I can’t event count anymore the number of times I have gone back to past finance plans to re-read and remind myself what we had done on one campaign versus another. I have kept them all. They’re invaluable documents. 

And when that point comes in the campaign, and believe me it always does, when one thing or another isn’t working, you have that document to back up what you’ve needed from the campaign manager, the candidate and the rest of the team. And truth be told, the majority of the time when goals aren’t being met, usually the finance team isn’t getting what they’ve asked for or it isn’t getting done as it was requested.

Here’s another tip, if your campaign manager wants to take your plan and tells you he’ll be more than happy to present it to the candidate and get back with you on the feedback, here’s your answer, “No.” 

This is your finance plan. You wrote it, you’re responsible for executing it and you need to stand behind it. No one needs to present your work. And if that answer is met with resistance, maybe this isn’t the campaign for you because there are other issues afoot.

The simple truth is that we, as fundraising professionals, can’t make you as candidates raise money. We chart a path, we give you a detailed plan, we make calls ourselves but you, as the candidate, have to believe in your own campaign enough to make most of the “asks” for yourself.

Ann is the president of The Woods Herberger Group where her primary fundraising focus has been on the Bush family, specifically raising money for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Ann has also served as a fundraising consultant to the RNC, RGA, NRSC and NRCC. She resides in Miami, Florida.