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Running A Campaign FAQ

Jenifer Broadbent

You’ve already done the heavy lifting of deciding to manage a campaign.  Good for you! Now comes the hard part – hiring. This is not meant to serve as a “Campaign How-To”, this is more of an “Campaign FAQ”. We figure you’ve come this far and found us, you must know enough, but maybe need some guidance.  

The planning sequence of running a campaign starts off with hiring the right people. All political campaigns should have the following: Political Consultant, Campaign Manager, Fundraiser, Treasurer, Volunteer Coordinator and lots and lots of volunteers.

Q: Wait a minute here…before I hire anybody, I’m thinking I may need a little cash flow to get things started. But how do I fundraise with out a fundraiser?

This is one of the more challenging aspects of starting a campaign. You not only need to know how much to fundraise; you need to know how to fundraise. But you don’t have any money to hire people. But you don’t know how much to raise. Thus the cycle begins. Start by establishing a budget. Fundraising enough money for you to run your campaign is possible without mortgaging off your house. The best way to raise enough money is to make a list of all the people you know, both close friends and vague acquaintances. Figure out how much you expect that they can comfortably donate, call every person on your list and personally ask them to commit to a specific amount. Be sure you follow up each phone call no more than two weeks later, and send a confirmation letter to the donor right away. This is by far the easiest and most money that you’ll make into your campaign investment. 

Q: Now I’ve got some money coming in, and I’m ready to hire some staff. What’s the difference between a Political Consultant and a Campaign Manager?

Political Consultants usually have high profiles, highly developed networking skills, and vast established contacts. These are the people that will help guide your development of a campaign plan – the look, feel and sound of your campaign.  If you are running a smaller campaign or a more seasoned candidate, you may or may or may not need a consultant.   Choosing the right consultant is critical, as most of your decisions will be directly affected by this individual. 

Campaign Managers are the traffic controllers. They're in charge of everything that goes on in your day-to-day operations, and need to be trusted as the candidate’s right-hand (wo)man. Beyond the basic organizational tasks, Campaign Managers are responsible for the public interaction of the candidate and will often tell the candidate what to wear, when to have pictures taken (and with whom), and where to be for the day. They are by the candidate’s side 24/7, so make sure your Campaign Manager has a personality that will mesh well with the candidate. Also, make sure you hire someone who can think positively on their feet as they’ll often show up on TV and radio to talk about the candidate and your campaign.

Q: A Fundraiser AND a Treasurer? Couldn’t that be the same person?

Fundraisers are usually professional consultants. They should have a plethora of tried-and-true methods to raise funds for your campaign, and are responsible for overseeing direct mail and e-mail fundraising efforts.  Fundraisers should be able to work well with supporters outside of your candidacy to plan various fundraising events, as well as prepare lists of people to call to meet with the candidate as potential donors. They should also arrange for organizations and businesses to solicit their support on behalf of the candidate. Fundraisers should be mobile and be able to go where the money is rather than be tied to a desk.

That’s why you have a Treasurer. Any financial aspect of your campaign is to be handled by your treasurer. Picking the right treasurer is essential; whether it’s a family member, a volunteer, or a certified accountant, campaign finance has many specific rules that are crucial to your campaign. It takes time to learn these rules, and if they are not followed correctly, they can lead to fines or public humility. You Treasurer must be very detail-oriented and be willing to be more behind-the-scenes than your Fundraiser.

Q: Stop the presses! Campaign finance rules? It’s hard enough to RUN a campaign let alone get all the rules right! Is there anyway to help the staff?

Political campaign software is useful for preparing reports quickly while avoiding mistakes at the same time. Software such as CompleteCampaigns.com’s BackOffice have been especially beneficial to campaigns when filing governmental reports right through the system, as all the rules and regulations are built-in to help ensure less crucial mistakes.

Q: So I’ve got my staff hired.  Fundraising has certainly got me started, but I need a more steady flow of cash. How do I pay for all of this?

Advertising has many important aspects to your campaign. If people don’t know who you are, how can they vote for you? Direct mail is the easiest, most frequently used form of advertising. In order to take all of the advantages of direct mail, you must consolidate a list of all potential donors; mail them a letter and a return envelope for their donations. Again, this is another area where technology can come to your rescue. The less time you have to spend gathering voter data, sorting through the updates and formatting Mail Merges, the more time you can spend on spreading your message. Software like VoterManager can make the process of direct mailing as easy as a few clicks of the mouse

Many campaigns break even with the amount of money they spend on printing the letters and mailing them off. Direct mail is much more effective then to have to always follow up with a phone call. However, people who make small donations are more likely to send larger donations if asked, so your job as the candidate is to call them. 

Q: I think I’d need some help getting out all that mailing, but I can’t afford more staff.

This is where you’d turn to your Volunteer Coordinator. This person serves a cheerleader and task assigner for the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers that you will have. Volunteers are some of the most important people in your campaign; your Volunteer Coordinator will recruit these faithful people and tell them to address mailing, make phone calls, go knocking on doors, and to conduct flyer handouts at special events around your city. Make sure your Volunteer Coordinator knows what their responsibilities are and that there are always enough volunteers to show up for each activity or event. Also, make sure your Volunteer Coordinator has all the materials and resources, such as fliers, bumper stickers, and lawn signs that volunteers use to gather more votes.

Q: Now what?

Now that you have a campaign plan and an expert staff, you’re ready to actually run your campaign. Key elements into running a campaign are steady fundraising, a frequently updated Internet presence, and fieldwork.

In this day and age, your presence on the Internet can make or break a campaign.   Your campaign website should have a candidate biography, what goals you hope to achieve, what you hope for the future, and what your positions and issues are. While there are on-line tools to set up website for the do-it-yourself crowd, such as SiteBuilder , this is an area where you could have an Internet or Web-savvy volunteer maintain your website or hire a company to help make your website up-to-date and fresh.  Often campaigns will have an area on their website where people can make online donations. Many companies use a program like FundRaiser to help facilitate on-line transactions. The benefit of out-sourcing this type of work is with a low fee and no set-up costs.

Field work doesn’t just mean rallys and precinct walks. It is as much exposure of your candidate’s name and message as you think you can stand. While your message is clear on your website and direct mail, not all people are visual learners. 93% of communication is non-verbal, which is why people often understand your and your message by a dynamic and sincere speech. Also , when dealing with an oral presentation, you can vary they tone of presentation and be strictly informative, instruction, persuading, exciting or any combination of other emotions

Most importantly: GET OUT THE VOTE! The more people that talk about your campaign, the more important your campaign will become. Make sure your volunteers are friendly and informative, as well as able to articulate your message. It is also important to have people that are empathetic enough to understand what people need in a political candidate and be able to pass that on to the campaign staff. Feedback is essential in shaping your message as public opinion shifts.

Now that you have read the basics on how to run a political campaign, you’re ready to start. Good luck!

Other Resources:
“So You Want to Run For Office”, Christopher Crotty
“Organizing Your Campaign: How Assemble Your Campaign Team, Benjamin A. Katz

About the Author

Jenifer Broadbent / CompleteCampaigns.com

Jenifer Broadbent is the Office Manager for CompleteCampaigns.com. Before joining the staff, she was a Volunteer Coordinator in the 2004 election cycle, and was a professional Stage Manager before that.

You can reach Jenifer Broadbent at:
3635 Ruffin Rd, 3rd Floor
San Diego, CA 92123
888-217-9600
broadbent@completecampaigns.com

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