Fundraising and Finance
How to Build a Strategic Campaign Fundraising Plan
April 27, 2021
Fundraising is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle when it comes to political campaigns. The money you raise is the foundation of your campaign. The more you raise, the stronger the foundation. It can be hard to know where to start, though. That’s why you need a fundraising plan.
Anatomy of a Campaign Fundraising Plan
What is a campaign fundraising plan, though? Simply put, it’s a living document that outlines a campaign’s fundraising goals, as well as the strategy and tactics used to achieve them. A great fundraising plan is broken down into smaller pieces to make it manageable:
Goals of a Fundraising Plan
It’s important for the fundraising team to have concrete and measurable goals. This will provide a guide to how much money the campaign will need through its lifecycle.
Start by looking at previous winning campaigns for the office you’re seeking. This information will be available from the election authority that governs your race. Use that rough number as a starting point. Set an ideal goal, a realistic goal, and an “uh-oh” goal.
To get a better idea of how to do this, download our sample candidate Nicole Strong’s Fundraising Goal Research Worksheet.
Your campaign’s budget will be determined by how much money you can raise. You need funds to hire staff, rent office space, and purchase ads. You’ll also need to set aside money for a get out the vote (GOTV) program leading up to Election Day.
Your fundraising program will also need a budget. Whether you’re throwing an event, sending mail, or managing the data, raising money costs money.
Your overall fundraising goal will be broken down into goals by time period. You can break it down by fundraising quarter, which is usually determined by local authority’s reporting deadlines. Further divide those goals by months, then weeks.
A fundraising calendar will help you track these goals. If you’re on track to meet your ideal target, great! If you’re heading towards that “uh-oh” number for the month, it’s time to adapt your plan.
When writing your fundraising plan, make sure to spell out who on the campaign is responsible for each action. Will they need help? If you’re setting up a fundraising email series, who will approve the wording? Who will decide how much to ask for? Answering questions like these is essential for creating an effective fundraising campaign.
Who will you raise money from? How will you contact them, and how much will you ask for? These are things you’ll need to identify before you begin asking for money.
When creating targets, consider the financial situations of potential donors. A college student probably won’t be able to give very much. However, a local businessperson may be able to donate more. Ask, but ask appropriately to give as many supporters as possible the opportunity to be part of your campaign.
Your campaign’s earliest targets should come directly from your fundraising network. If possible, try to build these networks far in advance, ideally before you “officially” start your campaign. It’s much easier to fundraise with a pre-existing network that you know you can count on. You also don’t want the added responsibility of establishing these relationships while managing a busy day-to-day campaign schedule. This was just one of the insights Representative Nikema Williams had to offer NDTC learners in recent live training.
Political fundraising relies on six main streams. Part of your plan should include how much you expect to raise from each of these streams:
- Call Time: Dialing for dollars. This is where the lion’s share of your money will come from.
- Events: Think cocktail hours, cookouts, and coffees. Unlike in the movies, these are generally pretty humble events. Remember to offer tickets at varying levels to make events accessible to all.
- Digital: Money raised through email and social media.
- Mail: Asking for money via USPS. This can be expensive to organize, so consider whether this stream is right for your campaign.
- Finance Committee: Sometimes called bundlers, this is a group of people who commit to raising a set amount for your campaign. Many campaigns forgo this option, as it can involve a lot of extra work.
- Political Action Committees & Unions: PACs and Unions may donate to your campaign based on ideological or practical goals.
For each stream, set concrete goals with deadlines and milestones.
Campaign Fundraising Strategies and Tactics
Once these goals are on paper, it’s time to begin working toward achieving them. To reach these targets, we use strategies and tactics.
But what’s the difference? Let’s say your goal is to raise 5000 dollars by your fundraising deadline. A strategy could be to target small donors. Tactics that drive that strategy could include a series of fundraising emails, as well as an event. Too often, campaigns focus solely on tactics and leave money on the table by not thinking strategically.
Remember to tailor strategies and tactics to the fundraising calendar. Early on, a lot of your money will come from the candidate’s personal network. Eventually, however, your campaign will have to start reaching outside of your candidate’s network for contributions. This is part of the reason we train candidates to engage in meaningful conversations with donors. For more on this, check out this highlight from a conversation with Congresswoman and NDTC Co-Chair Katie Porter!
Adapting Your Fundraising Plan
Everything always goes according to plan, right?
Unfortunately, we all know that’s not the case.
That’s why you should always set an ideal goal, a realistic goal, and an “uh-oh” goal.
Check your plan frequently to see if you’re on track. How much money have you raised for this time period? How much money is actually in your account? What amount of money do you have pledged for this time period?
In addition, review each revenue stream’s progress toward its goal and toward the milestones you set in the plan. For call time, for example:
- Did we hit the most recent milestone, in terms of pledges?
- Have we hit the most recent milestone, in terms of money in the door?
- Did the candidate complete the budgeted number of hours of call time this past week?
- What was our pledge yield per hour of call time last week? How does that compare to our assumptions?
Afterward, take a look at each revenue stream and the individual fundraising efforts — each individual event, and email, and so on — you’ve completed to date. Compare how much you have pledged to your goal. If you’re not on track to meet your realistic goal for that time period, you need to adapt.
“Remember, your plan is a living document that you should review often and adapt as needed.” NDTC Instructional Designer, Asim Thakore
You may also need to react to an external event. For more on adapting your fundraising plan, check out our resource: The Fundraising Plan: A Living Document.
Take a look at our sample candidate Aisha Iqbal’s Q1 Fundraising Plan. It’s a high-level roadmap with financial and time-based milestones. This is just an example, of course. Your fundraising plan will be tailored to your campaign.
Get Started Crafting Your Fundraising Plan!
The important thing to remember is that your fundraising plan doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It just takes some work and a little bit of creativity. However, by planning and executing an effective fundraising strategy, you will be setting your campaign up for success on Election Day.
Are you ready to get started? Check out our Online Academy course, Writing Your Campaign’s Fundraising Plan.
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