How to Run for Office: Building a Finance Committee

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nearly every campaign wants to create a finance committee to raise money and take the burden off the candidate, but in reality, it’s not that easy. Much like a “magic” fundraising list, there is no “magic” trick to creating a successful finance committee. It takes time, planning and considerable work throughout a campaign.

Finance committees have one goal — raising money. Everything is secondary.

Ideally, you want to recruit individuals who will commit to raising a certain amount of money over the course of the campaign. Don’t create one just to have one. Put it to work for you!

Finance Committee Types

Setting expectations at the outset are absolutely critical to the success of your campaign’s finance committee.

The first step you should take is to consider what kind of finance committee you want.

Do you need people to raise a certain amount of money and nothing more? If so, ask them to host an event instead of being a part of an official committee.

Unless of course, their name could be useful for your credibility and viability. In that case… Do you want high-profile people to serve on a more symbolic committee that isn’t very active, but gives them a good reason to give?

This committee can be useful — especially in primaries — to help build the credibility of the candidate.

Or, do you want a working finance committee committed to helping throughout the course of the campaign?

This is the holy grail. People on these committees are committed to being a part of the campaign through election day. However, they are the ones that also take the most work.

Your answer may be some combination of the above. That’s ok, as long as you know what you expect and convey that expectation clearly to the members.

Finance Committee Goals

Figuring out what kind of committee you want is step one, but step two is just as important: setting goals.

This group’s job is to raise money. You need to be clear and upfront about how much and when.

Do you want them to raise $500 a quarter? $5,000 over the course of the campaign? The expectations and time frame, just like our Making the Ask course teaches, are essential to lay out before you begin.

When you ask someone to join, make sure they know exactly what they agree to. Your job is to empower them to meet their goals and to hold them accountable along the way.

Who Do You Recruit?

Don’t overthink this. If you think someone can meet the finance committee expectations, ask them. If someone can add value with their name, invite them.

finance committee

Who do you want on your finance committee?

However, you want workers on this committee, not just names. You need people willing to meet the goals to which they agreed and not just feel good about themselves for being on the committee.

Finally, everyone you recruit needs to be someone you can trust. You will likely be sharing some sensitive campaign information with them. You don’t want to worry someone will be talking to the press or sharing your list with other campaigns.

How Much Do They Raise?

There’s no set formula for setting the goal of member. If you are working with a $10,000 campaign budget, maybe you ask members to raise $500 or $1,000. That adds up quickly!

Use your best judgment to set the goals, but be aware that if you set them too low, then the committee won’t be seen as very exclusive — and it may take more time than it is worth.

What Does A Finance Committee Do?

One of the keys to a successful finance committee is to make them feel like they are a valuable part of your campaign. This means regular meetings, emails, and calls to the individual members.

However, and again we cannot stress this enough, the meetings need to an effective use of your time. If no one is raising money, then why spend the time preparing and holding them? You must keep your committee accountable to their goals.

Here are a few best practices we’ve learned over the years:

Share the Plan: Share the overall budget and general campaign plan with the committee and show how their commitment affects your chances of success. (Note: you probably don’t want to give them the full plan — just broad strokes and overview.)

Peer Pressure: Use peer pressure at the meetings to hold them accountable. (Don’t be a jerk about this, but sharing the progress of the committee with everyone is a subtle incentive for members to get to work, so they aren’t embarrassed.)

Take Advantage of Finance Chairs: Finance chairs serve as the leader of your finance committee. Have them hold the members accountable for meeting goals to save the candidate from tough conversations.

Work the Lists: One of the most effective fundraising tactics we’ve seen used is to schedule a working sit down with the committee to go over a list previous donors to re-solicit and targets who have yet to give. The committee divides up the names, based on the relationships they have, and takes responsibility for making the calls themselves.

Make Them Feel Good: Serving on a finance committee means someone is giving you consider time and resources, reward them for it. Make them feel like an insider. Share big news in advance of others. Share media releases. Invite them to attend any events they’d like. Send them regular exclusive updates and personal emails. You get the idea.

Remember, there’s no one right way to create your finance committee. The purpose is to get what you need, without creating an entity that requires time and energy without returns. Good luck!

Tomorrow, donor research.

  How to Run for Office