How to Run for Office: Money Saving Tips

There’s strength in frugality

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Campaigns cost money — a lot of money. However, it doesn’t mean you have to drain your bank account or go into debt for your campaign. NDTC is here with a few handpicked money saving tips to help you save money during your campaign.

The main thing to remember is that your donors want you to spend money on winning the election, not on luxuries or unnecessary items that don’t help you meet your vote goal.

Events & Catering

While events can be one of the most successful ways to raise money, they also take the biggest investment. Here are some ways to cut down costs — you’re trying to raise money, not spend it all.

  • No one is coming for the food: Your guests are not coming to try the food. They are there to support you. Don’t go overboard. You do not need to serve a full meal. In fact, beer, wine, soda and water with a few light hors d’oeuvres work really well for 99% of political events.
  • Phone a friend: Instead of booking a fancy banquet hall or restaurant for your event, ask your friend who has that really nice living room and kitchen. Asking your friends and family for spaces to host events for your campaign is a HUGE money saver.
  • Make it a win — win: do you have an in with the owner of that new bar downtown? Maybe one of your friends is close to the owner. If they are, now’s your time to cash in that favor they owe you. See if you can secure a discount (or, if you’re lucky, a free night) at that bar. Chances are you have connections to local establishments like bars and restaurants — explore your possibilities. Do keep in mind though, this can trigger an in-kind contribution and isubject to your campaign’s contribution limits. If it is, you’ll need to report it.
  • Make it a potluck: this eliminates the need for catering entirely and helps start conversations between guests. Having people come together and bring food to an event helps people bond with one another — the best part is they’ll be bonding over their support for your campaign. Note: don’t ask people to give AND bring food. This is a tactic best used for events like phone banking.
  • Never pay for the full RSVP count: catering is pricey. If you must pay for the food, try to get the RSVP count early and order the catering to be about 25% less than your actual headcount. You never know who’s going to be a no-show or who isn’t going to eat at all — it’s better to save money and have less food than waste money and have too much leftover food.

Campaign Infrastructure and Volunteers

This is one area of campaigns that has really changed with the times. The era of campaign offices is (almost) over; here’s how you can save money with a new office structure.

  • Don’t buy what can be donated: while many large campaigns still need office space to operate, smaller campaigns don’t really need that space anymore. Technology allows people to work remotely. They can phonebank in the comfort of their own homes using their cellphones. In lieu of a campaign office, consider using your living room (or basement) or would someone donate space for you to use or share with a local party?
  • Don’t waste money on office supplies: you don’t need to buy brand new supplies for your campaign. If you don’t have a ton of clipboards in your garage, ask around. Former candidates, ex-elected officials, friends — even your county party might have supplies you can use. If you can’t find the supplies you need in bulk, don’t be afraid to ask your volunteers to bring their own or even donate some from home.
  • Encourage personal cell phone use: instead of purchasing throwaway phones for phone banking, encourage your volunteers to use their own cell phones. Most people now have unlimited minutes for calltime and texting.
  • Use GoogleVoice: If your volunteers are uncomfortable using their personal phone number for calltime, don’t worry — GoogleVoice is a free application that gives you a phone number in the area code you choose. All you need is a Gmail account. If there isn’t a phone number in the area you want to have, check back every few days. New numbers are available nearly everyday.
  • Assign “Hospitality Captains”: Hospitality Captains (sometimes called Comfort Captains) are in charge of keeping volunteers’ moral high. Instead of spending money on more catering, assign one or two HCs that cover each volunteer session and provide baked goods, homemade snacks, coffee, fruit-infused water — anything to help your volunteers get through phonebanking and canvassing.

Mailers & Advertising

This is arguably where most of your money for the campaign will go. While spending money on campaign literature is inevitable, here are some ways to minimize the monetary impact.

Use color sparingly: when designing your mailers and other campaign lit you intend to use a printer for, try to minimize your color usage. Simple black and white mailers are boring, but one or two colors can make a large difference. Using just a couple colors can make your mailer pop and is much cheaper than using a ton of color.

A slick, full color mailer may look great, but it can also break the budget.

Be careful with tchotchkes: campaign novelty items are cute and fun, but they can drain campaign resources. Just because you can slap your name on a sponge doesn’t mean you should. Not all campaigns need special items like toothbrushes or towels. But if you do decide to invest in a campaign tchotchke, make sure it’s memorable and relates to your campaign.

Yard signs — the great debate: Yard signs are a luxury item. Believe it or not, there are campaigns out there that don’t use yard signs. While they might be in high demand, yard signs don’t vote — don’t waste your money on them. If you have to have them, ask people to donate money ($5 or more) or sign-up to volunteer to earn one. We’ll be publishing a blog on this controversial topic at the end of the month, so keep an eye out for that.

  How to Run for Office