How to Run for Office: Using Donor Research

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At the Training Committee, we are firm believers that data is your friend.

You want to use data to guide you through the process of finding your vote goal and win number. As your campaign grows, data is invaluable as you make decisions in every part of your campaign including fundraising — specifically in call time.

Think about your fundraising targets:

  • Your own list of potential donors (Friends, family, etc.)
  • You have your Finance Committee’s list of potential donors
  • You meet people everyday on the campaign trail who could be potential donors.
  • If you’re lucky, you have a list of donors from other recent campaigns in your locality.

Now what? How do you know if you should ask them to give and if so, how much? Donor research is your new best friend.

Donor research is simply looking up the giving history and background of every individual who you want to call to give to your campaign. It isn’t rocket science, but it is necessary.

Step One

Research their contribution history. Who have they given to in the past and how much did they give? There are some great websites that make this very easy. We’re fans of OpenSecrets. It combines all federal and some state giving into one easily searchable database.

While this gives you a good overview, most states have their own websites to search or even local organizations that maintain online searchable databases when states’ sites aren’t too user friendly. For instance, in Virginia you can search the Virginia Public Access site.

Step two

You should let your fingers do some walking…over to Google.

Search for the potential donor. There is an immense amount of information on the interwebs, and you want to find the information that’s going to help you be as effective as possible making your ask.

Don’t forget to check out Facebook and LinkedIn. Do you have common connections or friends?

You’re looking for a topic you can bond over to eliminate that salesish cold call feeling, especially with the people you don’t know personally.

These two easy steps for every individual on your lists may seem like a lot of work, but it is well worth the time — and also make a great intern or volunteer project.

Tomorrow, credit card processing.

  How to Run for Office