Campaign fundraisers are common occurrences on our favorite political tv shows, but in real life, they’re often much more subdued, drama-free events. They give the candidate a chance to have more one-on-one interactions than a speech or rally and to meet whole networks of potential supporters and donors.
If you’re starting your first campaign, it might seem daunting to have a fundraiser — you’re signing up for a local elected office, not to be an event planner! But like with most aspects of your campaign, you have to find that one volunteer or staffer who wants to take it on.
Additionally, the goal is for not all of your fundraisers to be campaign-driven. As your campaign gets its footing, supporters and local organizations may want to throw fundraisers for you, and you’ll also begin asking supporters to be hosts as well. These host-driven events give you less control over the outcome but will take less time, energy, and money.
Campaign-driven events are the most work for your campaign, but also provide the most control over the outcome.
You are responsible for creating a guest list, inviting guests, turning people out, and taking care of any food, drinks, decorations, and setup. You may have a host who volunteers their home or office as a venue (renting a venue is rarely a good use of funds), but your campaign will need to do the rest of the legwork to get people there.
Campaign-driven events can be a significant drain on your resources and require a lot of time to plan.
You’ll need to consider the cost of invitations, food, and drinks.
All of the time spent preparing is time that you and your volunteers will not be knocking doors or making phone calls. However, campaign-driven fundraisers can be a good complement to your fundraising call time. If someone wants to learn more about your campaign before donating or you think a deadline like attending an event will help get their check in the door, you can invite them to your upcoming event.
Campaign-driven events can be effective, but the ideal event is planned and paid for by a volunteer host who brings new people into your network. Before planning a campaign-driven event, be sure the time and money you put into it is worth it.
The best hosts will take care of just about everything for you. They’ll invite guests from their own network, solicit contributions, follow-up with guests to make sure they turn out, pay for and prepare food and drinks, and still graciously introduce you to every person who walks through the door once the event starts.
The host’s personal network is the most crucial piece — great food and a great atmosphere are helpful, but they don’t matter if you aren’t meeting new people!
Your host’s network might overlap significantly with your existing campaign network, so from the outset, you need to make sure they are focused on inviting people you haven’t met before.
There’s also a middle ground. Some host-driven events will be a hybrid — you’ll need to find out what the host is capable and willing to do, then fill in the gaps yourself. For example, some hosts will be more than willing to invite and turn out guests but will need your campaign to make the invitations and pay for postage, or design and manage e-vites.
When someone volunteers to host an event, you need to have a conversation before committing to the event and be explicit about what the host will take responsibility for and what the campaign will take responsibility for.
Take the Course!
Within our Online Academy, we have an entire course on campaign events that covers hosts and guests, scheduling and timeline, event logistics and follow up, and goal setting and tracking.
Take it to dive deeper into running a successful campaign event!