Gathering Resources
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Gathering Resources

💵 Raising Money

Your campaign plan will dictate how much money you should raise. Though campaigns do need money and they can be wildly expensive, you shouldn't be discouraged by it — small and scrappy campaigns can win.

Though there are many schools of thought on how best to raise money, a lot of candidates start with close friends and family members to get their campaign off the ground. Depending on the size of your campaign, you might be able to raise sufficient money from just your family and friends (typically those campaigns are local races in small to medium sized cities).

Asking for money can be awkward but its a crucial and very normal part of running for office.

NGP VAN, a mainstay in Democratic fundraising, has a fundraising basics guide and a candidate guide to call time. CallTime has both a blog and a podcast about fundraising in Democratic politics that you may find useful. Below is one way that you can think about fundraising prospects.

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Funding Isn't Everything

While you need resources to run an effective program, the money you raise isn't everything, and you aren't doomed if you get outspent.

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In November 2020, Valli Geiger was elected to represent Maine's House District 93 with 55% of the vote despite being outraised by a factor of 15 to 1.

While this district, encompassing the small towns of Rockland and Owls Creek, has generally supported Democrats, its elections have historically been very close. Susan Collins lost the area by only 390 votes. Democratic candidates in 2012, 2014, and 2015 won by margins of less than 150 votes (compared with the 514 vote margin of Rep. Geiger).

Rep. Geiger received $5,659 from the Maine Clean Elections Act which is Maine's voluntary program of full public financing for political campaigns. Her largest expenditure was $3,300 dedicated to newspaper and print ads.

Her opponent, Mike Mullins, had $85,955 with nearly $20,000 in self-funding. Mullins spent $18,000 on staff and consultants, and about $11,000 on newspaper and print ads — 3 times more than Rep. Geiger.

Mike Mullins ran as a "progressive" Republican running primarily on conservation and affordable housing. On paper, Mullins was a formidable opponent, especially given Maine's independent streak. He had more money, a staff, and a website. But despite his clear advantage in resources, Rep. Geiger still won.

Rep. Geiger had previously served for six years on the Rockland City Council, organized for health care access and education funding, and campaigned on concrete local issues like the Rockland sales tax and the relationship between local property taxes and school funding. Her advocacy for school funding helped her earn the endorsement of the Maine Education Association. She also brought her authentic self to her campaign, sharing detailed accounts of personal struggles and hopes.

By truly knowing her community, offering concrete proposals, and showing her true self, Rep. Geiger was able to overcome a 15:1 resource gap and win an open seat by a 10% margin.

🤝 Recruiting Volunteers

Recruiting volunteers is similar to fundraising in that it can be a tough ask and that you typically start with family and friends. Recruiting and maintaining your volunteer infrastructure is a two-fold task. Most districts are not so flush with volunteers that campaigns can afford to have their volunteers volunteer only once. You need to not only recruit volunteers, but also retain them.

To maintain volunteer relationships, start by asking why people are volunteering with your campaign and how you can help them get the most out of the experience. You should make sure to meet volunteers where they are and accommodate their needs. For example if a volunteer wants to help but can't make phone calls, have them write post cards or pick up materials. Campaigns are a lot of work, so be creative about getting people involved!

Once you find some volunteers, they might be able connect you to their networks which may be filled with like-minded people who are interested in volunteering. However, you also might need to do volunteer recruitment outside of family and friends. Cold calling supporters who are likely to volunteer is a good place to start. We have documentation on setting up your volunteer recruitment universe.

You can also advertise volunteer opportunities on your website and social media. Campaigns can have a lot of success (and fun!) with "theme" nights to build relationships with existing and potential volunteers. Some examples include:

  • women's nights
  • union nights
  • young people's night
  • any other coalition that supports you

🛠 First tools

Getting access to VoteBuilder is often a candidates first tool because it gives you access to the voter file for your district and allows you to make phone banks and lists. Access to VoteBuilder will go through your state party.

We also recommend getting access to Deck as soon as your campaign can afford to. Deck will help you create your campaign plan and provide high quality universe for fundraising, volunteering and voter contact with minimal effort on your part allowing you to focus on the important thing - talking to your voters.

Some candidates also want a fundraising specific tool immediately as well. If you also want a fundraising tool, we have a more thorough list here.

Want to get started with Deck? Schedule a time to talk with us here or email us at info@deck.tools!