I’ve been learning more about political fundraising lately, to help a friend of mine run for office.

So I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’m learning.

As it turns out, political fundraising is a bit different than nonprofit fundraising.

For one thing, they use different terminology.


They talk about having a theme for the campaign. They say, “Theme” should never have an S on the end.

What issues should a candidate focus on if they want to win?

There are two types of issues, according to Salmore and Salmore. Valence Issues and Positional Issues.

What are Positional issues?

They are issues with well defined sides, like Abortion and gun control.

What are Valence issues?

They are concerns everyone can agree on, like decreasing crime and creating jobs.

Mostly campaigns center on valence issues, unless there is a wedge strategy going on, where you try to show how you are different from your opponent, and get people on your side.

When you’re running for office for the first time, you must convince voters to change their habits, which nearly always means attacking the incumbent. The incumbent has to show their track record of results. You have to build a positive case for yourself.

Campaign expenditures are strong predictor for success. That means the person with the biggest war chest generally wins.

Why can’t someone with a small amount of money win?

Well, additional money helps the candidate reach more voters. It’s about the media. It helps candidates enlist good help. And of course if you raise a lot of money, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. You look worthy of support.

Of the $661 Million raised by candidates in 2004, $601 Million was from individuals.

So you’ve got to go for individual donors.

In political fundraising, they say that there are 3 stages of getting a donor to give to you.

1. Cognition/Name ID (Awareness of the candidate)

2. Affect/Persuasion (Development of opinion about the candidate)

3. Evaluation/Motivation (The decision itself to go out and vote).

They also acknowledge donors have different motivations here.

Donor Motivations

When people give to your campaign, they may give because they are interested in government, and want to change the course of political events. They may want to give because of their beliefs or ideology.

There’s also the concept of retrospection. Did this candidate vote for lower property taxes? If so, this might make homeowners want to give them a vote out of appreciation.

Five donor motivations include: Habit, retrospection, policy preference, loyalty to the solicitor and celebrity. So you’ve got to figure out how to activate these in a potential donor.

The authors talk about Interest groups and PACs. PACs rarely give to people who don’t look like they’re going to win, so they mostly give to incumbents. But you can start to gain a foothold with a PAC by inviting them to meet your candidate.

Looking at who is supporting someone similar to you in another district can help you get new donors too. If that person doesn’t win, you can carefully look over the list of their donors and see if you can draw them to support you. Most times in nonprofit fundraising we would say DON’T do this, but with political fundraising, each donation is public record, so it’s considered fair game.

When people don’t give, WHY don’t they give?

Mostly, because they aren’t asked. A lot of people don’t think about giving to a political campaign. It wouldn’t occur to them that a campaign would need money.

But also, sometimes no amount of money has been specified in the appeal.  Without knowing how much money is needed, the donor may decide not to give.

Then, there may be no remit envelope in the letter asking for funds. THAT was a wasted mailing, if so!

What was this book like?

It was easy to read, clearly written, and had good examples. It was my favorite intro book about US political campaigns. That said, the fundraising section was woefully short and contained no examples.

Downside: they hyphenate fundraising into Fund-Raising, which can sort of tell you something. Doesn’t necessarily mean they will use the word Cyberspace as well. But they do. It’s from 2006.  🙂 So quaint!

Want to own this book? You CAN! Just leave a comment below, explaining why you want the book, best comment wins the book!

Campaign craft review 2015