Contributions by VE consultants: Brett Dinkins, Whitney Michael and Brit Schiel
When a donor supports a candidate, it should be expected that the donor wants to have a personal relationship with that candidate – specifically getting to know who the candidate is, what their values are, where they stand on issues, and what they will do to make a difference while in office.
A great way for contributors and candidates to connect is at a fundraising event where lots of people can come together to engage with and hear from an office-seeker.
We’ve laid out the two most important steps for a campaign to consider in order to have a successful fundraiser.
Plan the Event
The first thing a campaign needs to think about is what kind of event they want to have. Will it be hosted by someone at their home, at a restaurant or banquet hall, or will it be an experience like a golf outing or wine tasting?
Another consideration is cost. A campaign doesn’t want to be in a position where they spend a lot of money on a room rental and food, only to net very little after the event is complete. Create a budget and get a sense of your expenses, then you can lay out a realistic assessment of how much you can raise. Also consider asking for in-kind contributions to help offset costly overhead expenses.
Once that has been established, the candidate needs to think about who to invite, which often gets broken down relative to geography – inviting supporters who live within a certain area – and/ or donor level – inviting guests to a high or low dollar event.
It is also a good idea to consider a special guest – someone who complements the candidate and who may have a high state or national profile – to pique people’s interest and draw a larger audience.
Organize a Call List
After the details have been settled and invitations have been mailed or emailed, it’s time for the candidate to make phone calls. Candidates often make the false assumption that the night of the event is going to make it a success. The reality is that a fundraiser’s success will depend on all of the work leading up to the event.
First start with a host list – individuals or couples you can count on to give and lend their name to the event. It’s a great way to establish credibility.
When you start making calls to potential attendees, be diligent and organized before you make an ask. Know the people you are calling, how much you are asking for, and why their support is important.
If a monetary commitment has been made but hasn’t come in, don’t be afraid to follow up. Sometimes donors will bring a check with them to the event itself, but more often than not they will mail a check or contribute online ahead of the event.
It is easier to receive the money before a fundraiser than after. Clear as many of the contributions as you can as soon as possible.
Consider these two steps first when planning your next fundraiser, and let us know if we can provide you with further professional guidance!