Campaign Setup: Getting Ready to Raise Money
It’s a daunting word. It can be difficult and awkward to ask people for money, maybe more difficult than actually running for office.
FundHero is here to help.
Over the next few months, we will break down fundraising into some simple steps to help you feel more comfortable and know exactly what you need to do successfully fundraise.
Here are the key things you need to do BEFORE you start fundraising.
Establish a Budget
Before you can start getting your name out there you need money, and you need to figure out how much money you are going to need to be successful. Spending money to increase your name recognition is critical to victory. You should think about how much you can spend on direct mailings, advertising, campaign literature and staff. Create a budget to help you establish a plan for fundraising.
We’ve put together a sample budget for you (find below) so you can see what you need to be prepared for and what you might spend money on. You can also use financial disclosures from past elections to see what candidates have spent.
Set a Goal
Use your budget to set goals and make plans on achieving those goals. This will help you stay on track and have something to look back on and evaluate. Create a calendar that details your month by month tactics and goals for fundraising so you check off those specific achievements. Sometimes thinking backwards is the best way to approach goal setting. Start from your victory party and then work backwards from there. Space out the frequency in which you ask for money. For example, if your campaign is 10 months long you should decide how many rounds of fundraising you’d like to do within that timespan.
Learn more about setting goals here.
Organize a Finance Committee
For most political entities, you need to file with your intent to raise money with your local elections official. The threshold for when you need to file varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so make sure you understand your local regulation prior to soliciting donations. Contact your local elections official, county clerk or recorder, or state elections office to learn the rules for your specific race.
Create an EIN
Your campaign should have its own tax entity so it is not tied directly to your personal social security number. Most candidates and political committees are classified as 527 Exempt organizations by the IRS. While this doesn’t mean contributions are tax-deductible (they are not) it does mean most candidates and political committees do not need to file annual tax returns. Go here to the IRS website to learn about and apply for an EIN number
Create a Campaign Bank Account
Your campaign needs a bank account separate from your personal finances to accept donations and to make purchases. You will need your EIN number and possibly paperwork about your Finance Committee. Visit the FEC website for more information about creating a Bank Account
Research your Local Finance Laws
Election laws can vary greatly through different offices and regions. You should know the rules that apply to you before you get too far in the process.
You need to report your contributions and expenditures that happen during your campaign. This changes and varies so make sure to check in with your local finance office for the most up to date information.
Legal contribution limits and restrictions
Learn what the maximum contribution you can accept is. This can vary for individuals, couples, and businesses.
Restrictions on who can donate to you
There can be limits to who can donate. Look up these laws before you start receiving donations.
Ultimately, our lawyers tell us we can’t give you the specifics on some of this information for legal reasons. Your best option is to find the contact information for your Local Finance Office and give them a call to make sure you are running a lawful campaign.
Need help with a campaign budget? Download FundHero's template here.
Signup & download a basic template to draft your campaign budget.
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