In the aftermath of the Dec. 31 deadline for political fundraising, many campaigns are just now getting a sense of their organizing strength – while others are left wondering what went wrong.
At the end of every year, particularly in election years, politicians scramble to raise money for their campaigns before the all-important year-end reporting deadline, mandated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). These politicians include not only presidential candidates, but also those running for other federal, state and local positions, as well as political action committees (PACs).
What’s the big deal about the Dec. 31 FEC deadline?
As the San Diego Tribune writes:
“Practically speaking, there’s no difference between cash raised Dec. 31 and Jan. 1; the money collected in the last moments of 2015 is just as green as funds raised in the beginning of 2016. But the end of the reporting period is a political weigh station, and candidate’s opponents, political committees, potential endorsers and the media will size up campaigns based on the numbers they report.”
In other words, a big fundraising haul can make a campaign a lot more credible. Voters, as well as political parties and committees, will often make important endorsement decisions based on the candidates who are raising the most money. So it pays to practically beg your followers for more donations before the end of the year.
But if you don’t do it properly, you could cause more harm to your campaign than good.
Here are 4 important takeaways for end-of-year fundraising, experienced by campaigns who learned the hard way.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your last-minute fundraising.
Yes, to your constituents, you are asking for last-minute contributions – sometimes literally in the final minutes before the midnight deadline. But that doesn’t mean you should be planning these fundraising efforts on the fly.Plan your year-end fundraising months in advance, if possible. The number of emails you’ll send, the number of calls you’ll make, the message you’ll give, the goals you need to hit – all of this should be planned out long before the Dec. 31 deadline.
Recommended reading: How to Raise Money for Political Office
- Be honest about the importance of this deadline, but don’t lose sight of the issues.
Whether you’re sending emails, making phone calls, knocking on doors or sending direct-mail, you need to let your audience know why you’re asking for these “last-minute” contributions – especially if you’ll be contacting them repeatedly.Without an explanation of the deadline, voters will have a very negative reaction to this aggressive fundraising. Be straight about your intentions and the importance of year-end campaigning. However, be sure to tie it all back to the policies and issues that matter to the people donating to you.
Recommended reading: How to Ask Someone to Make a Donation to Your Political Campaign
- Don’t limit the ways people can donate. Online is a must.
Make it easier and faster for people to contribute at the moment they receive your appeal. These days, it’s critical that you’re able to accept political donations directly on your website. If you require people to mail a check, or make a phone call, you’ll lose a lot of potential donations, simply because of the extra steps involved.Also, managing a plethora of mail-in contributions before the FEC deadline is a nightmare. By accepting donations online, you’ll have much clearer and accurate reporting, ready to submit to the FEC.
Recommended reading: Using the Internet to Supercharge Your Political Campaign
- Follow FEC guidelines meticulously.
The FEC has stringent rules for who can contribute to a political candidate, how much, and what those contributions are spent on. It would be shame to receive a tremendous amount of funds before the deadline, only to find out that your campaign will need to refund a huge percentage due to a failure to follow the rules.If you’re new to campaigning and political fundraising, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with FEC regulations.
Recommended reading: FEC Laws, Regulations and Procedures