Building the Farm Team by Adrian Arroyo

By at June 2, 2011 | 5:42 pm | Print

Building the Farm Team by Adrian Arroyo

About 7 years ago, Barack Obama was an unknown state senator from Illinois and a lecturer at my alma mater, the University of Chicago. Today, he’s the President of the United States. And while that’s a meteoric rise by anyone’s measure, it illustrates an important and often-overlooked point: discovering and developing political talent is essential to long-term Democratic success.

In a decade, the folks who are considering their first run for public office at the state or local level may be congressmen and senators. Those men and women will have the power to shape policy that affects millions of lives, both at home and abroad. And even before that, they’ll have a powerful role to play. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) handled interminable GOP efforts to prevent Sen. Al Franken from claiming his seat in Washington D.C. In West Virigina, Natalie Tennant, another Democratic Secretary of State, recently upheld a precedent that will keep the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat in Democratic hands until at least 2012. In 2011, state representatives and senators across the country will begin the congressional redistricting process, and the choices they make will define the boundaries of federal politics for ten years.
In other words, these races matter. What’s more, they matter now. Getting the right people to run and making sure they have the tools they need to win is critical. Since today is the end of quarter for many campaigns, I thought I’d offer a few general tips to help them build their warchest for the months ahead:

Do’s:

  • Set Goals–Make sure donors know what they’re helping you work towards. Are you looking to air an advertisement? Let your donors know how much the ad will cost to air, and how far away you are from your goal. If you don’t make it to your goal with the first push, follow up. Send another email, and ask again.
  • Be Specific–Ask for a specific amount of money from each donor. If you have an overarching fundraising goal, break it down so that it’s more manageable. $5,000 is 100 folks giving $50, or 200 giving $25.
  • Connect–Let your donors know why you’re running, and why they should support you. Don’t be shy about letting them know what you need from them, and what their support means to you.
  • Be Present–Make sure you have plenty of ways to connect with your donors, wherever they are. Take the time to set up and update a Twitter account. Create a Facebook page, and use both to let your donors know what’s going on with the campaign: where the events are, and how they can be a part of your campaign.
  • Respond–Don’t leave your donors in the dust once they’ve contributed. They’re not walking wallets, they’re people. While you’ve only got 24 hours in a day like everybody else, make some time to reach out to your donors, whether they’ve given $5 or $500. It can be a conference call, a liveblog, whatever you’re comfortable with.

Don’ts:

  • Trickery–Don’t try to trick your donors. It won’t work, you’ll look bad, and they’ll abandon your campaign.
  • Discomfort–It’s difficult for a lot of first-time candidates to ask for money, and it’s always hard to be turned down. But fundraising, like baseball, is a game of failures. You can’t quit just because you’ve struck out a few times.

Remember, you have a role to play in our Democratic future, provided you have the courage to embrace it.

Adrian Arroyo is the Director of Communications for ActBlue, the largest source of funds for Democrats. Adrian runs the ActBlue blog, and can be reached at press@actblue.com. You can follow ActBlue on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook. ActBlue is a PAC allowing individuals and groups to channel their Democratic dollars to candidates and movements of  their choosing . ActBlue is the largest source of funds for Democratic candidates and provides the same tools and expertise for all Down-Ticket Dem races regardless of size.

Finance & Fundraising

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