Political Campaign Management: 5 Things NOT to do by Drew Ball and John Miyasato

By at July 20, 2016 | 11:09 am | Print

Political Campaign Management: 5 Things NOT to do by Drew Ball and John Miyasato

Drew Ball 2016

This originally appeared on NGP VAN’s blog

We asked John Miyasato, owner of Crossroads Consulting to team up with Drew Ball, veteran campaigner from NGP VAN, Crossroads, and the Sierra Club to to tell us about common campaign management mess-ups, and how to avoid them.

Political campaign management is a complicated thing. Your organization has a finite amount of cash, volunteers, and time that are hard to recover – polling day waits for no one, and making mistakes can be costly.

To help you avoid some of the biggest and most wasteful pitfalls that far too many campaigns fall into, here’s 5 things NOT to do when managing your campaign this cycle:

1. Have a Casual Attitude Toward Fundraising

Your campaign can’t hire staff, place ads, send mail, or do much of anything for that matter without money – so take your fundraising seriously. Too often, campaigns start their fundraising too late, or fail to commit the necessary resources to hit their fundraising goals.

Weak fundraising means your campaign won’t have the necessary funds to ramp up when the time comes. Your fundraising abilities aren’t a secret. Opponents and outside groups will see your finance reports, and weak fundraising can snowball into larger problems, while a strong showing sends an important signal.

2. Set Unrealistic Goals

Whether it is fundraising, volunteer recruitment, or voter turnout – goals are key. Failing to set clear, realistic goals is like driving for 9 hours without a clear destination in mind and expecting to get somewhere you want to be.

Just setting final campaign goals is not enough either. Be sure to set weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals so that you know your trajectory, and can adjust long-term goals and strategy accordingly.

Lastly, make sure your goals take into account the resources you actually have. You can’t do ten mailings to everyone in your district if you don’t have the budget for it, and you can’t knock every door in the district if you only have the volunteer hours to knock a quarter of the doors. So be realistic and set your targets well. That way you’ll be working smarter, not harder.

3. Failing to Stick to Your Budget

I know, those beer cozies with your candidate’s name on them are pretty sweet, but is it in the budget? Every dollar spent on unnecessary expenditures is money that can’t be used to communicate with voters.

It’s critical that your campaign have a well thought out, realistic budget that can be adjusted based on the changing realities of your campaign. Create a budget early and stick to it, even if you need to make adjustments. The last thing you want is to find yourself having to cut your GOTV program because you wanted to have those sweet cozies.

4. Ignoring GOTV

It’s the week before the election. You and your team have done tons of work to convince voters that your candidate is the best choice. Well, don’t just stand there, get them out to vote!

GOTV stands for Get Out The Vote, and it’s critical to winning any campaign – particularly if it’s a close race. Too often, campaigns will fail to plan a solid GOTV strategy. You need to make sure that you have plans in place to get out your base voters (the voters your campaign has identified as supporting your candidate, as well as voters who meet the criteria of being a supporter) with a series of direct voter contacts.

Remember, the more personal the contact the more of an impact it has on a voter’s likelihood of getting to a polling place, and casting a vote for your candidate.

It’s also important to note that GOTV isn’t just for election day anymore. Back in the day, GOTV was just for polling day itself, but now it can start 30 days out or more due to early voting, vote by mail, and election protection efforts.

It’s important to know the rules specific to your locality because they can work for you, or against you. A campaign manager may have worked campaigns in numerous states, but every state is different.

For example, you don’t want to plan a major voter registration drive and then realize it’s days after the deadline for registration has passed. On the other hand, knowing that your opponent didn’t get enough official signatures to be on the ballot could be quite helpful.

5. Failing to Say Thank You

The two most important words in your campaign are ‘thank you’. Campaigns ask a lot from a lot of different people, whether it’s money from donors, time from volunteers, or endorsements from elected officials and outside groups.

Failing to thank the people who support you is one of the best ways to make sure that support isn’t there next time you need it. Donors should get thank you cards, there should be special events and election night parties for the volunteers who gave you their precious time, and organizations and elected officials who supported you should be thanked publicly, whether you win or lose.

Your campaign will have a lot of tough decisions to make over the course of the election. There will be a lot on your plate. By avoiding some the pitfalls above you’ll have more of the time, money, and momentum that you’ll need to win.

John Miyasato is the Principal and owner of Crossroads Campaigns, a consulting firm working with political campaigns, civic enterprises and nonprofits. Drew Ball is a seasoned campaigner at NGP VAN, the company behind nearly every Democratic campaign from Obama to Hillary. NGP VAN powers Democratic campaigns of all sizes, including the Obama campaign’s voter contact, volunteer, fundraising and compliance operations in all 50 states.

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