The initial rush of just “getting started” has started to fade, and it is time for you to truly begin campaigning. Yes, it is time to start shaking hands and kissing babies!
But you have to walk before you can run. In these early months, you want to spend your time expanding your coffers, identifying who your core supporters are, and reaching out to the public to make them aware that you exist in the first place. This is known as "capacity building and base outreach".
When to start: 10-6 months prior to the election (January-May)
Start recruiting staff
If you feel that your campaign will need consultants, staff, and interns, now is the time to start recruiting them. During this same time, you are going to want to evaluate the practicality and workability of your campaign calendar and adjust accordingly. Going forward your administrative tasks largely focus on ensuring that you are meeting reporting deadlines and running as effective a campaign as possible.
Expand donor outreach
While things are beginning to calm down on the administrative side of things, your financial activities should start to heat up. In months prior you have been contacting friends and family, but now it is time to start branching out and asking for contributions from the general public. During this phase you are going to want to conduct as much potential donor research as possible so that you know how to make the best possible ask.
Start soliciting donations
If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can even start to solicit donations - odds are good that you are going to need funds to help carry you past the initial burst you received after making that initial ask to friends and family.
As always, FundHero is here to help. With its online reporting tools and database management, you can help to ensure that you are making the most out of your fundraising activities. To learn more visit fundhero.io.
Get yourself in front of people
It is time to introduce yourself to the world! During this phase your goal should be to get yourself in front of as many people as possible. Attend as many community events as you can and be sure to introduce yourself to everyone within earshot to tell them that you are running for office. By getting out early, you can truly establish yourself as a legitimate candidate worthy of consideration (and you might even scare off potential challengers, avoiding a primary in the process).
Remember that the majority of the time you will not be formally introduced as a candidate for office, won’t have a table you can pass out literature from, and will be talking to people who may or may not be as enthusiastic about the election process as you are. To make the cold introductions easier you may want to consider something as simple as a name tag stating who you are and what you are running for - this way people know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they approach you or you approach them.
Be polite and respectful when talking to people, especially if they disagree with your proposed policies. It is always safe to say that the reason you are running is to truly hear what the voters want, including ideas that differ from your own.
But, while having these conversations, keep an ear out for signs that someone is interested in your campaign. Always have campaign literature ready to hand out when talking to the general public and be sure to immediately record the contact information of anyone who says that they are interested in volunteering. Finally, if they want to contribute, be sure to get a commitment from them as soon as possible (as a friendly reminder, FundHero allows your donors the opportunity to donate with a cell phone, just send them a text with your donation link and they can donate right then and there).
Political party functions and events are also an important part of your initial outreach strategy. Not only does your party provide formal and structured events that you can attend, but it also provides you easy access to people who are already more politically involved and, therefore, more willing to help your campaign.
Reach out to the media
You have started to build legitimacy thanks to your on-the-ground efforts, and it is time to start taking advantage of this by reaching out to mass media and making your voice heard to a larger audience.
If you haven’t already done so, start writing and submitting op-eds to your local newspapers and make yourself known to local television stations. In addition, you should be writing and sending out press releases whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Don’t be discouraged - the majority of the time the media will probably not print your press releases or op-eds, and it is even less likely that they will put you on camera. The important thing is that media outlets are made aware that you exist if/when they want to talk to you about your race.
Finally, you are going to want to start establishing relationships with community leaders and organizations so that you can have greater access to the public while simultaneously building more and more legitimacy.
Your campaign should now be on solid footing. The days are getting longer and people are going to start paying attention to your race. Get ready, it is time to enter the grind.
Check out all the phases of a campaign below!
- Pre Planning
- Making it Official/ Set Up
- Building your Base
- The Grind/ Community Outreach and Voter Identification
- Beginning of the End
- Get Out the Vote