Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Politicians Get A Lot Of Things Wrong, But There Is Something They Get Right

January 6th, 2014 by Karen Climer

Political campaign fundraising is fascinating to me.  They raise an enormous amount of money in a very short time period.  Because it is intense, the campaign can’t waste time or energy on fundraising methods that don’t work.  We in the nonprofit world can learn from their methods.

I’ve never heard of a politician holding a golf tournament to raise money.  Maybe it’s happened, but I’ve never seen it.  The vast majority of political fundraising events are dinners or house parties where the candidate is present.  The focus of the event is the candidate (i.e. the mission).  For the most part, all of the attendees support the candidate.  People are not there to bid on auction items or play golf, they are there specifically to support the mission.   It is likely that the campaign staff will follow-up with you after the event.  In fact, their follow-up might border on fanatical up until and including election day.

Contrast that with your typical nonprofit event … let’s say the East Oaks Homeless Shelter is holding a golf tournament.  The focus of the event is golf.  All attendees play golf.  There may or may not be anything there that relates to the homeless shelter, except maybe having their logo on the signs.  Oh, and they’ll have a few homeless statistics posted at each hole.  The golfers may or may not support the homeless shelter outside of the golf tournament.  The staff of East Oaks Homeless Shelter may or may not follow up with the golfers after the event.  One week after the event, most golfer will not know the name or mission of the charity the golf tournament supported.

This year, as you are planning your events, do two things: make the mission, not the party or golf tournament, the focus of the event and follow-up several times with all attendees after the event.  Then when it comes time to make a donation, the donor will elect your nonprofit as the winning candidate.

Posted in Events

4 Responses

  1. Lisa

    You’re right on!! A fundraiser should be all about the mission, not the party. Yes, people love a good party, however, people love supporting a mission close to their heart much more. We can all learn a few tips from politicians!!

  2. Lynn

    I love this… with one question: We (normal people, not politicians) get annoyed with the amount of direct mail, phone calls, etc. we get around election time. How do we not get into the irritant phase yet still accomplish the ultimate goal of supporting our candidate/mission?

  3. Karen Climer

    Thank you for your question, Lynn. The way to prevent the irritation is to send more mail, send more emails, and make more phone calls. Yes, more more more. Before you decide I’m crazy, keep reading…

    People get irritated with political mailings because the voter is ignored for three years, then bombarded in the fourth year. To the voter, it feels like, “You don’t care about me. You just want my vote.” The nonprofit equivalent would be ignoring your donor all year, then asking for money in December. The donor feels like an ATM machine.

    The best way to prevent that is to communicate more often. Don’t ask more often, just communicate more often. Send donor-centered communications that let the donor know how she is changing the world through your organization. Let her know you value her as a person and not a number. Send her a birthday card. Send an email when she’s not expecting it that says, “I was watching the VPK kids play on the new playground, and I thought of you. Thank you for caring about our preschool.”

    Most people complain about receiving too many ads, too many political postcards, too many solicitations, but I have never in my life heard someone complain that, “My friend called me AGAIN!! I just hear from her WAY TOO OFTEN!! She is always calling to ask how I’m doing. It’s just annoying! Ugh!” You never hear that because people love it when their friends call. Treat your donors like you treat your friends.

    Thanks again for your question.

  4. Lynn

    Great response! Thank you.

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