Fundraising During a Pandemic – Do You or Don’t You?
Like you and your team, we’re navigating a new a reality and adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. We hope all of you are healthy and doing well given all we’re going through.
We’ve gotten a lot of questions recently around maintaining the right balance between focusing on upcoming elections, which includes fundraising, and helping our fellow Americans through the pandemic, i.e. supporting, providing resources, and answering questions that may or may not have answers. To fundraise or not to fundraise right now isn’t an easy decision, so let’s take the time figure out the right plan for your situation.
While every situation is slightly different, below are some general rules we recommend. If…
Your election isn’t this year. Now isn’t the time to ask for money. Instead, this is an opportunity to connect or re-connect on a personal level with your contributors, constituents, neighbors, friends, etc. and provide the support and resources people need to survive the upcoming weeks and months. We can’t think of a better way to showcase your leadership abilities, either as an elected official or as a candidate.
You’re an elected official running this year. If you’re an executive, your focus should be on running your jurisdiction well, while connecting constituents to the resources they need, keeping people informed, and mitigating the spread of the virus. We recommend contacting some of your staunchest supporters and fundraisers and asking them to serve as your fundraising surrogates. Your attention should be on helping people; your supporters can call and email their networks and your past supporters to ask for money on your behalf (tips for doing so are below).
If you’re a legislator and not an executive, you can, and should, call and email your personal networks, previous supporters, and most PACs and lobbyists. (Use your judgement here. we wouldn’t, for example, ask the Restaurant Association for funds right now.) Asking people you haven’t met or don’t know is not good direction right now either, unless a supporter has set up a solicitation call on your behalf. You can use this time to build new connections and get to know prospects, but in most circumstances, we wouldn’t recommend soliciting those individuals until a later date.
You’re running this year for an office you haven’t held before. You can and should fundraise, with some caveats. You’ll need to first segment your audience and decide who you’ll contact for financial support and who you’re going to call to build rapport with. Your personal network and your previous supporters will be your best bets for solicitations, but you’ll need to adjust slightly how you ask. For potential voters and future contributors you don’t know yet, this is a chance to connect with them and be a source of assistance.
Tools that work well for fundraising or connecting during these trying times
Phone calls. Be authentic and honest and acknowledge these strange, stressful, uncomfortable times. Some people don’t love unsolicited calls, so be empathetic and tactful. Ask them to share how they’re feeling and if they need help connecting to resources. Develop a script (we’ll show you how in a future post) and a cheat sheet of resources, so you or those calling on your behalf can provide up-to-date information if asked. When you or your team connects with someone, remember to include “The Why” of your reason for running for office (see Simon Sinek’s Starting with Why Ted Talk), to build connection and interact authentically.
Tele-Town Halls. These are great ways to connect, to provide information and resources, and to answer questions as you would in person, about the pandemic, the causes you continue to support, and, if it’s appropriate, the status of your campaign. Invite everyone you would include in a face-to-face town hall and connect via a call-in number. Attendees can ask questions using their phones from the safety of their homes.
Video conferences. Using a platform like Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Google Conferencing, for videoconferencing works well for fundraising and connecting with voters/constituents and contributors. You can also hold highly effective, small, virtual meet & greets like you would in people’s homes.
Emails. Emails work well for sharing your thoughts on the pandemic and what you stand for, as well as how you can, and are, supporting people today, and how you’re available to help. Include a phone number and email address. Since individuals like to consume information in a variety of ways, consider embedding short videos.
Thanks to technology, we can all still connect, nurture relationships, and keep moving forward, albeit slower than normal. Use this time to figure out how to provide your constituents or potential constituents what they need. This will allow them to either see or preview how you would help and lead in times of trouble. Keep them informed, provide resources where you can, and be there to listen, all while moving your campaign forward.
We’re here to help if you’d like some direction and assistance on the best ways to ensure you have the money you need to run your race, while taking into consideration the greater global needs. Please reach out, even if you just need to talk.