Federal candidates are under pressure to raise thousands each week. That means hitting the Beltway party circuit and connecting with advocates and rainmakers.
After working a lifetime of galas “where thousands of eyes make no eye contact,” we put together a list of hacks to turn any fundraiser into an opportunity for moving your advocacy effort forward.
Don’t just target the principals
Fundraising consultants are extensions of the members for whom they raise money. Some of these relationships last decades. If you’re smart, you will get to know the folks who organize events and treat them respectfully and collaboratively.
Follow up after the event with an email to the fundraising consultant thanking them for the opportunity to attend. Be sure to ask if there are other ways you might be helpful in the future. Getting on their radar, and invite list is mutually beneficial.
Work on your pitch
Have your elevator speech ready. You may only get a grip and grin moment with the representative or senator. You need to make it count. If you’re inclined to take a photo, ask for permission first.
Congressional staff are also often at the events, both in the district and in D.C. Make it your business to know who they are and what issues they cover in their portfolio.
Make the contribution for at least $200 to get on the FEC report. Contributions made early in a Congressional campaign count more than others, as do checks that come on the eve of the quarterly filing deadlines. The chicken’s way is to contribute $199 to all the candidates running and hope they will all love you. It doesn’t happen that way. The process is transparent and everyone knows.
Moreover, consider being the host offering the most. Once you have worked with a member who is helpful and you have built mutual trust, you may want to offer to host an event. This deepens the relationship and helps you and your organization determine who is invited. Don’t broach this topic with the member or their staff. Always work with the consultant.
Half of the battle is showing up in person at fundraisers. Don’t mail in your contributions or have an assistant drop it and run. It’s best to present it in person, arrive early or at the very least on time. Ultimately, stay for as much of the event as your schedule will permit.
Learn to view fundraising as an essential part of your advocacy portfolio. These steps will maximize your impact and position you and your organization to get the most value out of the event experience.
Joshua Habursky is director of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, and adjunct professor at West Virginia University.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C. office of the Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in West Virginia University's Integrated Marketing Communications program.