How to Fundraise Like a Presidential Candidate

Written By Will McMeans, Jr. Social Media Strategist

We’re still a long way away from elections next year, but candidates are already out in full force. Regardless of your opinions of the contenders—or about politics in general—you have to give them this: they are really good at fundraising. During the 2012 elections, President Obama raised $715,677,692 from small and large individual contributions. Unlike Mitt Romney who added $52,500 of his own financing to his campaign trail, President Obama started with a humble $5,000 of his own financing. Due to aggressive marketing and a well-branded campaign strategy, Obama was able to raise over $269,000,000 more than his competitor. While it might be easy to think, ‘my organization isn’t running in an election; we can’t fundraise like them,’ there are many campaigning tactics your nonprofit can use to generate major funds.

The main force behind the appeal of a presidential candidate (and thereby the reason for donating to them) is their messaging. If the message isn’t compelling, the donations won’t be either. People are looking for a candidate who shares their goals, who gets things done, and who can win. If you compare this to nonprofits, you might not find too much dissimilarity. Donors give to nonprofits that share their passions and beliefs, that make a difference in their field, and that are rising up to become leaders in the industry.

Sharing Similar Goals
A large part of any viable candidate’s message is showing that they are listening to the people. Without speaking to all classes of Americans, a candidate will not be able to fully encompass their needs. Similarly, nonprofits should always be showing donors that they value their input, and that they make decisions based on overall goals. This doesn’t mean nonprofits should constantly bend their approach to meet the suggestions of donors or board members, but it does mean they should listen and show where money goes and why. Just like presidential candidates, you need to make sure your goals align with the people donating—or they’ll stop giving.

Getting It Done
Having an end product that people like is central to any great campaign. People want the promise of a great economy, fair taxes, and equal rights. But any presidential candidate can make these promises. What sets them apart is how they’re going to do it. Nonprofits and candidates alike need to share what makes them stand out from the competition by showing the process of their work and by proving their work is leading toward the larger, main goal.

Be a Leader
When multiple candidates are in the race for presidential election, candidates with the most viability on the national stage end up getting the most votes. People usually don’t vote for a candidate that obviously has a small shot of winning. Rather than what some consider ‘wasting a vote’ on a lesser-known candidate, most Americans side with one of the two major political parties in hopes that their vote will make the most impact. Donors are less likely to give large sums to a small nonprofit that hasn’t proved themselves in their field. The larger organizations with well-known reputations generally bring in the most funding each year. But if your nonprofit uses social media, blogs consistently, and networks with other businesses and individuals within your scope of work, you can quickly increase your awareness and bring in those large donors.

There are plenty of tactics nonprofits can borrow from presidential campaign fundraising. But keep in mind there are a few you may want to steer clear of. Mudslinging other nonprofits will have a negative affect and could hold back your fundraising efforts. Stretching the truth or making promises your group cannot keep will turn away donors, possibly forever. Stick with the positive aspects of a campaign and your fundraising efforts could see a huge upswing.

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