Author Archive for Lindsey Miller

School Board Races in 2017 Need to Focus on Fundraising NOW

Some of the largest school districts in the country have school board races in 2017. In fact, 464 of The United States largest school districts are holding elections for 1,384 seats (stat found here).

A school board election should be treated just like any other legislative race. You must raise money to get your message to your voters. If you are not able to effectively communicate how you will be the right person to serve on the school board then you will not win your elections.

It is that simple. You need money to win your school board race.

Some smaller school board candidates do not need to raise much money. Candidates with small districts can aim to raise $5,000-10,000 sending 3-6 direct mail campaigns to a smaller mailing list and be able to be successful in their school board race. Other much larger districts need a full staff, paid media as well as direct mail and will need to raise $50,000 or more.

No matter your budget you must start focusing on fundraising now. Staying ahead of your opponent is a direct path to winning your election. The earlier you can start raising money the more you will be able to spend on getting your message out.

If you are running for a school board race in 2017 you need to focus now on fundraising.

Let Political Head Start get your fundraising off on the right track.

It does not matter if you are a school board candidate trying to raise $5,000 or $50,000 Political Head Start can help you raise money. Our class will walk you through raising your initial funds. Our political fundraising course will get you started the right way and help you raise the money you need to hire professional consultants, staff, polling and direct mail campaigns.

 

Creative Political Fundraising Ideas

My first hard and fast rule in political fundraising is costs must be kept to a minimum. Keeping costs down makes it even more important to have creative political fundraising ideas when raising money in politics.

Anyone can spend a lot of money and host a great fundraiser, but it takes finesse and creativity to plan a successful fundraiser.

3 creative political fundraising ideas:

  1. Plan a fundraiser around your birthday. I have done this for several of my state wide clients. Birthday Creative Political Fundraising IdeaIt is an easy ask from your friends to attend a “birthday party” and not necessarily a “fundraiser.” Although, we know it is a fundraiser that isn’t the feeling. Decorate with balloons, have a birthday cake and make sure you sing and blow out the candles! Ask for donations instead of gifts. Depending on your state ethics laws you can do a “pass the hat” during the birthday song. In Oklahoma it is allowed by ethics laws and depending on the crowd I have collected an additional $1,000!
  2. Use social media. Using social media for fundraising feels like an out of the box creative political fundraising idea, but it is quickly becoming mainstream. The Trump campaign even says it was their best form of fundraising. This last election cycle I talked to several local candidates about Facebook ads to promote fundraising events and helping to spread awareness. Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn could work for you too.
  3. A fundraiser that is also a campaign event. Think of what activities where you need volunteers and turn it into a fundraising opportunity. Many people that can donate cannot attend a door knocking event. You may even have people who want to give their time instead of their money. So put the two groups together. Send out an email asking for volunteer event sponsorships.
    • A simple message would work: “Can’t attend our neighborhood door knocking this weekend, but still want to help? Then help sponsor the event! We need ten $500 donors to help pay for 250 signs to hand out, we need five $250 donors to pay for our walk cards and we need twenty $100 donors to help cover the cost of follow-up with all of our voters.” You can be very creative with this political fundraising idea. See what works for you and your supporters, but this can be a great way to include all of your supporters and find a place for everyone to show they choose you

 

If you think these ideas are great, but are looking for more help with your political fundraising. You can download my free ebook or sign up for my political fundraising course.

The Easiest Way To See Your Sample Ballot

Elections can be confusing. Especially when your state may have ballot initiatives, state questions, local and national races all on one ballot. It is smart to look at your ballot before you ever head to the polls on election day. Today while looking up various states sample ballot process I came across a wonderful new Google feature.

Now you can Google your state and the words “sample ballot” you will be prompted for your address, then BAM there is your ballot.

Here is what it looks like.

First, Google your state and the words “sample ballot.”

Google your Sample Ballot

Next enter your address and something like this will pop up:

Sample Ballot

Notice at the top you can choose to see your ballot for “national,” “state” and “local” elections. It really breaks the ballot down for you.

It really is that easy. From now you can easily find your sample ballot and not ever be caught off guard when you go to vote!

7 Do’s and Don’ts for Raising Money in Politics

This has been a tight financial year for political fundraising.

Raising money in politics is hard.

There are a few reasons why raising money in politics is more difficult this year.

First, there are many states who are seeing upticks in candidates who have filed to fill open seats or challenge incumbents, Florida and Washington are good examples. This makes it especially difficult to get money from donors that are typical donors. More candidates asking the same people for money will make it more difficult to raise money.

Secondly, there is general economic uncertainty during this (and other) presidential election years. Investments are down the stock market is seeing swings and businesses profits are suffering. This is seen directly in fundraising. With less disposable income political donors are holding on a little tighter or donating in lesser quantities than normal.

With these factors in 2016 you must be smarter than your opponent when raising money.

Here are 7 Do’s and Don’ts for Raising Money in Politics (in 2016)

  1. Do think outside the box. Try new strategies. Have you started making fundraising asks from your email list? What about texting close friends? I have seen several Facebook asks for campaigns this year, have you tried utilizing social media? Make sure that you are thinking of ways to raise money that your opponents OR candidates in other areas are not utilizing. You could be compelling the same people. So think of new ways to reach new donors.
  2. Don’t just call “typical donors. Everyone is calling the tried and true donors this year. They could also be highly engaged in national races, so make sure you are exhausting your own list of contacts. Your list is your best fundraising list. 
  3. Don’t waste your time. If you are driving across your district for campaign events, double up and create fundraising opportunities. Find a friend or volunteer to host a fundraising meet and greet or use the driving time to make fundraising calls. 
  4. Do carry contribution cards everywhere. Make sure you don’t miss a fundraising opportunity. It hurts me when I hear of candidates who have turned money away because they didn’t have their donor materials on them. 
  5. Do have an optimized website. There are no excuses for democratic campaigns that do not take contributions online. Yes, some people are still using checks, but many donors prefer online donations. If you don’t already have yours set up then you can visit Act Blue and get started immediately.
  6. Do ALWAYS follow election laws. Campaign compliance is serious and you do not want to go to jail over donations to your campaign. I have written about compliance before and have linked to a list of ethics compliance offices in every state. If you are unsure about the laws in your state then LEARN THEM.
  7. Do ask everyone for money. One way to make sure you are raising as much as you can is to ask everyone that you meet for a donation. Not only does this mean you are exhausting your list, but you are expanding your donor base in every possible way.

Raising money in politics is not easy. You need to make sure you are maximizing your time, your abilities and your relationships so that you will have success raising the money you need to win.

If you want more help you can download my free ebook “6 Keys to Successful Fundraising Calls.” 

 

 

 

Unicorns and Magic Donor Lists are Both Fantasies

Magic, money-filled, no-work donor lists are as big of a fantasy as unicorns.

No one. And I mean no one has a magic list of donors dying to throw their money at any candidate who calls them.

Even one of the most prolific fundraisers in history is always looking for more people to contact.

There is a myth out there that a fundraising consultant with a list will be your way to a blockbuster fundraising campaign. I wish it were true, but it isn’t. Just because there is a donor list that you are calling it doesn’t mean that those donors will also automatically donate to you.

You must always prove your worthiness as a candidate to every donor that you speak with. You must show that you will be the representative/senator/congresswoman etc that they want.

If you are working off of an existing list then you are one step ahead of others who are curating their own list, but it still doesn’t mean that those donors will just hand their money over without asking questions of you or wanting to know where you stand on issues that are important to them.

As I’ve said before:

Fundraising is hard, grueling work, slogging in the mud sometimes.

I do not care what donor list you have, numbers go bad, people move, change their numbers, quit (retire) from their jobs and sadly they die.

Know that your list will not be perfect and just hang up and dial the next down the line. Don’t waste time getting upset about a busy tone or a disconnect and call the next number.

Just like Dory says, “Just keep swimming.” Some days it may feel like you are crossing the Pacific Ocean, but it will pay off if you just go through the process and make your calls.

I was in a Call Time Training just last week and we were working off of the candidate’s personal list from her cell phone. She had two numbers that were disconnected. It happens. She moved on and didn’t think about it again. She ended her day with a very successful fundraising day and probably did not give those numbers a second thought.

I wish that unicorns were real and I wish that magic donor lists existed. It would make my job and life a whole lot easier. If I ever find that unicorn or perfect donor list. This will be the first place that I alert the world to its existence.

So … do the work, work the process. But always keep going. Your campaign’s success depends on it. 

 

Candidate Spouses the “Over Involved”

You may think I am never happy with spouses, too involved, not involved enough, etc. I promise I am not hard to please! There is a fine balance with spouses how they want their involvement to look as well as what role you, as the campaign professional, want them to take.

The over involved spouse can be a blessing or a curse.

If the spouse’s involvement consists of attending a lot of events with the candidate and they are great at chit chat and are wonderful in a supportive or stand alone role that is a blessing. If their involvement rolls into fifteen calls 50 emails a week with you then you have a problem and a curse.

Spouses are important and their happiness is important.

So ignoring all of the calls and not returning any of the emails is not a good idea. Instead give them things to do. Brilliant huh? Instead of them giving you a to-do list make one for them. Keep them busy and make it as relevant as possible. Maybe the spouse is a fabulous public speaker. Have them create their own events with their friends and supporters of your campaign.

Keep an eye on the “over involved.” I had a friend once who showed me where a spouse was using facebook to talk bad about the opponent and complain about the campaign. This spouse had good intentions, to get the message out that the opponent was not as qualified as their spouse, but that can really backfire. Either you or someone on your campaign should QUIETLY monitor the online activities of the “over involved” spouse just to keep ahead of the game.

Candidate Spouses and the “Under Involved”

If you have a candidate spouse that is “under involved” you have one that does not come to fundraising events or even ask friends for donations (support). This is a problem just like the other spouses we have discussed.

The best way to approach this spouse is find out what interests them about the campaign. Take time to get to know this spouse. Maybe they are not comfortable being in front of everyone. If this is the case think of alternate ways they can help your campaign. What about a blog? Maybe sending emails asking for donations to friends and family members? Could this spouse post details of the campaign and fundraising needs on facebook or twitter?

Most importantly, if you get the “under involved” interested in helping do not put them into a situation they will absolutely hate they will not be likely to listen to you again.

Use this spouse strategically.

Make sure that If they are around they are doing something they find enjoyable. This is your job to find out what that is exactly. Also, do not make your candidate feel badly that their spouse is not around. They are probably seeing others who have their spouse there all the time and want that too. Just make sure it is not you who is showing frustration by the spouses absence.

If you think strategically and do the leg work you can use this spouse when they do come around and it will be beneficial to your campaign.

Candidate Spouses the “Awkward Talker”

Spouses can be a trusted ally or a hazard to your campaign.

I like to do an initial candidate interview with the spouse present. This is purely strategic. I want the candidate and the spouse to know from the very beginning how much work is involved in fundraising for a campaign.

Not if, but when the candidate feels overwhelmed the spouse is a great ally to help remind the candidate why they are being asked to be on the phone/road/campaign trail so much.

What if they are a problem spouse? There are a lot of variations and different ways to deal with each. Right now I am going to talk about the “Awkward Talker” candidate spouse.

For example, I am at a fundraising event for a client whose spouse was there. I had not known the spouse to have awkward conversations before, but my eyes were opened wide that night. They were speaking to someone they knew and I was involved in the conversation. The guest told us about her granddaughter having a child, the spouse then says “well, your daughter must have been a very young mother”. They were trying to make a statement about how young she looked to be a grandmother, but that is not how it came across. I recovered making a joke about how young she looked and kept an eye on that spouse the rest of the night.

We all know how we have the best of intentions in a conversation and yet can say things that are offensive. Especially if we are not used to small talk and then put into a situation of only ever having small talk.

Give your candidate’s spouse a job to keep their mind focused.

What I did from then on was assign someone from my staff or a trusted volunteer to keep an eye on the spouse at events and help them not get in awkward conversations.  Small talk is an art so always determine if the spouse can do it or not and try to help them before disaster strikes.

If your candidate’s spouse is unteachable and continually awkward. Give them a job to do at the event. Could they be in charge of making sure everyone has a cocktail? Could they have the yard sign sign-up list? Choose carefully and give them a job and you might just avoid a snafu.

Ethics Compliance In Political Fundraising

Ethics compliance. Two of the biggest words you will ever encounter during your political candidacy.

The first thing I did when I was just a baby politico was take the advice of my then boss and learned the ethics rules for my state, Oklahoma. If I was going to be getting donations and entering data I needed to know the rules.

To this day it is the best advice and one I hand out immediately.

Many states and cities have an ethics commission and make this information easily attainable. A simple google search I did recently showed me how to find all the ethics rules in San Francisco city elections. No state agency wants to get a candidate or worker in a trap the rules are there for you to know.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a very comprehensive list of all the ethics commissions in each state.

What is my point? Do your homework and ethics compliance just becomes another aspect of a campaign that you can master.

How To Use Sponsors To Boost Dollars

One of my favorite ways to make a modestly successful fundraiser into a highly successful one is to add sponsors ahead of the scheduled event.

I do not add sponsors, I have my candidate call for sponsors.

I work with my hosts to identify key individuals and thought leaders in their community. I then have my candidate call them and ask them to help sponsor the event. We call three weeks ahead of time so they can be listed on the invitation. But we do not stop calling! We will have our candidate call all the way up to the day before the event still asking for sponsors.

Sponsors who we add after the invites go out will still get recognition on the sponsor board (which I have at every event I do) even if they are not on the invitation.

Two important benefits from having sponsors:

  1. Makes the event financially successful before it begins.
  2. Listing sponsors allows others in the community to see who is supporting your candidate.

Remember when I talked about when to cancel a fundraiser? The main point from that post was you make the fundraiser successful BEFORE the event even starts. The way to accomplish that is through sponsorships.

Money in hand before the event starts.

Using sponsorships can really help boost the money you have come through the door. Once you have sponsorships committed, make sure the total will pay for the event costs. Then anything you net at the event goes directly to helping elect your candidate.

Social credibility from community leaders.

When someone receives an invitation for your event having the sponsors listed on the invitation immediately gives your candidate social credibility. Seeing the name of a well known local artist or a bank executive could encourage others to give your candidate a chance and come to the event.

Raise Money to Reach Voters

Money helps you share your message with potential voters and then hopefully persuade them to vote for you. Whether you are using direct mail pieces, websites, radio ads or even TV ads, you must raise money in order to reach your voters.

The best way to raise money is called Call Time, where you sit at a desk, with a phone and call sheet and make calls for hours and hours at a time to potential donors. Many candidates underestimate, de-prioritize or just simply do not understand the foundational importance of Call Time for the fundraising success of their campaigns.


The Ultimate All-in-One Political Fundraising Course

Call Time Training will show you how to ...

  • Create a strategy for fundraising calls
  • Build your call list
  • Script phone calls for best results
  • Answer unexpected questions from donors
  • Close calls with solid commitments
  • Follow up with donors

What People Are Saying About Political Headstart
 

I've known Lindsey Miller for 10 years. As a state house representative for 12 years, I've had the pleasure of working with her on numerous occasions. Her experience and expertise is unparalleled and I know our party has benefited greatly from her work in Oklahoma. She's a true political professional and I highly recommend her.


- Representative Mike Shelton



From political fundraising to campaign management, there are few who combine the knowledge, experience, commitment, passion and drive as Lindsey Miller. Her work for candidates in Oklahoma has produced real results and been the difference maker for them. I've had the honor to work with her and recommend her to my friends and colleagues numerous times and will so again and again. She's a great asset to our party's political future.


- Senator Charles Wyrick