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We are Lison Laissus and Oliver Wells, NationBuilder Account Managers based in the London office. Having worked with many political parties and campaigns, we want to share what we’ve learned for people new to the process. This series is a step-by-step journey of a fictional candidate running for office, informed by our shared experience.

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Dear Diary, 

We are now 180 days away from the election, and I want to make sure that I have all the resources necessary in order to successfully run my campaign. I want to be able to invest in the right tools, recruit a few people, and get all my promotional assets ready––but I don’t yet have the required funds in the bank. To cover those costs, I am going to launch a fundraising campaign. I will first determine what my goals are, and create the digital infrastructure to support my campaign. Then, I’ll create a clear path of engagement for my donors, build a compelling communication plan and give my supporters the opportunity to fundraise on my behalf. Exciting!

 

Establishing my fundraising goals

The first step of my fundraising strategy is to figure out how much funding I need to run my campaign. I will start by finding out what the costs were of previous elections––this is information that can be requested in many countries. It will give me a better idea of what former candidates (and potentially, my current competitors) have spent during the last election. 

Then, I will start breaking down the costs by listing what I am missing and what I will need in the upcoming months. I’m going to divide this into two categories.

  • Operational segment: this will be all the material things I will need. It includes office space and supplies, utilities, staff salaries (which generally represents 20-25%), website, mass communication tools, etc. 
  • Voter persuasion segment: this will contain all the costs associated with reaching out to people. It includes research, communication costs, etc. 

After completing my total budget, I will create three versions of it: one that is the ideal scenario, one that is my backup plan if I don’t hit my fundraising goal, and a shoe-string version. I think it’s really important to be prepared for anything––and since it’s the first time I’m running for election, I know that unplanned things will come up. 

With all this data in hand, I can now create my fundraising goals. I will do both quarterly and monthly projections so that it’s easier to track the budget evolution. I’ll make sure to put a lot of attention into properly tracking spending and revenue, as I will need to report on this after the election. 

I’ve established that I needed to fundraise $200,000 to run my campaign. So now, let’s create the infrastructure required to make that happen.

 

Building my digital infrastructure

The first thing I need to do is make sure I have a way of actually receiving donations (other than just cash). First up, I  set up a payment processor within my nation settings to allow me to collect payments in the campaign bank account. Having previously used PayPal, I’m delighted to see that NationBuilder has its own payment processor which is significantly cheaper, meaning I'm charged a lesser rate for each transaction, and the process to set it up takes just two minutes. I’m also able to add a disclaimer about contribution rules, which I’m required to include to comply with campaign finance laws.

Next up, I’m going into my finances section to set up a ‘tracking code’. I’ve made one called ‘kicking off’ for this phase of the campaign; I’ll do a separate ‘Christmas fundraiser event’ for the next one, as I want to be able to track these phases differently.

And finally, I’ve built my donation page. I connected my new payment processor and tracking codes via donation settings and put in some basic text explaining why it’s so important to receive donations, along with multiple options of payment including, several different amounts and recurring options. I also set up an auto-response receipt email and created an ‘action chain’ by directing any users who donated to the ‘volunteer’ page to keep them engaged on their user journey.

My finance manager, Louise (who is a volunteer with a background in charity fundraising), asked me to double check that the page is SCA compliant, and the team at NationBuilder informs me that it is. We’re also able to make the page a ‘staged donation page’, which Louise discovered has a significantly better conversation rate.

 

Creating a path of engagement for my donors

Now that I have a landing page, it’s time to think about my ladder of engagement for moving people to become donors. Louise reminds me that people will move at different speeds, so we need to set up infrastructure that acknowledges this and helps us build genuine relationships with our volunteers. To do this, I’m going to use paths, as I did in volume 4.

Louise and I had a brainstorming session to consider what the steps would be for getting people to become donors. We came away with the following steps:

I built these paths into NationBuilder and assigned the large donor path to Louise and the new donor path to another volunteer, Gabriel. We also decided that we’d introduce a ‘become a recurring donor’ path a few months in to try and get one off donors giving on a regular basis. 

I now need to fill these pipelines with suitable people. I used filters to analyse my database and determine who are potential donors and large donors. In the future I’ll be able to use donation history to look at this (as anyone who has given me a decent sized one-off donation can be added to the large donor path), but for now I’m going to just focus on the new donor path and bring in anyone who has had a meaningful interaction with me and/or opened an email in the last three months and add them to the ‘become a new donor’ path using a batch update.


Getting the message right

Louise has told me that getting the messaging right is really important and that it should be relevant and engaging to the recipient. So I’m going to contact supporters in reference to the recent petition that we ran as this will be fresh in people’s minds and has a specific link to an action they recently took. 

Of course, not everyone signed the petition, so I’m using liquid variables ‘if/else’ logic to provide a different paragraph and make emails more relevant. I’m going to set up an email blast with the following content:

—-

Hi <First name or "Friend"> 

{% if recipient.tag_list contains "Petition: Name" %}

Thank you so much for signing our recent petition about the local bin collections, it’s amazing to see the strength of feeling on this issue with over 1,300 signing the petition. I’m going to fight hard to make sure we get through the changes so many people are calling for, but I need your help.

{% else %}

My campaign is moving to a crucial phase and  I need your help to be able to continue the campaign and fight my election.

{% endif %}

Are you able to donate today? This would make a huge difference for my campaign at this important stage.

Even if it’s just a small amount, any donation will be hugely valuable as I build my campaign. 

Thank you for all your support. 

Jackie

P.S. Please, please donate today if you can and forward on to any family/friends who support the campaign.

—-

You can also see I included a donate button to draw attention to the action, and reiterated the call to action in my P.S.

Within minutes of sending out the email, donations have started to come in. It’s the most amazing feeling and feels like a real landmark in the campaign. It’s been a genuine experience of the expression: “if you build it, they will come!’

In the future, when I have more donation history, I’ll be able to use smart fields for approaching potential large donors. I’ll be able to merge in information like “last donation amount” or “total donated this year” to make the emails even more bespoke to their targets.

By now, everything is ready for my campaign to launch. But in order to maximise my chances to reach my fundraising target, I’m going to add one more string to my bow: giving the opportunity to my supporters to fundraise on my behalf.

 

Turning my donors into fundraisers

I’m convinced that no matter how great and clear the experience on my website, my path of engagement, and my email blasts are––there’s one thing I’ll never be able to beat: word of mouth and personal networks. Indeed, I’ve read many studies showing that fundraising requests from peers increase the number of new donations to a campaign at a statistically significant rate.

So, to spend less time fundraising and bring in more contributions, I’ve decided to move my donors into action by giving them the opportunity to take an additional responsibility: recruiting other donors. This is easily doable in NationBuilder thanks to the public profiles, which can serve as personal fundraising pages. 

After enabling that add-on in my nation settings, I’ll start by looking for people with a high level of engagement and a potential capacity to fundraise, using donation history and social capital. Then, I will reach out and ask if they would take up that challenge, and share with them a personal fundraising goal. The next step for them will be to login to their account and update their profile with a picture and bio, and the fundraising goal they commit to. Here’s the final product I’m hoping for:





Once completed, my fundraisers will be able to send their network a link to their personal page and every donation made on this page will be tracked and marked as recruited by the fundraiser. This activity will also show in their progress bar. 

Finally, since I’ve got limited time to reach my fundraising goal, I’m going to launch a new competition similar to the one for volunteer recruitment which I talked about in my previous post. Thanks to a leaderboard, I’ll be able to track and publicly display who my biggest donation recruiters are, encourage friendly competition and reward the biggest contributors. 

I’ll make sure, as always, to remind my team to send thank you emails to everyone who has participated, acknowledging the amount they’ve been able to fundraise using smart fields. This is invaluable in making sure that my supporters get the recognition they deserve and are more likely to actively fundraise again. 

What I love about this method is that it relies on targeted relationships and initiatives to grow my supporters’ engagement. Ultimately, my goal remains to win votes, not money,  and the potential payoff of building relationships while fundraising is significantly higher than a traditional top-down fundraising strategy. 

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for the next big step of my campaign, coming soon.

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Additional resources you may like:

 

If you want to run your campaign on NationBuilder, create a free trial or get in touch with our team.

For more on how NationBuilder can help emerging candidates and parties, learn how Emmanuel Macron’s party En Marche used it to get 359 candidates elected in 2017.

 

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