That First Ask.

Quite possibly the most important step for any campaign is acquiring a baseline of money to get started. Campaigns are expensive, and candidates will quickly run into trouble if they can't gather preliminary funds.

Before you do any kind of formal fundraiser, you need to get a base of support from your friends and family, as well as close community acquaintances. These are the people who you can count on for some basic support. Your family will likely support you regardless of party affiliations, and so it is imperative to secure their donations. Friends will be similar to family, as the closer ones will care less about your affiliations as they know you are a good person anyway.

Another source for campaign cash is your local businesses, with whom you associate with regularly. Maybe you frequent a local restaurant, and know the staff fairly well, or even better, the owner. These are the people to ask for contributions from. Remember that it never hurts to ask for a donation, and the word “no” isn’t the end of the world. In fact, you’ll hear no a lot in politics.

Regardless of if and how much money you receive, at the very least, you can develop a base of support for your campaign. A campaign is not the place to be prideful! Asking for money can be difficult, but it is essential for the success of a candidate. Start by sending a personal letter to each person from whom you would like donations. Remember, these are the people who want you to succeed, so don’t be bashful about asking. Start by making a list of all of the people you would like to send that letter to, and then who you think you would receive campaign donations from, so you can be more organized and you won’t leave a stone unturned. You never know, someone who you forget to ask just might be a big supporter.

Each letter should be personal, so they feel like you will value their contribution. If they are going to give you their money, they will want to feel like you genuinely need their support.

Inform them. Tell them why you’re running for office, what your plans are, and why it is important for them to donate to your campaign. Be straightforward with them that you need money to run your campaign, and give them a suggested donation amount--not too high, and not too low. It’s better that you ask for a little much and they give you less than selling yourself short. Even if you know your aunt in Idaho won’t give you a $100 donation, it never hurts to ask, and $30 is still plenty useful. This money is used to help start your campaign, so let it be known that any money is helpful, and the more they give, the more you can do for your campaign and spreading your candidacy.

Tips for your letter

  • The letter should be easy to read, people don’t like to read long rambling paragraphs, so don't use complex terms they don't understand. It is perfectly okay to write in small paragraphs.

  • Hand-write the front, so that they know it’s personal, and not some mass-produced money request. They need to know that their donation means something to you.

  • Use an actual stamp, as opposed to ink that has literally been “stamped” on at the post office. Make the outside envelope unique, so that it catches the eye. If handwriting on the front won’t make it stand out enough, use a colored envelope. Bills don’t come in green or light blue envelopes, so they may divert to that one first--yours.

  • Send the letter to them with a return envelope inside, so that it’s convenient for them to send you money back. It gives them one less burden if they don’t have to worry about using one of their own envelopes, and if you pre-write the return address, they won’t have to worry about it, and can just put the money in and send it out.

  • Make sure to send a formal donation card, so that legal obligations are fulfilled, and they can just fill in the blanks with their personal info and donation amount.

Asking for donations from your friends and family should not be your primary means of financial support throughout the duration of your campaign, but it should be your starting point.

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