Fundraising Message: A Candidate’s Own Story from Campaigns & Elections by Ken Christensen
A political candidate’s fundraising message to a potential contributor is crucial. It will determine whether the contributor will or will not donate to the campaign.
There is the usual five-minute fundraising call pitch: “Hi my name is…and I am calling you today about my campaign for Congress. I am running for Congress because… My background is…. I believe in issues x, y and z. Can I count on a contribution of $1,000 for my campaign for Congress?”
Then the candidate answers any questions the potential contributor might have.
This is the normal pitch of any candidate, basically focusing on why he or she is running and asking for a specific amount of money. The problem is regular contributors have heard every pitch possible from presidential, senatorial, congressional, statewide and local candidates. The way to separate your candidacy from the pack is with a compelling personal story.
“Why did the candidate get involved in politics in the first place?” “What drives the candidate to serve?” Combining the candidate’s personal story with the normal pitch is absolutely more effective then with the normal pitch alone.
Obviously, the use of issues can also motivate a potential contributor to donate. For example, when the candidate is speaking with trial lawyers he or she would likely add, “I’m against tort reform!” But after that, what could get potential contributor to get even more motivated? This involves the candidate’s own story. Every candidate has one and it should be worked on and refined so it can be told in an interesting and appealing way.
We are currently working on a congressional campaign in Connecticut’s 2nd District. My client’s name is Gary Collins and he has the best example of a personal story. I ever heard. The actual fundraising pitch for direct mail, faxing and e-mailing from the Gary Collins’ campaign to a potential contributor is as follows:
“In June of 1963, my father, a cab driver in Washington, D.C., picked up a fare that altered the course of my family’s destiny. My dad was looking for a job opportunity in his chosen field as an airplane mechanic. It was an opportunity that was being denied him only because of the color of his skin. The man who got in the back of his cab that day was a public servant. His name was Hobart Taylor, Jr. and he worked for Jack Kennedy.
Taylor had forgone lucrative jobs in the private sector for his government post because he believed he could change people’s lives through public service. My father told Taylor about his struggles and frustrations. Taylor, who was serving as the executive vice chairman of President Kennedy’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, helped my father find that opportunity and spent his life helping scores of people just like him.
As a result of this experience, my parents impressed upon me at the earliest age that I must seek out opportunities to serve my community whenever and wherever possible. Over the years, I’ve tutored kids to help them learn how to read, I’ve helped create scholarship funds to assist economically disadvantaged children realize the dream of a college education, and I’ve worked to construct little leagues to provide young people with a place to spend their idle time. In 1996, I used my law degree to help develop a comprehensive program to prosecute persons who commit acts of violence against women and children. The program in now a nationally recognized model to combat family and gender motivated violence.
These experiences have allowed me see what Taylor understood the day he got into the back of my father’s cab: you can change people’s lives through public service. In some cases, you can even alter the course of someone’s destiny. This is why I’m a democrat. This is why I’m running for Congress. As the 2nd District’s next congressman, I will be a tireless advocate for working families, work to ensure a good education for our children, support seniors and veterans, protect our precious environment, support small businesses and strongly support a woman’s right to choose. I will work without rest to bring people together and to ensure that we live in a country where everyone has the opportunity to realize their dreams.
As I’m sure you understand, I cannot run a successful campaign on idealism alone. Despite the fact that first term republican Congressman Bob Simmons (R) is extremely vulnerable and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted my district for victory, I still very much need your financial support to regain this seat.
Over a dozen sitting Congresswomen and Congressman have recently shown their support for my campaign. I very much hope that you will also find me worthy of your support. Your contribution of $1,000, $500, or $250 would be a tremendous help in ensuring that we stay our front in our shared mission. All contributions are welcomed and appreciated.
You can read more about the campaign at www.CollinsForCongress.org. You should also feel free to call me at 860-555-2733 or e-mail me at Gary@CollinsForCongress.org. Once again, I very much hope that I can count on your support. Sincerely, Gary Collins.”
This message has gotten individuals motivated in supporting the campaign. The pitch is also incorporated into Collins’ telephone solicitations, the campaign’s message, meet and greets, brochures, website and press releases. In Collins’ personal telephone solicitations to potential contributors the message and pitch is shorter. Of course when the candidate tells the story himself it is very moving. The right message can make a big difference in fundraising. The candidate’s own personal story is one that is often overlooked in campaign planning.
Ken Christensen is the CEO of The Politics Company Inc., a Democratic Washington, DC based political and fundraising consulting firm focused on political strategy, campaign messaging, voter modeling & targeting, branding, micro marketing, campaign fundraising and PAC fundraising services for U.S. Congressional Democratic campaigns.