Serious About Running For Office? Don’t Make These 4 Mistakes
Whether you’re running for City Council or Governor, there’s one thing that separates the effective campaigns from the ineffective ones: organization.
Organization doesn’t just mean a good ground game, or pretty ads – this means being able to fundraise efficiently, and reach out to as many supporters as possible.
To run a competitive campaign, you’re going to need tools that help – not hinder. So if you’ve got a website without forms, or are using a mosaic of free tools from Google Docs to PayPal, heed these four warnings to avoid making serious missteps during your campaign.
1. DON’T rely on a Facebook page instead of a website
Let’s make one thing clear: you should probably have a Facebook presence, and you should monitor your page and engage with your supporters and constituents. But it’s not a substitute for a website.
A website is the best way to convert online interest and traffic into actionable data on which you can build a movement .
What’s more, a professional-looking website doubles as a sign of commitment. A Facebook page takes a moment, but a real website takes a real candidate.
Having a website with good, usable forms will allow you to connect with supporters who are willing to donate, volunteer, or even just engage with you on a more personal basis than a Facebook like or comment.
2. DON’T email your supporters from a free service
Email is the most direct and effective way of reaching out to as many supporters as possible. Campaigns simply don’t have the capacity to talk to every voter in person or give each supporter a call.
That said, sending messages to your supporters using a free email address does very little to instill a sense of trust. In fact, it might make people question whether your message (and your campaign) are for real.
Free personal email services like Gmail or AOL also aren’t set up to deal with sending the large volume of email in a short period of time that’s needed when you’re communicating with your list. Google (and others) work very hard to avoid the spread of spam, and this kind of activity on a personal account raises all sorts of red flags. You don’t want your emails marked as spam, do you?
Modern tools can do more than just avoid pitfalls though – they can also save you time. Most software will let you:
- Track how many people engage with your emails, as well as how much money an individual email has raised you across your supporter base – letting you learn from your victories (and mistakes).
- Cut up your list into segments – for example, enabling you to email past donors a fundraising email, and students at the local university a volunteering email.
- Automatically send welcome e-mails and follow-ups to new contacts, schedule future emails, and send confirmation and thank you messages to people who’ve donated or attended an event.
3. DON’T organize with spreadsheets
Spreadsheets are large and unwieldy. Lots of campaigns start out using spreadsheets, but these days you’re likely to find it stressful, inefficient, and possibly dangerous to store your campaign data this way.
For starters, data entry on Excel is risky(and boring) – you might end up collecting dirty data with typos and duplicates.
There’s also the problem of security. The last thing you need is an Excel file containing thousands of personal contact details floating around the internet, or forwarded to the wrong email.
When using proper campaign software, you’re not only able to store all of this contact information in one place, but use it to log calls and keep track of other vital intel like giving history and personal notes. Some systems will also track your supporters’ social media activity so that you can find their interests and reach out accordingly.
Campaigning doesn’t have to involve endless spreadsheets – good software saves you time and worry, and gives you an edge.
4. DON’T use a disconnected fundraising platform
Excuse the double negative, but it’s true: Online fundraising is effective and here to stay.
The real power of online fundraising comes with integration. You not only want to be able to accept donations, you want to have the information collected flow directly into your database.
Why, you ask? So that you can tailor your fundraising effort to your supporters’ needs. Being able to break down your database by location, donor history, event attendance, and all sorts other information is a powerful way to optimize your fundraising and gain a competitive edge.
Managing your email list with one tool and your donations with another is messy, confusing, and leaves money on the table when it comes to efficiency.
Better to have clear, actionable information and simple processes that help rather than hinder your campaign.
When you’re looking for an advantage against an opponent, you have to cover all the bases. By using the information you have to target your communications by website, email, and on the ground, you can gain build a movement that’s both powerful and more connected to the people that drive it.