by Joe Garecht for Winning Campaigns – Soliciting donations from political action committees (PACs) is fundamentally different than raising money from individuals. PAC contributions are harder to get and take more work, especially for the local campaign. PAC managers are political professionals, and demand much more information from the campaign than the average individual donor. It takes hard work, creativity, and persistence, but contributions from political action committees can prove to be a great tool towards reaching the campaign’s fundraising goal.
Are you Wasting your Time?
If your campaign is “too local,” or your district too small, it may not be worth the amount of time and money it takes to solicit donations from PACs. Generally, PACs do not give to the most local of campaigns, even in big districts, and do not give to even middle tier candidates in smaller districts. If you are running for school board or mayor of a small township, your campaign’s fundraising budget will be better spent encouraging individual donors to give to your campaign.
Political action committees also like to “go with the winner.” They are much more likely to give to incumbents than challengers, and rarely give in contested primaries unless one candidate is the clear favorite. Simply put, if you are running in a very local election, are challenging a popular incumbent, running in a primary or are a “long-shot,” don’t waste time trying to convince PACs to donate. There are plenty of individuals in your district who are much more likely and willing to help your campaign.
Who Should you Approach?
After deciding that your campaign may qualify to receive PAC donations, you must choose which PACs to approach. Start with associations, clubs, and groups that the candidate or his or her family is involved in. Make a list of these organizations, and research whether they have their own political action committees or are part of a larger organization that does. Your campaign is much more likely to receive contributions from groups that the candidate has a pre-existing relationship with. Also look into regional PACs and groups that generally donate to candidates like yours. Finally, contact committees that are interested in issues that your campaign is interested in, or that strongly oppose your opponent.
Know Who to Contact
When contacting a PAC to ask for a contribution, it is tempting to simply call the Chairman, or the national office of the PAC, if it has one. Resist this temptation. The best person to call when soliciting donations is the political action committee’s local representative. Most national PACs have regional or state reps, even local PACs may have a person in your town or county – call the main number and ask for the local rep. The local contact will not only be easier to get on the phone, but more likely to be sympathetic to your cause.
Know What to Send
Most political action committees will want you to send them a “PAC kit,” a portfolio with basic information about your campaign including the candidate’s bio, a list of the key staff, what your causes are (issue summaries, etc.) and why you think they should contribute to your particular campaign. Most of the information in the kit is the same for every PAC you contact, but some personalization should be done to each portfolio you send out – not only should the kit be addressed to a particular person, but should contain information on issues that particular committee may be interested in.
Do not make the mistake of designing your PAC kit to be too flashy. If you have full color printing, glossy photos and engraved portfolios, the PAC directors who you solicit will think your campaign is awash in money and does not need his help. Instead, keep it simple, but professional. The kit can be black and white and copied on your office Xerox, with a single color portfolio holding it all together.
Develop A Relationship
Fundraising from political action committees is all about relationships. The candidate must develop a relationship with the leaders and local representatives of the PAC that the campaign is soliciting from. This relationship starts with a phone call, and usually ends with several face-to-face meetings. Of course, this is not just any kind of relationship – it is a sales relationship. You must “sell” your candidate and your campaign, and make the PAC believe in you.
Never Compromise your Principles
No matter what happens during the campaign, or how far your fundraising has fallen below your goal, never, ever compromise your or your candidate’s principles by agreeing to take any action, specific or not, in return for a PAC contribution. PACs should donate to your campaign because they believe in you, or know that you are passionate about an issue. If a PAC chairman or manager ever approaches you and says, “we would like to make a contribution, but we need ______________,” – walk away. Tell him or her that you don’t need their contribution. When dealing with political action committee fundraising, you must not only be ethical and legal in all of your dealings, but have the appearance or