How to Fundraise on the Fly… On Your Phone.

How to Fundraise on the Fly… On Your Phone
by John Phillips, Aristotle

Mobile processing is seemingly everywhere you look these days. From the vendor at your local farmer’s market, to the new frozen yogurt shop that uses a tablet and card reader instead of a cash register. And, it’s no wonder they are so popular – the majority of people use their debit and credit cards for nearly everything. If I arrive at a restaurant or shop that doesn’t accept credit cards, I am more likely to turn around and leave rather than look for an ATM.

Most PACs already accept credit cards – but doing so at an event or conference can turn into a logistical nightmare. Most normal credit card readers need to be connected to a special phone line and require “closing out” at the end of the day. And have you ever tried to read someone else’s handwriting on a credit card contribution form days after an event? You’ll start to wonder why they stopped teaching penmanship in school.

Here at Aristotle we’ve come up with the perfect solution to this problem – it’s called AMP. With our mobile app and card reader, you’ll be able to process credit card contributions anywhere, using your smartphone or tablet. And the best part is that AMP will sync seamlessly with your Aristotle database. Once you’ve swiped a credit card, AMP will search your database for the contributor, and pull up all of the legally necessary information – address, employer, occupation and email. You’ll be able to make changes if you need to (or even add a new record!), and once the transaction is processed, all of your changes – and the record of the receipt – will be recorded automatically in the database.

No more messy data entry or imports, no more merchant accounts. Let Aristotle and AMP give your PAC a head start.

Building a Database for Fundraising

Building a Database for Fundraising
by Kenneth S. Christensen, Christensen & Associates Inc

Published in Campaigns and Elections, April, 2009

Building a Database for Fundraising One of the most important tasks in the beginning of a campaign is gathering potential donor lists and building a donor database for fundraising and communications. Building a Database for Fundraising

One of the most important tasks in the beginning of a campaign is gathering potential donor lists and building a donor database for fundraising and communications. It is a time consuming task that campaigns usually piece together as they go along. Doing solid research on which lists to gather and then gathering biographical information on the individuals in the lists are very important steps. This should be one of the campaign’s first goals. Once the lists are gathered, they should be databased for future editing and for use in fundraising and communications.

Since my firm’s focus is U.S. congressional open-seat or challenger campaigns, I will offer some advice on building a donor database, using a congressional campaign as an example.

Step 1: Gather Lists of Potential Donors
Potential donor lists are the foundation of the fundraising effort, period. These lists can mean the success or failure of your entire effort. Gathering the lists and putting them into usable formats at one time saves time and money.

The so-called “circle of friends” is the most important list to put together. Start here, because this is a time consuming effort. The candidate must sit down and write all the names of his or her family, friends and colleagues who could potentially contribute. Then the candidate or staff gets the info into an Excel file.

If you’re new to this, be sure to include these key fields in your file: first and last name, title, organization, employer, occupation, address, state, zip, phone, e-mail and fax number. Also, include fields for other notes and biographical info. And be sure to add fields for donor history information and the ask amount to contribute or raise.

A second source of donor lists is from previous statewide and local campaigns. Lists can be gathered by simply asking elected officials and previous candidates for them. In some cases, state and local candidates have lists that are public.

When running as a congressional candidate, the campaign should gather donor lists of candidates who ran for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, etc. Also include candidates who ran for state Senate, state representative, mayor, county office and lower. Lists from certain interest groups are useful too, like Labor Unions, the Sierra Club or the Humane Society.

Once the campaign has gathered all the lists, it should try to determine whether it is complete. By complete, our firm likes to feel confident that our lists include roughly 80 percent to 90 percent of potential donors in the state.

The third source of donor lists can come from fundraising firms themselves. My firm, for example, has more than 300,000 high-dollar, low-dollar and “netizen” national Democratic donors available from all 50 states.

Step 2: Database The Potential Donor Lists and Add Contact Information
There is really only one way to database lists and do it right the first time. A campaign should hire a professional database firm, like Ravi Singh’s firm, which offers an excellent new databasing service. The databasing of the lists is key.

First, all the lists are named using the last name of the individual or group of the list—for example, if the list comes from “Smith for Governor,” the list would be named “Smith” so that when the call sheets are printed with the donor histories, the candidate would know what amount the donor gave that candidate. Then all the lists are combined into one master list.

The next step is to take out the duplication, being careful to retain the donor history when condensing duplicate entries. Then home, business and cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses need to be added.

Step 3: Managing The Donor Database
Purchasing software to manage the newly built donor database is a very important decision. Nathaniel Pearlman of NGP Software offers a good software product for managing potential donors for U.S. congressional Democratic campaigns. I saw the software give a major boost to Rep. Jerry McNerney in 2006, in both a hotly contested Democratic primary and against incumbent Republican Rep. Richard Pombo.

I was the general and fundraising consultant for McNerney’s 2006 campaign and we needed a product to manage thousands of potential Democratic donors and the new “netizen” donor community. The software let us easily make updated call sheets, mail information, track contributions, prepare and file FEC reports, and target potential donors with e-communications.

The McNerney 2006 campaign had the best outreach to the “netizen” community because the campaign was able to effectively manage and communicate with potential Democratic donors thanks to its donor database.

Step 4: Researching Donors
The next step is to gather as much biographical information about a potential donor as possible. When the candidate knows the audience, it helps build a relationship faster and makes the candidate a better seller. Biographical donor research is a time consuming process but it pays off in the end.

Also, having a professional donor call sheet is very important. All professional fundraising firms have a donor call sheet ready for candidate calling.

Have your database firm print all the donors onto call sheets in order of priorities. Before the donor call sheets are printed, the potential donors are targeted in order. Since the donor history information is available, print that onto the call sheet as well. Why is targeting and having the contribution history of a donor important? The answer is easy. First, the campaign can target the “circle of friends,” followed by wealthy donors, individual donors who have given multiple high-dollar contributions, and so on.

Step 5: Communicate and Fundraise
Now that the potential donor database has been built, researched and targeted, the campaign and candidate can start communicating with potential donors through phone calls, direct mail, e-mails and text messages. And the candidate will start calling potential donors with the confidence of knowing his or her potential donors are the most likely donors for the campaign.

Kenneth S. Christensen is a partner at Christensen & Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C.–based Democratic national fundraising and political consulting firm.

Fundraising Online

Fundraising Online
by Jim Barney, Click and Pledge

It’s Effective, It’s Easy and It’s Affordable

Political fundraising online is hot!! The online success of the 2004 presidential races has spurred a revolution in Internet political fundraising. In 2004 alone, over $100 million was raised mostly through small donations on the Internet for presidential candidates in less than six months. By the end of June, 2004, the Kerry campaign was up to $3 million per day via the Internet.

Statistics show that online constituents are 4 times more likely to vote than the general public and contribute online 3 times higher: $111 versus $35. Online contributors to political campaigns are predominately male, highly educated and earn a high income.

Online political fundraising is enjoying success and rapid growth. That’s why you need to be sure that your campaign takes advantage of this great tool. But, be sure that you do it right. Here’s what you should look for.

A Comprehensive, Easy to Use Package At A Low Cost. There is no shortage of vendors that provide electronic payment transaction services. Most charge set-up fees to initiate your account, monthly banking charges, a fee for each transaction, merchant account charges and even security fees. Plus, most all vendors supply only a payment transaction service.

There are better services available, like Click and, and they are customized for political campaigns and nonprofit organizations. The campaign should look for a service that eliminates the set-up fees, security fees or merchant account fees. A basic check list for a campaign should include: simple application, ease in receiving merchant account number and the ability to accept all major credit cards purchases. The campaign should find out the transaction fee applied to all donations.

Bells and Whistles Customized For Political Campaigns.

There are many additional features that a campaign should check out. Does the package enable you to provide real-time receipts to donors; provide you with the ability to inventory and sell items at various price points; and most importantly, enable you to set campaign donor limits in accordance with local and state election laws? Plus, the campaign should check if they have access to complete donor records that can be downloadable.

Look for a vendor that offers event registration. This will allow you to sell tickets to dinners, dances and other important events and fundraising activities. You can even manage various price points, inventory premium items like bumper stickers or caps, and manage messaging to contributors.

Most importantly, political campaigns, in most cases, are not permanent organizations, so the easy-to-use, usage-based transaction services are the most suitable.

Don’t Overlook Security – Online donations and online financial transactions are becoming commonplace around the world. Consumer confidence in doing business online is rapidly growing. However, don’t take security lightly. There are still identity thefts and other serious considerations to protect against. Click and Pledge offers the highest level of security: full system redundancy, 128-bit encryption, advanced virus protection and controlled access to credit card information. The Company is also in compliance with strict security standards enforced by VISA and MasterCard.

Remember, small staffs and limited resources that typically reflect political campaign organizations, limit you from affording and implementing the necessary online security standards. Don’t run into trouble. Use an on-demand.

Online Fundraising vs Offline Fundraising – Develop and manage your email lists carefully. It’s a great source of inexpensive fundraising. Direct mail typically cost between 40-60 cents a letter. Higher volumes of mail decrease the per-unit cost. E-mail lists require a small investment of time and money to develop but the cost to send email in almost nonexistent, and the return is far greater. According to the Political Consultant’s Online Fundraising Primer, “online contributions on average are about three times as large as the average direct mail contributions. The typical direct mail contribution is about $35”…versus the “average email donation, which is over $100.”

In conclusion, as the population of Internet users continues to swell, it’s imperative that you have an online presence with the ability to accept campaign donations and manage events. Internet users tend to be more interested in news and politics than Americans in general. They enjoy taking a much deeper dive into a candidate’s policies, beliefs and plans; the type of depth than can be provided on your website…and they enjoy doing it in the privacy of their own home or office. This group of involved citizens uses the Internet to donate money, donate time, forward e-mail and contribute to online discussion groups and Web logs.

Be sure to get them involved and contributing online to your campaign.

How to Increase the Value of a Donor's Check

How to Increase the Value of a Donor's Check
by Mark Martini, Campaign Secrets

Most campaigns simply "process" contribution checks, looking for little more than the name and amount on each check. By doing so, they overlook important hidden information.

And this information is key in turning a $25 check today into a $100 check tomorrow.

Specifically, you should look for two things on every check your campaign receives:

1. Who signed the check?

Most married couples have joint checking accounts, with the husband usually listed first on the check. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that the husband sent the contribution.

The key is to look at who signed the check. That's the person who should get your thank you letter as well as the next housefile mailing.

2. Are there any logos or quotes?

A logo or quote printed on a check will give you a good indication of what motivated the donor to give.

For example, if the check has a pro-life logo or quote on it, you can be sure abortion is a key issue for that donor. If the check has a Republican elephant, they're probably more of a party donor interested in beating Democrats. You can use this information to better tailor your message for each donor.

It doesn't take much time and effort. But looking for and recording this hidden information will help you increase the value of every check you receive.

Pinch pennies today. You'll be thankful in October.

Fundraising Message

Fundraising Message
by Kenneth S. Christensen, Christensen & Associates, Inc.
Published in Campaigns and Elections, 2002


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?"

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 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 You should also feel free to call me at 860-346-2733 or e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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.

Kenneth S. Christensen is a National Democratic Fundraising and General Consultant with the Washington, DC based firm of Christensen McDevitt, Inc.