So You Want to Raise Money and Run For Public Office?

Here is maybe how you do that.

The Comeback Kid.

A friend was all “Nicole! You should write a post about how to run for public office and raise money!”

I don’t really know how to do that, but when has that ever stopped me from googling something?

Here is what I know now: there’s a site appropriately named that takes you through the steps of running for office, starting with “which offices are you eligible to run for?”

Run For Office

RunForOffice also links to a NationBuilder resource that goes way in depth on how to run a successful political campaign, including how to raise money and how to build a constituency. There are videos and guides on topics as detailed as “the types of conversations you need to have with potential voters.”

Trusted by over 9,000 customers in 112 countries

Be aware that NationBuilder is officially a company providing “software for leaders,” and they’re trying to sell you a product:

Customize your website, send email and text blasts, capture important people data, create event calendars with ticketing and RSVPs, and manage your finances — all from the same place.

But as far as step-by-step guides go, theirs seems like a good starting point.

I’d also visit Your Local Government Website to see what they have to say about running for office. I looked up the details for Seattle, and there’s plenty of information—but it’s denser than the info provided by RunForOffice and NationBuilder, and it’s also focused on “how to make sure you follow the rules” instead of “how to get people to vote for you.”

Running for office in King County – King County

So combine these types of sources the way you might combine beans and rice to form a complete protein!

It would be worthwhile to talk to people who have run for office before, which is probably the kind of thing you should be doing anyway, because politics (like anything else) is a network and it’s time to start networking.

Also—if you’re not doing this already, start reading local political blogs and alt-newspapers, because these are the kind of places with people who actually go to city council meetings and write snarky posts about what happened there. Then, you know, actually go to the city council meetings, or whatever public meetings are available. Start doing this now. Get to know how the system works before you become a part of it. Don’t be like that episode of Girls where Ray walks in thinking he’s going to change things and then figures out that he’s facing an actual bureaucracy where you can’t just open the bureau drawers because they’re all sticky with history and rules.

I realize that none of this tells you exactly “how to raise money,” but—and I’m saying this even though I have never run for office and never plan on running for office—you have to view it like any other kind of crowdfunding campaign. Study the environment first: the rules, the details, what ideas are already in the space, who’s already successful, how their campaigns work, etc. etc. etc. Study the people, too: who’s in your target constituency, what do they want, how does “what you want” match up with “what they want,” how can you connect with them, where do they meet up in person, where do they meet up online, etc. etc. etc.

The money piece comes last, after you’ve already done the rest of the work.

I think. I mean, I really don’t know how to do this.

Anyone else want to take a shot at offering some advice?

UPDATE: I want to include this response from Billfolder Caitlyn Leiter-Mason because it is so important:

If you think you’re going to run for office at some point in your life, start participating in at least one fundraising event each year and asking friends/family/colleagues/neighbors/stray business card acquaintances for support, i.e. raise money for a local charity by running a 5K every year or something. Help people in your life become comfortable with the idea of you asking them for financial support for causes you care about. And if you’re nervous about fundraising, it’s useful to start getting used to “making the ask” by doing it for a cause, rather than yourself.

MORE UPDATES: From Billfolder DDJJ:

Put rubber to the road first. Get involved at the local level. Go to your township committee meetings, volunteer to help with local causes or at your place of worship, and get to know the community. You’ll eventually get to know the other ‘involved’ individuals and will align with like-minded individuals.

Billfolders have also suggested these great resources:

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