3 questions to ask before you spend your campaign money

Money. You know you need it and so you go out and work for it. Not only is fundraising hard work, but you also want to be respectful of people that believed in you and pulled out their wallet and gave to your campaign.

You want to spend money the smart way. The way that not only moves your campaign forward but also demonstrates how, if you were elected, would approach spending and priorities.

People will be watching; your donors, your potential donors, your critics, your supporters...  People notice what candidates do with their money.  

But it's not easy to know what to spend money on and where your priorities should be. It gets even more difficult after you file and the campaign vendor sales teams come out in force

It helps to have a strategy.

So to stay focused, I have three questions you should ask yourself before spending any money or even better, as you develop your campaign budget plan.

1. Is this item/service going to move my campaign forward?

A good way to determine the answer to this question is to ask yourself a follow-up question, is spending money on this __(fill in the blank)__ for me, my donors or my constituents?

Your answer will tell you a lot.

If you answered you are spending money on yourself, then think long and hard about what it is and if it’s necessary. This can also be a pretty slippery slope with campaign ethics rules. For example, in some states you can spend campaign funds on a babysitter up to a certain amount, but should you? Is spending money on a babysitter going to help you connect with voters? You could make an argument that it will, but if campaign funds are tight, there may be higher priorities.

Spending money on donors is again one of those things that you need to think long and hard about, and double check your state’s campaign ethics rules. A natural place where you may be tempted to spend money on your donors is on dinners or drinks. Again, not necessarily a campaign ethics violation but is it going to get you closer to the goal of getting elected?

The last category, spending money on reaching your voters, is obviously where you want to spend most of your campaign funds, but even then you should think about how you spend it and what your priorities are. The next two questions will get at helping you establish priorities.

2. What's the shelf life of this purchase?

The point of this question is to think about the larger picture. Try to avoid purchasing items that will be used for only one purpose at one specific time. For example, instead of doing a flyer and a door hanger, maybe you only print a flyer that also serves as a door-to-door piece. But if your campaign is flush with cash, maybe you decide to do two separate pieces (there’s nothing wrong with doing this).

Another example may be parades. Do you just throw out candy that is going to consumed and then forgotten about, or do you hand something out that has your name on it like a sticker or branded balloon? This type of swag could also be handed out at events.

Some items can even last past a single campaign cycle if thought about ahead of time. For example, don’t brand your campaign signs with a year because the next time you run you’ll be able to reuse your signs.

3. Is there something better?

We got to this point a little bit in question two. If you are looking at one product, have you done your homework to see if there is something better. An example might be there is a service that combines both your walk lists and mailing lists versus purchasing two different services or using two different vendors.

Or something simpler like the earlier example of choosing candy versus something with your name on it.

You can see how by asking yourself these three questions you can start to develop a strategy for how you spend your campaign money in a smart way. The goal is always to keep your campaign moving forward and focused on your voters. These questions should also help you prioritize your campaign budget if you haven’t set one already.

Do you have any other questions you ask yourself before spending money? Let me know in the comments below!

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