Fundraising and Sponsoring

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By Albert Eckert

Getting started
You want to raise a huge amount of money in no time? Then you should play in a lottery – this article is going to disappoint you. Fundraising and sponsoring are well-planned efforts which require financial as well as personal resources.

Whereas a fundraiser usually doesn’t give anything directly in return for a donation, the situation is different for sponsoring. This is more like a business contract: a company gives money or contributions in kind to the party and will get something in return that both sides have agreed on: e.g. the company logo will be displayed at certain events, on the candidate’s car or on the back of a brochure.  We’ll come back to that later.

In some countries there are legal or cultural barriers for fundraising. You should always check the legal situation before you start fundraising. Sometimes, only certain parts of a party are allowed to raise funds, in most cases parliamentary factions are not allowed to do so. In some countries people are more used to donating in cash, in others they want to pay by cheque, transfer money from their bank account via SMS, or use an online donation tool. Have a look at the methods used successfully by others in your country and ask which may be good ways for your target groups. Of course you can leave the choice of the channel up to your donors.

The main challenge to start fundraising may be your own attitude towards it. Your party needs money, but you feel uncomfortable begging for it? That’s why you haven’t even started? Perhaps you want to hire a fundraiser and let him or her do the bad job?

If these are your feelings it is time to change your attitude. You are not a beggar! You are fighting for a better world with your party and you offer others the opportunity to support your cause – even if they cannot or do not want to spend time on it. They want a better world for themselves and for their children – and you provide them with the opportunity to improve the situation by simply giving some money. Isn’t this a generous offer? Or as John D. Rockefeller, Jr put it: „Never think you need to apologize for asking someone to give to a worthy object, any more than as though you were giving him an opportunity to participate in a high-grade investment.”

Fundraising is not just about money, it’s much more about persons and relationships. Building up a good relationship between the party and the donor is crucial. The most promising donors are the members of your party. They already have an intense relationship with your party and will understand when your party needs money to finance a campaign. But most of them will want to donate for a vision, for a better future or for a specific issue, not just for ‘the campaign’.

Fundraising – who and how
Successful fundraising will always start with the members. When you send out a mailing to your members you should always ask for money and support for a specified purpose not just “for the party”. You could e.g. tell your members that you need a certain amount of money in order to finance a campaign event or a campaign newspaper. You can also offer the opportunity to donate for a specific political cause (e.g. “for the campaign against the new waste disposal site”).

Some parties give certain incentives to donors: If you spend 50 € you get a T-shirt or a cap, if you spend 100 € you get a bathing towel, if you spend 1000 € you’ll be invited to a dinner with the top candidate. Until they’ve actually tried it, some party officials fear this will not work with their members. Think about incentives that are really attractive for your members. Perhaps you’ll promise an iPod Shuffle for giving 500 € or an invitation to an eco leisure centre?

To build up and nourish a good relationship with donors, you should think about fundraising dinners and other fundraising events. Don’t expect too much from just one event! It is necessary to build up ties that last. A fundraising dinner should always include a speech by a prominent and popular representative of the party like the top candidate, a minister, the party leader or at least the campaign manager. The location shouldn’t be too big – it should always look well attended. At each table there should be interesting hosts from the party not just potential donors. Never forget during a fundraising event to ask people for a donation. This does not have to be made in cash of course – but don’t forget to ask!

The most effective fundraisers usually are the top candidates. They have to call people and enterprises they know and ask for support. A fundraising assistant should sit down with the top candidate and should check her or his address book in order to identify potential donors. In a list you should put down when and how this person should be reached. The fundraising assistant has the task to ask: “Did you manage to call your aunt Esther last week and ask her for support?” This continuous monitoring of the top candidates’ fundraising activities is very important because she or he will have plenty of other duties.

Some people may be easier to convince if you offer them to pay just half of the intended amount now and the rest later. Others will be impressed by a Campaign Finance Committee full of honourable and trustworthy citizens who really try hard to raise money for your party.

Start early! Those who give once will often give several times. But don’t just ask for money for your candidate or your party – you should always try to sell hope, green solutions and ideas.

When you want to look for sponsors you should carefully check the legal situation in your country first. In many countries there are limitations for political parties to receive money from corporations. No party or candidate should be dependent on corporate money alone – this would be an invitation for more corporate influence on legislation and corruption. Therefore sponsor relationships always have to be transparent.

In a few Green parties people are strictly opposed to sponsoring. The majority, however, wants binding limits. Instigated by the Green European Foundation in 2010 in Budapest, a discussion has started between treasurers and fundraisers of Green parties and of the EGP about a Green code of conduct for sponsoring (and fundraising).

At best, sponsor relations are treated like business contracts with precisely defined conditions. A company gives money or contributions in kind to the party in exchange for a certain service. Examples for these services include companies:
– renting a certain space at party conventions where they can present themselves. Some parties have their party conventions in congress centres on fair grounds to be able to host all these presentations.
– sponsoring the cars of the party and publish it.
– giving donations in kind for party events (catering, equipment, wireless connections for everybody…).
– giving money for publications in which their contribution is mentioned and their logo displayed.
– paying for advertisements in party newspapers – perhaps the most common way of sponsoring.

If you are not sure whether you should press hard on sponsoring, you should discuss this with people from other Green parties that are more experienced in this field. And of course you should never start it without a decision of your party board or even your membership. The delicate question of whether a certain company should be allowed to sponsor your party or not should be handled with care – regulations can prove very helpful. They could, for instance, exclude military and nuclear industries, and define an internal decision-making process to limit the risk of wrong or controversial decisions. With creativity and personal involvement of the top people, and with binding regulations and full transparency, the chances of establishing a good mix of sources for financing your party are high. Good luck!

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