The history of the jon coon fundraising plan
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- 1. -THE LIBERTARIANPARTYS SUCCESS 99* 2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100 Washington DC 20037 * (202) 333-0008 * www.LP.orgFrom 0 to $250,000 The History of the Jon Coon Fundraising PlanBYBARBARAGOUSHAWthem. We did not write them a fundraising letter.We called them, explained who Jon was, (outsideFundraising is a Selling Job. You must of a few party activists, no one really knew Jon) sell potential contributors on the idea of what he was running for, and the basics of the contributing to your campaign. In politics plan. Then we asked them, not for money, butthere are two types of contributors. Those whofor an appointment to meet with Jon at theirare ideologically aligned with you, and those horne. Closing with: Agree to meet with Jon.who seek political access. Contributors toTalk to him. Ask him questions, and if you likeLibertarian campaigns are primarily of thewhat you hear, consider supporting his cam-ideological group, since selling the idea that we paign. We got about a 40% yes to the meeting.will provide potential contributors (or PACs) Then Jon would go to their house, andwith access to the halls of power is not some-explain the plan, and pitch the pledge program.thing that we generally have to offer, and is The vast majority of people that he met withpotentially a violation of Libertarian ethics.became financial supporters, campaign volun-Access to the candidate, however, can still be ateers, or both. Some folks were so dazzledmotivation, as people love to have a politicalreceiving the phone call and the offer of acandidate listen to their opinions and com- meeting they agreed to contribute without aplaints.meeting. (Now that Jon has been identified as"Michigans most prominent Libertarian" by the Step One: First we wrote the plan. media, people actually brag: "Jon Coon came toThis is the political equivalent of a businessmy house!) Those who volunteered as a resultplan. We detailed, in keneral terms (specificsof the meeting were invited to join the phoneremained confidential, but were also in writing)banking effort.who our targeted voters were, our plan to reach Some folks requested printed info whenthem, why we thought they would respond tothey received their phone calls, so we sent out aour message, what the costs were to accomplish"basic information packet" with a contributionthe plan, and the time-frames for accomplishing form. Some gave as a result, but most times thisit. This became the foundation of our was a simple a way of getting us off the phonefundraising game plan, as well as the campaignwithout saying "no." Some gave later. Someplan itself.gave when they received the follow-up phonecall after we had sent the information. Step Two:At first it was just Jon and1. (Later there were others who volunteered to Step Three:Once Jon had somehelp with this project.) We began the experience under his belt with this type offundraising process by obtaining the Michigan fundraising, we organized public meetings. SomeLibertarian Party mailing list. Then we calledwere organized by us, (these generally went
2. better) and some were organized by the affiliates. Fundraising ChairmanThe first was timed to coincide with the Next to the Candidate and the Campaign"official" announcement of his candidacy. We Manager, the fundraising chair is the mostrented the auditorium at a local community important position on the campaign. Seek outcenter, then contacted a local talk-radio station, someone who sells for a living, i.e.: Insurance,and spoke with the producer of a "semi-Libertar- cars, stocks etc. These are folks who can take aian" talk show host. Explaining that we wanted "no" and not get discouraged. Our fundraisingto officially announce Jons candidacy on hischair, an insurance salesman named Al Garcia,show, we booked the interview for the dayraised thousands for us through a series ofbefore the public meeting. Jon went on the air "breakfast meetings" with business people. Manyand as part of the interview, pitched the public of the people he invited were his friends, but asmeeting. 150 people showed up at that meetingthis program progressed, other staffers andand committed to contributing over $8,000 viavolunteers thought of people that they knewthe pledge program.that were appropriate invitees for these ongoing This continued as part of the plan, meetings. This program absolutely requires athroughout the campaign: Organize a public personal invitation from a supporter who willmeeting, get a radio interview to promote it,encourage the person to attend the meeting.and pitch the pledge program. Many of theSimilar meetings that were promoted to thepeople who came also "discovered" and joined business community simply by mailing invita-the LP.tions were a dismal failure. Al also raised close to $21,000 at our state party convention duringThe Pledge Program a challenge from a supporter who offered to giveA pledge program is generally a loser forthe maximum if 10 others would match it."Ds and Rs" but can work really well for an LPcandidate. Why does it work for us and not for Meetings with other groupsthem? We believe that people commit to a Jon did many personal appearances withpledge and then bailout on it when the Ds ornon-Libertarian groups. Optimists, Veterans,Rs do something that they dont like. Political Bikers, Gun Groups, United We Stand, virtuallypundits say that peopl= -nt fulfill their any group that wanted him, got him, and ourpledges, yet we had a 9ulfillrnent rate.supporters were actively encouraged to ask theirThose who did bail on us .d a good reason (laidorganizations to have him speak. We did notoff, etc.) A few quit, however, over his stands on fundraise at these engagements. Instead, Jonthe issues.would ask them to sign the "clipboard that wasDuring the events, or the home visits, Jon being passed around" if they wanted morewould ask people to join the pledge program. information about him or the campaign. ThenContributing, on a monthly basis, what everwe would follow up with a thank-you-for-they could afford, until the end of the cam- attending letter, a lit piece and a request forpaign. He always knew what the per-month funds. Time permitting, we would also make anumber would be to take them to the maximumphone call. Many of these folks, particularly thelimit, and that was what he asked for. We kept bikers, vets and gun people, became contributorstrack of our pledges, sent them a monthlyand volunteers.reminder/newsletter and gently called to remindthe ones who fell behind. The pledge base gave Eventsus a great budqeti /income tool. We also did a series of fundraising parties and events: Your basic dinner and speech with a pitch for funds after. Some of the most success- ful were the "Wild Game" dinner and the 3. evening at the race track. The track event was The Final Pushtitled, "Put Your Money On A Winner." We soldIn the last few weeks of the campaign, wedinner tickets, and set up a competition be- called all of our contributors again, requestingtween the tables of attendees to see who could money for advertising.contribute the largest portion of their trackwinnings back to the campaign. Summary We asked, and asked, and then asked againThe Brass Roots Rallyfor support. We asked in person, we asked onThe gun issue was hot in 94, and we the phone, we asked at events, we asked byorganized the largest pro-gun rally in 20 years, mail, we asked in ads in the national IP News.which was held on the steps of the Capitol We asked when we thanked them for their lastbuilding in Lansing. (The extensive details of contribution. (A thank you is a must!)the organization of this event are available, ifdesired).A word of cautionSeveral times during the event our volun-Because our contributors are primarilyteers passed through the crowd bearing five- ideological contributors, the majority of yourgallon pails collecting cash from the attendees. funds are likely to come in the last few months,After they made a donation, they received an as things heat up. Access contributors, like PACsorange Jon Coon lapel sticker, so that theyand the politically savvy major donors, givewould not get hit up again. (Although some early. This can be challenging in the budgetinggave every time the bucket came around!) process for us, and is one of the major advan- tages that the incumbents will have; particularlyThe Newsletter because the media tends to judge a campaignsOur supporters and contributors received a success by how much it has raised.monthly update throughout the campaign. It Finally, make certain that you have bud-contained campaign news, a recap of mediageted for the post-election expenses, becausecoverage, dumb things our opponents had done,contributions end on election day unless you areupcoming events, etc. And of course, there was the winner.always a strong pitch for funds and informationabout whatever project we had going thatrequired them to donate. It kept them feelinglike they were part of what was happening, andnever, ever lost money. Usually it generateddouble what it cost to get out.