9 Campaign Plan Tips

by Phoebe Retta (She/Her)

two people at the top of a mountain with their hands up in excitement for their success

9 Campaign Plan Tips To Give You The Best Chance of Winning

If you’re running for office, you’re going to need a campaign plan. Your campaign plan should outline the challenges and opportunities you anticipate facing throughout the election cycle, as well as your priorities and goals. With these 9 campaign plan tips, you will give yourself the best chance of winning your race:

1. Have a campaign plan that outlines specific goals:
Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve already outlined your campaign strategy and a timeline to reach your goals. If you haven’t already, take a moment to do this now.

Keep in mind that the goals you outline in your campaign plan should be specific. Don’t just write, “Raise $10,000 by April, 1.” Make sure you’ve defined a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals). For example, “I will knock on 500 doors in X county and raise $10,000 for my campaign by April 1.” This way, your campaign team will know what action needs to be taken and ways to assess and measure whether you are meeting your set goals.

2. Build in flexibility:
You should treat your campaign plan like a living document that will change throughout your campaign. For example, maybe you only planned to raise $10,000 dollars and you’ve raised $20,000 or perhaps, you’ve raised less money than you anticipated.

Depending on the budget you’re working with, you may have to scale back on some of your communications strategies (e.g. direct mail, digital advertising), or expand your budget into new mediums (e.g. TV and radio). Whatever it may be, just be open and flexible to change. This is all part of the fun!

3. Save money as long as you can:
Every dollar you spend early in your campaign is a dollar you wish you had in the last 60 days of the campaign. Be careful on what you spend early so that you can make strategic decisions that will benefit your campaign closer to election day.

Having a comprehensive budget in your campaign plan will help ensure that you don’t spend all your money at once. There are also cost-effective ways to reduce your spend on communications mediums. When it comes to paid digital communications, buying media ahead of time and printing mail pieces in gang runs can save you 20% - 30%. Planning ahead for different financial outcomes will give you a leg up during the campaign so that when you’re faced with a decision, you’ve already crafted an approach that falls in line with your broader campaign goals.

NOTE: plan to spend 70% of your budget on communicating with voters.

4. Have a real vote goal:
A vote goal is the number of voters you need to win your campaign. While it seems intuitive, not all people include a vote goal in their campaign plan. Your vote goal is calculated using overall turnout in your district and party turnout, which means that generally, the vote goal is a guess.

However, having a ballpark number is better than nothing. Your vote goal will help drive the strategy that you’ll deploy in your campaign plan, determine what districts you’ll target via digital ads, and gauge how many pieces of mail you will have to send out. These elements are all critical to determining a solid budget.

5. Hire fundraising staff early:
Make sure you are prioritizing fundraising, and ensure that your campaign plan reflects that. It’s always good to start fundraising as early as possible. That being said, don’t hire a fundraising coordinator just to hire someone. Build a timeline into your campaign plan that gives you the leeway and room to take your time when hiring a fundraising coordinator.

6. Be strategic when you hire your entire campaign team:
Just because someone has worked on a presidential campaign, or markets themselves as a local "expert", that does not mean they know how to win your campaign. Hire people that you trust and will give you good advice. Make sure you plan the time to find the folks you need. Be sure to use your local resources, friends, and family who can help be your canvas volunteers.

7. Building your campaign website:
All legitimate campaigns have a website. A website is an employee that works for you 24/7. You don't have to spend a ton of money to have a good website but be sure to include it into your budget. You can use affordable website builders such as Squarespace and WordPress or hire an amateur programmer to build your campaign site at a low cost. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to hire an expert to have a well-designed campaign website.

8. Get good legal help:
Silly mistakes can derail your campaign. Make sure you write the steps you need to qualify for the ballot (e.g. Have you submitted all the right materials to run for office legally?). Depending on your race and how much money you have, it might make sense to hire a lawyer so that you are clear on what you need to do to follow the rules. Your lawyer can help you with the language/messaging you’re using on direct mail or digital ads and ensure that you are complying with campaign finance laws in the United States.

9. Have your campaign team read the plan:
You’ve put the grunt work into writing a good campaign plan. Your campaign plan is something that you should refer to throughout your campaign. When things start to get hectic leading up to your primary or general election, your campaign plan can help refocus your attention toward your initial goals. It will serve as a primary resource when it comes time to making game-time decisions.

Ensure that people on your team have reviewed the plan and are on the same page as you. Hold a campaign plan review with your top staffers and walk through the plan highlights. Remember: your campaign plan is a living document, so make sure that it gets updated throughout the campaign.

Make sure you’ve covered all your bases! Now that you’ve read 9 campaign plan tips, be sure to check out 9 political campaign tips.