How to Turn Campaign Endorsements into a Victory at the Polls
Campaign Endorsements Are Critical to a Win
Campaign endorsements can make or break a race for a candidate. But how do you get them and what do you do with them? Below are tips on how to determine which endorsements to go after and what to do after you get them to get as much mileage as possible out of your campaign endorsements.
Choose which endorsements to go for:
First, do your homework to understand which organizations or individuals are potential endorsers in your race. The easiest way to find this out is to see which organizations have put out surveys for candidates to fill out. It may be tempting to fill out every survey you can find to rack up as many campaign endorsements as possible, but time is a valuable resource in any campaign and you should spend it on the organizations and people who are worth your efforts. Evaluate which endorsements to pursue based on how well-known the organization or person is in your district and what resources they could give you if you won the endorsement. A well-known community leader is likely to be much more useful to your campaign than a small advocacy organization that you’ve never heard of before, so spend your time accordingly. Another thing to keep in mind is whether an organization or person is likely to actually endorse you versus an opponent. For example, if your opponent is a member of a union and you are not, it’s likely not worth the effort for you to fill out a questionnaire for that union’s endorsement.
Research your endorsers:
Once you’ve gotten endorsements, spend some time digging into the resources your endorsers have and how likely they are to give any of them to you. Looking at past elections will help you ascertain which organizations endorse in name only, and which have the resources to invest in your campaign. For the former, you can amplify the worth of that endorsement by researching if it could drum up interest in your candidacy and generate earned media. As to the latter—some organizations come to the table with a direct monetary contribution, a membership that can volunteer, a large email list, etc. Knowing these assets in advance will help you make an effective ask.
Ask for help:
Based on your research, create a list of things you need to win your race and which endorsers could help you get them. Then, make very clear asks of each of your endorsers. Laying out precisely what your campaign needs will help ensure the endorsing organization is directly contributing to your campaign’s actual needs, rather than guessing and potentially missing the mark. In addition, make sure your campaign is clear on what to expect from each organization. That said, do not be shy about asking for more than what they say they can give.
The most obvious need is often money, so ask for a specific amount. If your endorser isn’t flush with cash, see if they have connections to people who could donate. Then, ask your endorser to make those introductions or speak to the people in their network on your behalf. It’s better for someone with an existing relationship to make that ask than for you to cold call them.
Every organization, union, or well-known politician has an email list. Ask them to send an email to their list on your behalf. And don’t just ask for whatever email they are willing to send, but for a specific email with a specific predetermined ask for donations, volunteers, votes, etc. and make sure that ask is at the top of the email.
Another resource every campaign needs is volunteers. Many unions, prominent politicians, and advocacy organizations have the capability to mobilize people on your behalf for things like block walking, texting programs, or phone banking. During the last few days of your campaign, talking to as many voters as possible is absolutely critical. Ask for a specific number of volunteers and make sure to follow up and confirm that that’s how many people will show up. The more people you have to spread your message, the more voters you can get that message to.
Understand the law:
The laws about political campaign endorsements vary greatly. Check with an attorney and find out how organizations can legally support your campaign and what contributions can and cannot be accepted.
Campaign endorsements often take some effort to get, but they can repay dividends so choose which endorsements to go after wisely. Once you have them in the door, think creatively about how you can scale up the impact of that endorsement as much as you can and don’t forget to put major endorsements on your campaign literature. For some voters, endorsements are the best way to get their attention and, more importantly, their vote. For more advice on political campaign strategy, check out our tips here.