Campaign Trail Efficiency

by The Campaign Workshop

campaign trail efficiency

Knowing how to make your campaign budget work is a key to victory. Learn about campaign trail efficiency.

When running for office, think of your bank account as something that should seldom be touched. Your main objective is to have as much cash as possible for voter contact and GOTV.  Regardless of what you’re running for, or how much money you’re able to raise, you should always exercise campaign trail efficiency. Showing restraint now will help you in the end.

Take these tips for the most common types of expenditures:

Travel – Depending on which office you’re running for (local or even statewide), one of your larger expenses will most likely be travel. When traveling, take this advice to practice campaign trail efficiency:

  • Eat before you head out on the road so you’re not expensing meals.
  • Travel in groups to cut down on costs.
  • Always try to stay in supporter housing, so you don’t have to stay in hotels.
  • When scheduling travel arrangements, make sure you’re planning your meetings strategically. For example, don’t schedule a meeting in Philadelphia in the morning and Pittsburgh in the afternoon.
  • When traveling to cities, always be prepared for expensive parking. See if you can find cheaper options beforehand, such as.
  • If traveling to a city very often, sometimes it may actually make sense to rent an apartment or Airbnb at a monthly rate. Note: this won’t always work for every campaign, but it’s definitely worth a look.

Meals – As mentioned previously, sometimes it makes more sense to eat beforehand. However, when meeting with potential donors or supporters, you don’t want to come off as a high roller anyway, so picking smaller, family-style restaurants is a good choice. In most cases, you won’t be the one buying lunch or dinner, but if you are, this way it won’t be too expensive. If you know that you are hitting the road often, keeping affordable snacks in the car is a good practice to cut out expensive and unscheduled stops.

Fundraisers – Fundraisers are important when trying to raise a large amount of money.  A great way to have nice fundraisers without dipping into your campaign budget is to ask the host of the fundraiser to donate the refreshments in kind to the campaign.  This way you have a nice event at no cost - also check with your election lawyer on how inkind contributions work with your race.

Office Supplies – Without question, you should always order in bulk. Most campaigns will find themselves going through several cartridges of ink and reams of paper on a weekly basis. Be sure to take steps to find a place that refills ink cartridges, and provides bulk purchases of pens, paper, and other supplies. Items like pens are necessary but tend to disappear.  Take precautions to make sure that pens, clipboards, etc get returned to the campaign to avoid a recurring expense. Watch for deals to get office items discounted or free.

Signage and Palm cards – Although important, erring more on the frugality side here is best. There is no worse feeling than having your campaign end and having 20,000 useless palm cards leftover. Make sure you're practicing campaign trail efficiency when you’re ordering signage and palm cards to be realistic. If you’re running for town council in Bethesda, Maryland, you don’t need 100,000-yard signs or 50,000 palm cards. Remember, yard signs don’t vote, but people do!

Campaign tools - before you shell out money for expensive campaign tools talk to partner organizations to see if they have free or discounted access to the campaign tools you need. 

Campaign consultants - The cost of campaign consultants is not always clear to the campaign before they are hired. Make sure you understand the true costs of your consultants before you hire them. 

Maximize campaign trail efficiency by exercising budget constraint.  Tighten the belt, and you’ll have more money to spend on television, digital, direct mail, and more.

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