When starting your fundraising operations you want to pick the “low hanging fruit” first. This means finding and targeting the people most likely to give you money with the least amount of effort. Friends, family, co-workers are your best targets. These people know you personally and presumably like you. While many will say “no,” this group has the highest probability of saying “yes” and should be the first phone calls you make to raise money.
Begin by making a spreadsheet of names and phone numbers of everyone you’ve ever known. Friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, those on your Christmas card list, clients, teachers, EVERYONE. Keep in mind campaign finance rules vary by location. If you’re running for Governor of Colorado, no one can give you more than $550, so you’d be ill-advised to seek more than $550 from a donor. If you’re running for Governor of Pennsylvania where there’s no contribution limits, you can accept a $1,000,000 check. Obviously your fundraising strategy will be different based on your location.
After you’ve made the list of everyone you know, add two columns. The first column should be the maximum you think you can get them to give. Keep in mind contribution limits, but don’t underestimate, this first column is to OVERestimate donation. This is the MAXIMUM they would possibly give. If you choose a lower number, you potentially shortchange yourself. This is the number that you will initially ask for when you are making your pitch. The second column should be an estimate of what you THINK they will give. This is most often a significantly lower number than the previous column. This will be the second ask on your fundraising pitch.
Once you have completed the list, add up all of the second column, the lower numbers. Take that sum and divide by two. This is the number you can realistically expect to raise form the low hanging fruit.
For example: if I have a 300 person list, and my estimate from column one (the most they could possibly give) is $100,000, I can’t expect to raise $100,000 from my list. I add up the realistic column and it totals to $40,000. After dividing by 2, my total is $20,000. This is the amount I can almost certainly raise from my personal network.
If you were running for State Representative, this $20k from friends and family could be enough that you wouldn’t have to raise money elsewhere. On a larger race, this money is the early support that will allow you to build out your campaign operations and start the large scale fundraising.