When most people think about a political fundraiser rubber chicken dinners come to mind. Lately campaigns have moved away from mediocre sit-down dinners and instead serve cocktails and finger food. A cocktail reception is a very common and often successful type of fundraiser, but it isn’t the only one.
There are many creative ways to engage supporters and turn them into donors. The best way to start is with your candidate. What are his or her interests and hobbies? You could have a motorcycle ride or a cigar party. If you have a smaller campaign a good place to start is with an all you can eat spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast and get volunteers to do the cooking. You can also have events that play on your name. Ribs for Ribner, wieners with Weiner, lobsters with LePage, ice cream with Inouye.
The success of your fundraiser also depends on your audience. You wouldn’t have a lobster dinner in Wyoming or a sushi bar in Tennessee. You know your constituency, but you should take the effort to get to know your donors and supporters. Would a wine tasting go over well or would a selection of microbrews be a bigger draw? Do not forget that you can make fundraisers a family activity. You can have ice cream socials or BBQs in a park or at a home with a large yard and it will give your supporters an opportunity to talk to like minded parents.
These sorts of “fun-raisers” should get more than just the high level donors involved. There are ways to set up levels and rewards for people who give more, but getting people there and getting them excited about your candidate is most important. Start with a low dollar event that would be accessible and fun for supporters in your area and it will keep those people engaged and recommending that their friends come to the next event.