Call Time for Political Candidates
How to effectively fundraise for your campaign
Probably the most important job of a political candidate is raising the funds to communicate with voters — without targeted communications, your campaign is DOA. For most campaigns, the vast majority of those funds come from call time. And before you decide that you’re an exception, ask yourself two questions: 1) are you independently wealthy, and 2) has your face been on CNN for more than 10 minutes total? If you answered ‘no’ to both questions, then you should get comfortable with the idea of call time - it’s how you’re going to make your campaign operation work.
In short, call time means raising money from prospective donors on the phone. You can raise money in other ways - in person, by mail, or digitally - but call time is the most efficient and will probably produce a substantial majority of your campaign budget. Whether you are a candidate or a campaign staffer, this guide will introduce you to running an effective call time system.
Call time is your top priority
Schedule out your call time for each week and stick to that schedule - don’t let other things take you away from call time, or you’re going to regret it down the line. If you’re working a full time job, 10 hours of call time a week is a good benchmark. If you aren’t working, schedule a lot more.
During each call time session, stay focused on what you’re doing. Take breaks every hour or so, but don’t spend time looking at emails or facebook, spend time making calls. If you have the resources, it’s good to have a staffer or volunteer sit with you for call time. They can make notes, process payments, organize call sheets, etc. That frees you up to focus on the job at hand.
As a candidate: remember that you’re doing something important
You are running for office because it’s important and because you believe this campaign is a chance to change people’s lives for the better. It’s possible to forget this when you’re asking person after person to support you, but stay confident! A prospective donor isn’t going to have confidence that you’ll put their money to good use unless they can tell you believe in what you’re doing and you have a plan.
If you don’t feel that you’re making a real contribution by running for office, you might want to reconsider whether running for office is right for you. But if you do believe it, don’t be afraid to let it show in your voice. Don’t brag, or anything like that, but do mean it when you talk about what you hope to achieve and how it’s going to improve lives in your community.
Making the first call
If you want to learn about creating call sheets, check out our upcoming guide on donor research. For this guide, let’s jump right into call time itself.
You’ll start call time with your personal network and that will give you time to work out the kinks and develop a rhythm. These folks will also be the most forgiving, so don’t be nervous! If you’re very anxious, go ahead and start with the people closest to you: your parents, siblings, close friends, etc. You can even start the call by letting them know exactly what you’re doing before you start. Just be sure they know the financial ask you’re about to make is real, not just for practice!
Have your script in front of you when you call, and follow your script (you can find script templates on our download page). It’s not important that you use your script word-for-word, but it’s very important that you stick to the structure of the script. Once you get to the ask, do two things: 1) make a specific ask with a dollar amount, and 2) stop speaking once you ask. Let them be the next to speak.
Be friendly for the entire call and take detailed notes. As you start making calls, move to the next one promptly and get into a rhythm. A session where you move fast and stay in your rhythm will be more productive and more pleasant.
Find a routine
More than just keeping to your schedule, you should also develop a routine for your call time. Some candidates like to call while watching a sports game, some like to be outside, some like to have a glass of wine —find whatever environment or ritual suits you and stick with it. When you find a good routine, call time becomes dramatically easier.
A few final tips
- Once again, stick to your schedule. This point cannot be overstated.
- When in doubt, make a bigger ask rather than a smaller one. Our rolodexing guide has more information on how to choose an ask amount.
- Take notes and make sure those notes are saved in a way that you can easily view them again in the future. Check out our entry on IDP for a good way to do this.
- Hold fast through the rough patches. You will have good sessions where you feel great and crummy sessions where you feel like you must be doing something wrong. Just stay steady and keep plugging away. There will be natural ups and downs, and they probably have nothing to do with changes in your behavior - just the vagaries of fate.
This introduction to call time is mainly for candidates. You can learn about the other elements of a call time system in our guide to Rolodexing Your Contacts, as well as our upcoming guides to: Creating a Script for Call Time, Donor Research for Your Campaign, and How to Track Your Campaign Fundraising.
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