You’re hosting a political fundraiser in your home. The candidate’s office is super organized, and you know how to throw a party, so what can go wrong? Perhaps it’s less about what can go wrong than it is about what your role is as host for this unique kind of event.
While the ultimate goal of a fundraiser is to raise money for the candidate, equally important is that you maximize the unique opportunity you have to bring people together, create a buzz, and leave them with the best party favor ever: a heart full of hope.
We recently hosted an at-home fundraiser for a candidate in local government, and in advance of the event I pulsed some friends who are experienced activists and political organizers. The tips below are a combo of what they shared and my lessons learned from the event.
Get Clear on the Purpose
As is the case for every event, start by thinking about the purpose of the event. What are your goals?
- To raise money? Yes!
- To get more people to vote for a candidate you want to succeed? Yes!
- To bring people together? Yes!
- To feed and delight? Always! (But that’s a separate post…)
From there, begin the planning…
Set the Tone with the Invite
The language in any event invite is your first chance to set the tone for the event. In the case of a fundraiser, however, you’re building the case for why someone may want to give their time and hard-earned money to someone they potentially have never heard of. Which means there’s also a lot of context to set! By hosting, you are aligning yourself with the candidate and inviting people to join in their success. As you craft the invite, make it easy for people to get on board by sharing the context for the position, the election details (dates, who’s running, etc.), and, of course, the candidate’s qualifications.
Details to Include in the Invite for a Political Fundraiser
- Date, Time
- Location (+ parking info if needed)
- Host’s name(s) and contact info
- RSVP instructions and deadline
- Description of the event – This is especially important for fundraisers and requires more thought than a typical party invite does, as guests need to have full transparency on what to expect in order to feel comfortable accepting the invite. Be sure to answer: What are you asking of them? What will the event be like?
- Giving your event a name sets the tone for what’s to come. For this event, I put “We the people…” in the email subject line. Just three words, but to me it felt inclusive, it invoked history, it signals community…
- Our guest list was a mix of colleagues and neighbors—two different friends groups. I used language such as “a chance to connect” and talked about how wonderful it is to bring likeminded people together.
- Details about the candidate & position – Don’t assume that anyone you are inviting knows what the position is/does, if it’s a first term or re-election, and the date for the upcoming election. Spell it all out…I included these details at the end of the invite, as a footer.
- The event we hosted was for a City Council candidate, and in the invite email I included an “About City Council” section that outlined their scope, the number of members, term length, etc.
- In the footer I also included an “About the Candidate” section, to introduce the candidate as if for the first time. Include a bio (or link to one) to share the candidate’s background.
- Instructions for how to contribute (QR code or weblink, etc.)
- Our invite specified: “Contributions of any amount are appreciated!”
Example Invite Language
Our candidate prepared a beautiful graphic invite with the campaign branding and candidate’s photo. It included a QR code for contributions. When I sent the email invites, I added a topper that was personal. Here’s my topper language…
Email subject: We, the People! [Candidate’s Name] Fundraiser at Our House
We are hosting a fundraiser at our house in support of Candidate’s name & position. This gathering will be a chance to connect with Name, share what is top-of-mind, and support her campaign for re-election. Contributions of any amount are appreciated! (For reference, our event goal is to raise $1000 or more.)
Would you consider joining?
It would be wonderful to see you, and we’re looking forward to the buzz that comes from getting a good group of people together!
To contribute, click here (link added) or follow the QR code in the image below.
HOST TIP: For the guests invited to a fundraiser, participating and contributing are very personal decisions. As such, I chose to send individual (versus group) emails and kept the guest list private.
Work with the candidate to determine timings and the flow of the event. Our candidate proposed the following:
4:30 – 5:00 p.m. – Greetings, mingling, and munching
5:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Host intro; Candidate’s prepared remarks
5:30 – 6:00 p.m. – Q&A
6:00 – 6:30 p.m. – More mingling
HOST TIP: This is the occasion to wear a wrist watch so you are able to keep to the schedule without constantly whipping out your phone. I also wore a dress with pockets in which I had a small post-it note with the timings jotted down.
Prepare your Introduction
A friend who is experienced in fundraisers encouraged me to gather my thoughts and be ready with a brief introduction. The opening remarks are a chance to welcome everyone, to thank everyone for coming and for being open to meeting with the candidate… It sets the tone for the candidate’s remarks and Q&A.
I imagine many people would use this as a chance to go “fan girl” and or do a hard sell on the candidate. Not my style. In my intro, I choose to not speak about why I endorsed the candidate, but instead talked about why I was grateful for the chance to host this event and take part in government. I thanked the guests for helping to model that for my kids. I thanked them for being open to connecting with the candidate, and left it at that. Of course, my opening was super poetic and eloquent, you’ll have to trust me on that…Joking aside, the remarks should be authentic.
HOST TIP: If you’re not the public-speaking type, ask the candidate for some talking points.
Help with Mingling
I created nametags to benefit both the guests and our candidate. They doubled as an icebreaker. The nametags had a question prompt, “If you were to hold a government position for just one day, what would it be?” Many people were quick to reply, others hesitant, but it did spark some conversation, and that was a helpful ice breaker for a group that included a lot of people who were meeting for the first time.
Set Up the Space
A fundraiser event is different than a typical party because there will likely be a moment when everyone is sitting, looking in the same direction, and listening…and that ‘moment’ may be 30 minutes or more. Which means chairs. You need chairs. Think about how many people you’re inviting and how the “talk” segment will go in your space. Beyond the chairs, think about people’s comfort and how the space works at the time of day when you’re hosting the event. For example, don’t set the candidate up in front of a window at a time of day when the sun will be beating in…unless you’re providing shades to everyone. You get the point.
Pre-Brief the Candidate
Our candidate arrived a bit in advance, and I used the time to share with her a little bit of detail about our guests. Not names and demographics, but some general details…It took just a minute to brief her. Specifically, what I shared, since the event was held the same week that our county property tax notices were mailed out, is that many guests would be neighbors who just saw a huge tax hike on their home property taxes. Tax was top of mind! Also in the room were many teachers. And they are passionate about education!
Prime the Pump for Q&A
One of my friends who is an experienced activist encouraged me to ask a couple people to come ready with questions. Easy enough to make happen, and it ended up not being necessary because the group was super chatty, but I felt better knowing that I had a plan!
Smiles as a Success Metric
Our event was a success, not just because we exceeded the fundraising target but because it felt so good to bring people together. I found that many people we invited were learning about the candidate for the first time…and many commented that they appreciated the chance to learn about the candidate and the recent issues she’d worked for our city. And yes, people walked away smiling.
HOST TIP: As a follow-up I thanked everyone (by email or text) and shared the fundraising grand total.
If you’re experienced with at-home fundraisers, I’d love to know what has worked for you in the past!