Fundraising 101: Pay attention Freddy Thompson

Reports that Fred’s money machine may not be firing on all cylinders leads me to share what I’ve learned about fundraising in the last three years: it is very hard work.

But if you have the right model you can accomplish amazing things. As a comparison note that Romney raised about $3 million before lunch was over at his fundraising kickoff. The contrast is stark.

Here are some quick thoughts on what it takes to raise money.

First and foremost, understand some of the underlying rules of fundraising:

1. “People give to people to help people” – I’ve been working with non-profit organizations for over a decade. Without fail, a general clarion-call for money will fail compared to a plea for a specific cause, especially when it’s linked with a picture and a story. You need to have a compelling story with a person who can conjure up a compelling reason to get people to open their wallets.

2. “People give relative to their means” – No matter what the cause, the amount of donations from the 35-60 crowd will far outweigh the 20-30 crowd for one simple reason. They have $ to spend.

3. “Those closest must set the pace” – When Romney kicked off the exploratory committee with a national call day January 8th the 5 Romney boys set the example for the other 400 fundraisers by sticking at their tables for the entire duration of the event. When Meg Whitman, CEO of Ebay take 9 hours out of her day to sit at another table and ask people for money it makes an impact on everyone around her.

Next we need to take a look at the trends in fundraisings:

1. Growing use of the Internet for fundraising – “Growing” is the operative word. By most accounts donations raised via the Internet is pithy and underwhelming. Only a handful of non-profit organizations have shown more than 6 figures in online fundraising. The trend is obviously with the Internet but it has not been the harbinger of $$$ that many expected.

2. Innovation and adopting new practices and models – The key to fundraising is innovation. I wager that any one of us receives half-a-dozen letters a week soliciting donations. Standout out above the noise is the key to successful fundraising. Take for instance Romney’s “Students for Mitt” program where college students can receive 10% back on everything they raise for the campaign.

3. Involve everyone in fundraising – I know some professional fundraisers who were very upset at the Romney campaign for opening the fundraising floodgates to anyone and everyone. But it’s paid off. For example, as a “Patriot” level fundraiser I have the ability to create “associate fundraisers”. I get credit for whatever money they bring in and they in turn get credit for being part of a successful team of fundraisers.

4. Contemporary corporate marketing practices – Like any aged market, the political sphere has its own consultants, approaches, and software packages. Most every political campaign uses Aristotle Publishing for voter lists and most every 501(c)4 uses Capitol Advantage for online advocacy. Romney broke the mold by utilizing a contact management system called typically utilized by large and dispersed sales and business development groups.

5. MOST IMPORTANT: FOCUS ON DONORS: When you give $2300 dollars to a campaign you are the man (or at least you should be treated like “the man”.) Next to your unpaid fundraisers you must focus like a laser beam on your high end contributors. By creating incentives and time factors into your efforts you create an energetic need to get involved and “max out”. Romney has held numerous incentive-bases time-sensitive fundraising efforts to meet this challenge

Lastly, you need to understand WHY people give:

• Believe we are making a difference in a cause they care about.
• They value your work
• They see it as an investment
• Get something in return
• Feel good about themselves
• Return a favor
• Solve a problem
• Send a message
• Received quality information
• Align with peers
• Bring justice to the world

If you cater your message to these efforts your fundraising effort might just work. But note this: by my calculations 60-70% of the money that Romney has raised has been at in-person events.

I’ve said this before but I believe that Fred is one election too early to concentrate on the virtual handshake. Romney has attended approximately 150 in-person fundraising events since January. The average take at these events is probably $150,000+. You do the math. Better yet, Fred better do it.

Fred Failing?

Mike Allen over at the Politico says that Fred’s fundraising has left something to be desired by supporters:

But many Republicans have turned queasy as Thompson has ousted part of his original brain trust and repeatedly delayed his official announcement, which is now planned for shortly after Labor Day, in the first two weeks of September.

Some are already saying a prospective Thompson run is a flop. “I just don’t see it anymore,” said a key Republican who had been extremely enthusiastic about a Thompson candidacy.

“That number is really underwhelming. There were indications it could be double that. They’ve been saying that people were waiting for Fred, and the money was going to pour in. He looks like he’s already losing momentum.”

Allen also quotes Fred’s defense:

“There has been some criticism that the testing-the-waters committee is not such a testing-the-waters committee and that he’s running some sort of campaign,” said a Thompson adviser.

“He’s raising enough to test the waters, not run a full-fledged presidential campaign. He’s not a candidate.”

I could be wrong for using an old adage to rebut these things, but if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Also, as Jennifer Rubin notes, Romney was up to $3M between 1 and 2 pm on his first fundraising telethon day which netted $6.5M.

Romney and the surge

Here’s what Romney said about Iraq back in June at the CNN debate. Most of the question is the ever-present handwringing about “if you knew then, what you know now…”. However, during his answer Romney says that, looking forward, the right thing to do is to stabilize Iraq.

Then comes today’s op-ed in the NY Times from former critics of the handling of the war saying that the troop surge is working and that Iraq is stabilizing. Score one for Romney.

Abortions and Adoptions

I was wondering about the following information on Giuliani’s Website…

“Rudy Giuliani supports reasonable restrictions on abortion such as parental notification with a judicial bypass and a ban on partial birth abortion – except when the life of the mother is at stake. He’s proud that adoptions increased 66% while abortions decreased over 16% in New York City when he was Mayor. But Rudy understands that this is a deeply personal moral dilemma, and people of good conscience can disagree respectfully.”

I could write about how this should be rewritten, “Rudy Giuliani supports the right of a woman to have an abortion. Women under age 18 would need to have their doctor first notify their parents but it they didn’t want to, a judge could order the notification waived. Other possible reasonable restrictions might apply. Rudy also understands you may think an unborn child has the right to be free from being killed for no good reason, but that is a personal and moral dilemma you have to deal with, not a public issue.”

But, I don’t want to sound like I am beating a dead horse. We all know Rudy is going to move the country in a more pro-choice direction.

My question is, do you think it is a good strategy for Giuliani to try and seem more pro-life than he realy is? I mean his strengths are clearly not in social conservatism. So, do people like me hear this and say, agh! give it up, or do some of them say, oh, he is trying to seem pro-life, maybe I should roll the dice with his Supreme Court nominations?

I must say, I am also confused about the numbers on abortions and adoptions, but I have to track down some actual figures before commenting further.


I must confess that when Mitt Romney has said that John Edwards is still a serious candidate, I have been skeptical at times. But, of course, some people are skeptical about Mitt and so I decided to look at Edwards’ website for the first time today.

As someone who is serious about the issues, I found it odd that the following graphic was prominently displayed on the home page. There was also a caption, “Hair! What Really Matters? You choose – Click here to watch the Hair Video.”

On the same page is another section that has a video link. “John Edwards talks about haircuts and swiftboats – and what really matters.”

Hair dominated 2 of the 3 “On the Campaign Trial” items on the home page. Now, I am not here to link to funny video of Edwards grooming himself or to dollar figures for haircuts. We can play gotcha! all day long between campaigns. However, if you think that hair is a non-issue, then stop focusing on it. Get over it, as it were, and talk about real issues. Self-deprecation is good to an extent, but this makes it look like John Edwards is as obsessed about people thinking he is too focused on his hair as he is obsessed about how his hair looks.

Tax Breaks on Savings

Romney took aim at Edwards recently…

“[Y]ou ought to be able to save your money and you ought to have a special tax rate [on your savings]… the tax rate ought to be absolutely zero. … [Edwards is] going to announce today that he’s in favor of a plan that let’s you save $250 tax free. That’s not going to pay for college, or retirement, or a car – maybe a bike…” – Gov. Mitt Romney (Gov. Mitt Romney, Delivered Remarks, Des Moines, IA, 7/26/07)

As Mitt-heads know, Romney has been proposing that middle class Americans be allowed to save some money and receive interest income, capital, gains, etc. on their investment savings without being taxed. Romney quite fairly pointed out that $250 is a paltry sum.

In response Edwards had this ad hominem barrage. Why didn’t Edwards address the issue? Because the $250 is embarassing.

Romney Maintains Double Digit Lead in Iowa Poll

Research 2000 Iowa Republican Primary

Romney – 25% (16)
F Thompson – 14% (9)
Giuliani – 13% (17)
McCain – 10% (18)
Gingrich – 6% (6)
Huckabee – 2% (2)
Thompson – 2% (3)
Tancredo – 2% (3)
Brownback – 2% (2)
Hunter – 1% (1)
Paul – 1% (0)
Undecided – 22%

Survey was conducted July 23-25 of 400 likely Republican caucus-goers. Numbers in parentheses are from their May poll.

Full Poll Results can be found here.

Still A LOT of undecideds!

Fred Thompson: White Collar Crime Trial Lawyer

As we all know, before Fred graced the set of “Law and Order” he worked as a real trial lawyer for a number of clients that ranged the gambit from white collar criminals to family members of a Marine who was killed. According to the Washington Post Thompson:

… worked as a lawyer who argued against the government’s authority to regulate drug paraphernalia or to search a boat packed with 14 tons of marijuana.

Once, two decades ago, he urged that more witnesses refuse to testify before grand juries by invoking their constitutional right against self-incrimination, boasting that “I start on the assumption that my client will not testify.” And over the years, lawsuits he filed helped a state worker win reinstatement to her job while exposing a parole bribery scheme and won money for the family of a Marine pilot killed by a helicopter blade when the family could not sue the Defense Department.

It seems the ties to trial lawyer money ran deep into his Senate campaigns:

“We viewed him as someone we could work with, particularly given he had been an advocate in court for individuals and corporations, and had an innate understanding of what went on in a civil jury,” explained Linda Lipsen, the chief lobbyist for the American trial lawyers lobby group that Republicans often pilloried for opposing tort reform during the 1990s.

Unlike many Republicans during the 1990s, Thompson easily collected large sums of political donations from lawyers during his Senate career — more than $1.5 million over eight years. The trial lobby’s political action committee gave him maximum $10,000 donations during each of his two Senate campaigns.

Apparently, he voted in kind:

In the Senate, Thompson routinely voted against legislation aimed at shrinking the size of fees that attorneys could collect and rejected limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, bucking his own party. Most Republicans supported such reforms, arguing that trial lawyers routinely filed frivolous lawsuits or won unnecessarily large awards that drove up the cost of insurance and products.

The American Conservative Union gave Thompson a lifetime score of 86, placing him in the middle of Republicans it rated. The group noted that he voted against two of the four lawsuit changes the group supported.

“When you are taking a look at Thompson as a conservative,” said ACU Chairman David Keene, “the negatives come down to plowing around with John McCain on campaign finance and a general sense that he sided with trial lawyers because of his background.”

The story goes on to note that Thompson has recently supported certain aspects of tort reform but the conclusion can only be reached that Fred’s trial lawyer days are not that appealing to conservatives.

Free Speech Episode

After watching this video of a Thompson critic’s free speech rights being violated, I could make a quip about the unintended consequences of McCain-Feingold-Thompson but I’ll refrain since I think and hope Thompson finds this particular episode troubling as well.