Political donors who use JStreetPAC are already getting more bang for their buck – sending a powerful political message on the issues they care about in addition to having the full amount of their donation passed through to their candidate of choice.
But if you want your contributions to be particularly powerful, donate to candidates as early in the political cycle as possible, says JStreetPAC Director and former political fundraiser Tali deGroot.
“A dollar contributed early in the cycle makes far more impact than a dollar contributed in the closing weeks or months,” deGroot says. “Although some donors like to take a wait-and-see approach with some campaigns, it comes at the cost of significantly diminishing the effectiveness of their contributions in very tangible ways.”
For those who expect to hit campaign contribution limits, contributing early allows you to contribute to both the primary cycle and the general cycle, with candidates able to roll over funds from one cycle to the next. You can learn more here.
Four Reasons Early Donations Matter More
1) Money Makes Money
The high-profile women’s leadership group Emily’s List isn’t named after anyone called Emily, it’s an abbreviation: Early Money Is Like Yeast.
Why? Founder Ellen Malcolm has the answer: “It helps the dough rise.”
Early money helps campaigns quickly put in place sophisticated and effective fundraising strategies, including hiring fundraising staff, planning fundraising events, gaining access to lists of potential high-dollar donors, and building out a strong, broad grassroots network of support.
“Donating early to a campaign can really be thought of as an investment,” deGroot says. “The earlier a dollar is invested in fundraising infrastructure, the longer it has to generate returns for the campaign.”
2) Early Fundraising Sends a Message
Early fundraising numbers demonstrate strength to party officials, interest groups, national donors, the media and potential opponents.
“Particularly for first time candidates, early fundraising can help a campaign to gain a foothold and build momentum,” deGroot says. A candidate who raises a lot of money early on is likely to receive more media coverage and interest from national donors and support networks, and can build and rally a broader network of grassroots support.
“Potential supporters really take notice and are more likely to back a candidate who has demonstrated fundraising skills,” she says. “Opponents in both primaries or generals also take notice. They’re more likely to take advantage of a candidate who is posting weak early numbers.”
3) Early Resources Build Stronger Teams
Initial campaign outlays can be high: Hiring high-quality, long-term staff, buying access to election analytics and polling services, fulfilling legal election requirements, and developing an effective and consistent victory strategy and campaign message.
“Quality campaign staff cost money and are in high demand, especially given they may have to move cities or states to work in the district” deGroot says. “You want to be able to get good people on board early and develop a data-driven plan of attack as soon as possible. The last thing you want is to be cycling through staff and flailing when it comes to strategy when the campaign is heating up.”
Hiring a fundraising director early is critical, and a key early campaign investment. “Same goes for hiring a good field director and making sure you’ve got access to good voter data,” deGroot says. “It enables you to execute effective, long-term voter contact which is absolutely vital in tight races.”
4) Campaigns Take Early Support Seriously
The strongest, most valued supporters are those who back campaigns from the very start.
“Whether it’s by volunteering or donating or endorsing or by hosting events, campaigns and candidates really do remember those who were with them from the beginning,” deGroot says. “It shows a level of commitment, sophistication and dependability that’s really valued, plus early in the campaign you’re not vying with as many others if you’re looking to share thoughts and feedback.”
If you’re sick of getting fundraising emails and text messages, chances are that campaign staffers are sick of sending them too. That doesn’t mean that early support will stop the last minute deluge of pleas for further support, but it does mean that campaigns won’t have to sweat as much to support themselves and can focus more on winning their race.