A political campaign budget for your municipal election

November 9, 2017 - 6 minutes read

From a Presidential campaign to any down-ballot race, it takes proper planning to win. In fact, the planning phase begins even before you announce your candidacy. Once you’ve entered the race, there are two major steps to take. One is designing the campaign’s communication strategy and the second is creating a budget for the campaign you’d run.

In a previous post, we explained how to go about creating your campaign communication strategy. Here we look at how you can create a budget for your municipal campaign.

Remember that the budget exists to facilitate your method to get the maximum votes. So your fundraising goal or how much you plan to spend does not matter. What matters is how that money goes into putting you ahead in the municipal race.

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What a municipal election budget includes

There are the expenses you should include in your budget.

Operations

Salaries

Consulting charges

Voter files and databases

Website expenses

Office space

Fees and extra charges

Office supplies

Polling and research

Voter communication

Direct mail

Digital ads

Phone banking

Yard signs

Literature and paraphernalia

Volunteer expenses

Events, meetings etc.

GOTV expenses

Fundraising

Fundraisers

Postage

Forms and letterheads

Donation cards

Estimate your full expenditure

For a new candidate in a municipal election, drawing an estimate for the budget would be tough. There are some ways to get a reference figure and use that to plan your activity.

You can approach a previous candidate directly to endorse your candidacy. They would provide records of their past campaign and help you draw an estimate. All political campaigns also require disclosing their campaign finance records to the town or city clerks’ office. These documents are publicly available to collect and would help put your upcoming expenses in the ballpark.

Fundraising for a municipal campaign

With the estimated budget in hand, you can work on how you’d raise the money for every activity on your campaign schedule.

Some ways to get financed are

  • Personal investment by the candidate. In a municipal election, it may be viable for the candidate to fund the majority of the campaign with their own money.
  • PACs or special interest groups who are tied to the candidate by their support for a common cause.
  • Major donors to municipal candidates in past elections. You would have to find the right donor list to approach these donors.
  • Events and direct mail may be the go-to approach to fundraise in your municipality. However, they take up an investment to get started.
  • You could apply for a loan or get one co-signed by someone supporting your run for office.
  • Some supporters may take up responsibility for actions like transport, printing, and catering.

Factors that affect campaign budget

Depending on the location and size of your municipality, there are some variations in the budget you have to consider. Some of these factors are evident at the outset while some others may depend on the support you draw as the campaign takes off.

  • Electorate size – Some municipal districts have a larger electorate than others do. Plus in some municipalities, there is a bigger turnout as well.
  • Opposition – How many opponents are you facing? Is it a close race?
  • Newcomer vs incumbent – A candidate for re-election has to spend less to raise their candidate profile.
  • Voter communication methods – The voter communication methods you choose will affect your budget quite a bit.
  • Coverage by external sources – Political party endorsements, press coverage and supporter action can bring down your expenses as well.

Allocating your budget for municipal campaigns

It is a good practice to divide the campaign budget among the campaign functions. One method to do that is by separating the budget between direct voter contact and overhead.

Direct voter contact is any campaign money spent in communicating with voters. Polls, website, ads and phone banking all fall under this category. About 65-70% of your total budget should be allocated to voter contact functions.

Overhead covers consulting fees, payments to staff and any other expenses incurred from traveling to renting. You should play it safe and keep about 10% of the budget aside for contingencies down the road.

A proper budget would allow you to go the distance in your municipal campaign. Research in advance and discuss with your campaign manager or past candidates to fix a budget that fits your campaign plan.

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