Connecticut is one of four states that has campaign financing for state races. This means that candidates for the State House can qualify to receive a grant from the state to pay for expenses related to running for office. Most candidates choose to use the state financing which means that money, and those who have it, has little to no influence on elections.
In Connecticut’s program, called the Citizen’s Election Program, candidates cannot accept money from Political Action Committees and lobbyists during the legislative session. In order to qualify for the Program, a candidate must do two things— (1) secure a position on the ballot, and (2) raise qualifying contributions. For the State House, a candidate must raise a little more than $5,000 in $5-$250 contributions and 150 of those contributions must come from folks who live in the town that you’re running in.
Once again, that list of possible supporters came in handy. Compiling an excel document of friends, family, colleagues, former colleagues, parents of my children’s friends, people I’ve served on boards with, former interns, and folks who share the same social justice values as I do can be done at any time by looking through Facebook, searching through old emails, brainstorming past jobs, boards, and social justice issues that you’ve worked on.
Best practice suggests that you raise more money from more people than you need, so we set a fundraising goal of $6,000 from at least 165 people in our town. And then, we set out to do it as quickly as we could. Our original goal was a week, with a month as the back-up. We wanted to come out of the gate strong and get the fundraising out of the way. The beauty of campaign financing is, that once the qualifying contributions are raised, you literally cannot accept any more money. The rest of the campaign can be spent on getting to know people.
I reached back out to the “Kitchen Cabinet” with a detailed email on the financial ask, sample language, the contribution forms that need to be filled out, a link to the contribution page on our website, and our timeline for raising the funds. We also organized a Campaign kick-off event. A couple I met through friends, who support me in my run for office, agreed to host the event at their home. The campaign team felt that it was important to offer childcare during the event and our hosts were accommodating and offered an apartment over their garage in addition to their home. With the help of a supporter who runs a preschool and our youth outreach director (yes, we have one of those on our campaign—a high school senior), we were able to offer childcare and children’s activities during the event—more than 10 children came!
In order to invite folks to the event and raise the qualifying contributions, I went back to my list and began reaching out in various methods of communication. I used text, Facebook message, email, and calls. I met over coffee and put up social media asks. If someone liked a social media post and I had forgotten to make an ask, I did. We estimate 50 people attended the Campaign Kick-Off Event which was held on a Sunday afternoon from 2-4PM. On that day we raised $2,900— $1,250 online from 20 donors and $1,650 cash and checks from 25 donors.
After the event I provided the “Kitchen Cabinet” with a fundraising update and we set out to raise the rest of the money by that Friday. We also scheduled another “Kitchen Cabinet” meeting for the following Sunday so we could check in about fundraising and plan for campaign next steps. By that Friday, we had met the $5,000 goal, but we still needed more local donors. After our meeting on that Sunday, Kitchen Cabinet members kicked it into high gear. Everyone set out, asking friends to contact their friends and neighbors, and just 4 days later (11 days since the event), we had reached our goal.
In total, we raised $6,843 from 211 donors. 73% of those (155) were donations of $25 or less. 171 of the donations came from people in our town and 12 were from out of state. Nearly three quarters of the donations came from women.