John Tsarpalas: I am really excited today because we are going to talk about something we’ve put together for you, a resource. It is a fabulous spreadsheet campaign planner. You are going to be able to download it for free.
Just simply go to Commonwealthy.com/planner/ and that will take you right to the page that the show notes for that podcast will be. You can listen to the podcast there while you are at it. But you will be able to sign up and download our free Excel spreadsheet.
This planner just does everything you need to put together your plan. So today it is Commonwealthy #64, Campaign Planner.
So as I said, you can download this campaign planner at Commonwealthy.com/planner/. It might be easier if you understand this podcast if you’ve got that spreadsheet open in front of you and you click through things as we work on it.
But you should be able to get a good idea of what I am talking about and then go get the planner if you are driving when you are listening to this or working out or walking or walking the dog or whatever you do when you listen to a podcast. I know I am always on the move when I am listening to podcasts.
The beauty of this planner is it covers just about everything. And if it isn’t covered, there’s room to put it in anyway. It is designed for a large campaign or a small campaign. You can use parts of it. You can use all of it. And you are going to be more effective the more thought you give to each part of it.
The beauty of this planner is it also talks about where you can go find more information on each one of the things you are filling in. It refers you back to the Commonwealthy episode. And you can get more detail there through the transcript or listen to that podcast again.
So I am going to jump in. The first page is the overall plan. That’s your first tab. And it starts with the basics. Right at the top, total number of voters, average number who vote in a similar election, and number of voters needed to win. If you haven’t started here for your campaign, this is exactly where you need to start.
You need to know how many people usually show up to vote for this election for this particular office and how many people you need to win. Basically it is what the last few cycles were or perhaps the last cycle if that was the highest vote turnout and fifty-one percent. Now you are going to have to do a little bit of guessing if you think it is going to be a higher turnout.
Quite frankly this planner was designed for people that are going to be running in 2017 and on. I mean, you can use this for 2016, but you are a little late. If you haven’t sat down and done a spreadsheet of what you are up to and some of your costs or if you aren’t using something like Voter Gravity, which gives you a place to put in your voters and your totals and your projections for your field plan, you are in trouble. You need to jump in right now and take care of these things. Get this planner and put it together.
But if you planning for 2017 or beyond, you are right on track. This planner will help you think it all through and get you on the right track.
Okay, so you’ve gone to your board of elections. It might be state based. It might be county based. And some local elections the information from previous elections is actually held in a local authority. Perhaps your town hall has the information. That’s up to you to find out where it is at. And you can find that out when you start looking into what race you are going to run for.
You are going to look for past election cycles. And you going to figure out how many people voted for that same race. And you are going to figure out how many people you need to win. And you are going to put that in your planner.
Now right on the planner it says “Tip: See CW 3 for more information.” In other words, go back to Commonwealthy podcast #3. Read the transcript or listen to it. And it will explain how you figure out the average number people who vote in similar election.
We’ve gone through in great detail in our past podcasts how to put everything in here together. We are not going to hit on something new. So as we go through this planner, I will keep referring you back to different places.
Then there’s number of voters in your base. That is also talked about in Commonwealthy #44. How do you figure out who is probably already voting for you? If you are running as a Republican, well, you are going to assume Republicans are going to show up. Although in this election cycle, it is going to be rough with Donald Trump on the top of the ticket because there are a lot of Republicans that consider themselves conservatives or free market limited government people. When Donald Trump talks about putting tariffs on trade, they don’t like so they might not be showing up for him.
So you’ve got to figure out who is your base. Commonwealthy #44 will help you do that.
If you are running in a nonpartisan election, there are perhaps certain assumptions you can make about who your base is. Your base can be people that are worried about higher property taxes because the school board keeps wanting more money for the schools Now you can find data on that. You can probably purchase lists.
Perhaps there are some local groups, a Tea Party group or some kind of a taxpayers group that might have information on who those people are. Those could be your base. It is a little tougher when you are running in a nonpartisan situation to figure out your base.
And then you need to figure out how many people if you are running as a Republican are independents, people that don’t consider themselves Republicans and don’t consider themselves Democrats.
And another thing to think about are the ticket splitters. There are people that will cross lines, people that are sort of mushy Democrats that will vote for a Republican for one office and a Democrat for another. Here in Illinois, there’s a lot of ticket splitting. We have to look for those independents and ticket splitters and people that will cross over.
It is tricky, but it is doable. You just give it some thought. And you need to understand how many of those people you need to chase. And as you are doing your precinct analysis, you are going to look at what precincts are going to be your fortress precincts. In other words, ones that are heavily Republican let’s say. And which precincts are heavily independents, swing, and ticket splitters.
And you are going to work them differently, but you are going to work those very hard. And then you need to know the number of households in your district. Not just how many voters, but how many houses do you have to talk to, do you have to knock the doors of? Because often there will be three or four Republicans in one house.
The spouse (I am trying to be PC here. I am going to throw that out the window), the husband, the wife, and perhaps aging parents living there or teenagers who have come to voting age, young adults who are still there or some of them might be off at college, but they are still using their primary residence as their voting. They might all be your base. They might be split within a household.
There are many homes here in Illinois where the man is a Republican and the female is not. So you’ve got to figure that out. How do you get to him and how do you not get to her? Often the phone is answered by one or the other and you aren’t reaching the right party. Knocking on the door can be the same thing.
They can be hostile. I hate to make generalities, but the female Democrats around here are very hostile to me. And the men are obviously voting Republican or they are more open-minded and they will want to talk to me. So how do you reach them? So that’s something you’ve got to be careful of.
Alright, so once you’ve got your big goals set, the planner then gets down to something that you need to think about. Say you’ve got to have a thousand votes. Let’s keep it very simple. Okay? How do you talk to those thousand people? Is it ten people a week? So you need to figure out the number of people you need to contact per week, the number of phone calls needed to do that or the number of door knocks needed.
And you need to think about how many are effective. And you can also figure out how many volunteers you need, but we will get to that in the field plan. When you are calling people on the phone and you are doing it in the daytime, are you reaching maybe three an hour at home and talking to them? But in the evenings, you are doing a little better. In the winter you are doing better; maybe you are reaching four or five in the evening.
When you are door knocking in the summer, are you talking to four people an hour at the door? And then during certain times of the week, days of the week, it is less. In the middle of the day, you are getting seniors, but otherwise people aren’t home.
Every neighborhood is different. If there are a lot of families with both people working in the daytime, a lot of those neighborhoods are empty; it’s not even worth trying. But you need to get there on a Saturday and maybe you are going to reach four or five an hour.
So you need to go out and start door knocking early and phone calling early. And figure out what your average is. I usually figure three contacts per hour at the door and four contacts an hour by phone. So why do it at the door than by phone? Because that door, you are going to get better data. You are going to do better talking to the voter. They talk at the door more.
If you are the candidate, you should be at the door. When they meet you at the door and they see your face and you ask for their vote, you are going to get it. You need to get out early, do some door knocking, do some phone calling, and figure out how many per hour you are averaging. And then take that information, create those averages, and put them into your planner.
Then the bottom part of this first page, the overall plan, has number of mailings needed, which you are going to get into in your mailing plan, but you need to know how many you think you need.
And then it breaks down into seven different categories. There are eight overall. There is the overall plan, which we are talking about. And then two through eight we go through overhead costs, field plan, mailing plan, email plan, advertising plan, earned media plan, and fundraising plan. And I am going to talk about each. But each one is a separate tab.
The beauty of this spreadsheet is everything is linked. When you put some dollar amount in or number on the overhead cost plan, it comes to a total and then the total comes over to the first page. So everything is always totaling. On the very front page of the very first tab at the bottom is the total dollar amount that you need.
If you think about your budget in terms of dollars and your plan in terms of dollars, in the spreadsheet, there are other boxes where you can leave notes for yourself. You can break down the details. You can explain how many people you are calling and your methods. So you can work off of this spreadsheet for your whole plan. Your written plan can be in the spreadsheet; it isn’t just dollars is what I am trying to tell you.
Let’s jump to that second tab, overhead costs. And what are these? Well, these are the things that are going to be there from the beginning of the campaign to the end of the campaign and they don’t vary.
Are you going to have some staff? Will there be salaries? If so, what are the taxes and benefits you are paying? Are you paying for the staff’s cell phones, their cars, their mileage on their cars, or gas? And other benefits and things like that for the staff.
We have a big section for office. Are you going to have some kind of an office or are you just working out of home? That’s fine. A small campaign should do that. A little bigger one might need an office. But you might need a separate, dedicated landline phone for the campaign. Internet costs, rent if you’ve got that office, utilities, office supplies, your website, your website domain, website maintenance.
Your attorney costs- you are going to need an attorney probably if you’ve got any size campaign at all. If you are just a little guy running for local village board or local township, you probably can get by without an attorney. You are open to attack, but people aren’t attacking you there.
And what I mean by open to attack is they are going to attack your paperwork as having been filed incorrectly or something like that. So there might be a little attorney costs. I would say county board on up, state rep definitely you are going to have to talk to some kind of a state law attorney. You are going to have to make sure your petition form is correct and you are going to have to make sure your basic filings were correct, although most of that you can do through a website from the state board or county board.
And are you going to have some furniture? One of the things that I have done in a very flexible campaign where we are just working out of someone’s home is we bought some folding chairs and some folding tables. We had a few cell phones that were for the campaign that we could bring in a bag that were charged up that we could hand to volunteers to use to make phone calls.
We would sort of do moveable phone banks. We would pop up at one person’s house on Mondays and on Wednesdays we would be at a different person’s house in a different part of the district in a different basement. But we were able to move around the campaign. We didn’t have any permanent office or permanent bills except for the campaign website.
We had these things so we could be flexible and move around and show up in different places, which worked really well. So think about that. Think about how you are going to keep this overhead costs page down.
And then there is a section on her for the candidate budget. Does the candidate need some gas money or travel expenses? I mean, it is going to add up if you are running around a lot. It shouldn’t be coming out of your family money unless you want it to.
Are you renting a car or something like that? Maybe that is happening for you. It depends on how much traveling you do. Guys that run for state-wide offices often rent a car because they are going to put a lot of miles on their personal car. This way it can all be put on to the campaign and be a campaign expense. There’s nothing fishy about that.
And last on this overhead thing is an emergency fund. If you are going to have a campaign that is raising fifty thousand dollars on up, you should have a little bit of an emergency fund or rainy day fund. What is this for? Well, mistakes, problems, last minute bills that you didn’t account for.
I have seen many campaigns (bigger ones- state rep, Congress, that kind of a thing) have bills show up after the campaign’s over. And they didn’t win unfortunately. These bills show up and they have no way to raise any money because the campaign is over. So a little rainy day fund is not a bad thing. Having a little money leftover is not a bad thing.
Try to figure out how to have that in your plan so that you can cover a few things. And if you’ve got a little money left, you can throw a party for the volunteers or give it to a charity or hold on to it for your next run, which is really important.
Our next tab in the planner is the field plan. And the field plan starts off where a field plan should start off- how many households do you need to call? And how many doors do you need to knock? How many weeks until the election? How many knocks per week and phone calls per week do you have to make? And how many volunteers do you need per week to accomplish that?
Now a lot of your smaller campaigns, you are just not going to have enough people to meet the goals. And you are just going to do your best. It could be you. It could be some family members and close friends. You’ve got a few people.
On the other hand, perhaps you have a good network of friends. I’ve told a story before. I’ll tell it again. The guy running for park board who beat the twenty-three year incumbent park board president. How did he do it? He was a hockey coach. And he talked about doing better schedules for ice time for kids to get their hockey practice in.
And he went to all of the hockey coaches. And he had each coach organize the parents on his team. And he literally had well over a hundred volunteers for this little park district. Think about how you can leverage some people and motivate them. And what group can you go to find volunteers? Can you get them to do this stuff?
And remember if a group says they are going to do it for you, you’ve got to figure out how to track what they are doing for you. Just because they say it doesn’t mean it is happening. Tracking is often weak when some other group is doing it.
There’s way to meet your goals for number of phone calls and number of volunteers, but you need to have a plan. And you need to track it.
You also have to have a little money for volunteers. You should have snacks, drinks, and things available at your get-togethers, your gatherings, your phone banking or before people go out door to door.
You definitely want to have a thank you party at some point. Perhaps you have it a month before the actual election so that people are pumped up for the election and they know that you are thinking highly of them. And definitely afterwards some kind of a small gathering, especially if you are going run again. You want to keep these people involved with your campaign.
And then there’s a whole section on field plan at the bottom for the budget. I’ve talked about having some furniture (tables and chairs) to move around. There’s a place for that here in the field budget. Do you have a voter management system? Do you have your Voter Gravity system? What is that going to cost? That goes in your field plan.
You are going to need literature for people when they are door knocking or to mail out. That literature should go in your field plan. This is not part of your mailing campaign, although you can use it for that. But you should put it into this budget here. You need yard signs. That is definitely part of your field plan.
Phone bank costs. Do you need a phone dialing system? If you are not using Voter Gravity, perhaps you are using a system that dials phones for you. What is that going to cost? Are there other costs? Do you have to rent somewhere? Are you getting telephones and you have to pay for phones for phone banks?
Other signage- banners and things for walking in parades. T-shirts for volunteers, which are always great, especially if you are going to parades. How about some gas and mileage money for cars? If people are driving a lot, then you are reimbursing your volunteers who are helping you out. Are there costs to get to an event? You probably have to pay for a few dinners and things. Throw them in here.
And then there are novelties. Novelties you can go back to Commonwealthy #60. We talked about Jan fans. This was a Congresswoman who has little fans she passes out on the Fourth of July so people can fan themselves when they are hot. They work very well. So there are lots of things for novelties.
And all up and down this field plan page are tips on what Commonwealthy podcast to go back to so that you can find out more information about this section and how to figure out that part of the plan.
The next tab is the mailing plan. And mailing plans can be costly. Often a small campaign isn’t going to have enough money. It is said that you have to mail seven times with your name on it, your logo, your look, and information about you before a voter actually internalizes your name and will remember it and then know who to vote for. Seven times, that is a lot of mail. You might not get there.
This plan is set up to have seven mailings and these are mailings where your name’s on it. And you are going to think about the design costs, the number printed that you need, the printing cost per mailing, and the postage costs. I am going to refer you back to Commonwealthy #59 and Commonwealthy #56 if you are going to buy a list to mail because these are going to explain how you figure all of that out.
Now, as I started to say, a smaller campaign, you should mail early once to your base. You want to mail more often to those independents. Those might be the ones you need to mail six or seven times. But at least once to the independents. But for them, you are going to be mailing just before early voting starts. And perhaps something like one a week during that whole period up to Election Day. Those are ways to kind of do it for less money.
You are going to have to be smart about who you are mailing to. You are going to have to limit it. If you’ve got a lot of money, you are going to mail more often to the Republicans, to your base. To your base people, you are going to mail them asking them to volunteer. You are going to ask them to put up yard signs.
You are going to ask them to donate. Sometimes that can be effective, but usually you are not going to get enough money back to pay for the mailings. So don’t think that it is going to break even.
But the mailing plan is essential. You need to know what you are shooting for. Most times I put together a Cadillac plan, one that is perfect and going to mail seven times to everybody. And then I do a Chevrolet, which mails to the independents five or six times and to the base a couple of times. And then we used to call it a Yugo, but they don’t make Yugos anymore, but a very cheap plan. It is kind of the bare minimum.
Please shoot for the Cadillac. The way to do that is to raise money. We’ll get to that in the fundraising plan. The fundraising plan is built on all of these other plans because you need to know how much money you need to raise by building the plan. The fundraising plan is going to tell you what you need to get from individuals.
Okay, so the next tab in here is the email plan. Email is very low cost. You might have some design costs and you might have some list costs. You should consider buying some lists for email. You want to listen to Commonwealthy #56, which talks to Peter Anderson of Cobalt Media. It is all about the lists they have available.
Give Peter a call. Talk to him about what you are up to. You don’t have to be a big campaign. He doesn’t care. He just wants to do business with you and get you started. And he is definitely one of ours. He is a limited government kind of a guy. Feel free to talk to him about what lists can do for you with your email.
And put together an email plan. This has a limited number of mailings on it. It has seven just like the mail plan. But you can do a whole lot more with email. It is cheap once you’ve got the list. Mail it often. Mail it once a week. Feel free to build this spreadsheet out even further.
But you’ve got to figure out the basic costs. And you are going to be changing the design every time, so there might be some design costs. But the cost on sending it might not change and the list cost might be a one-time thing. All of that can be figured out her.
I find that email lists and email plans tend to flex. You need to be aware that it is changing as you get closer to the election from what you originally planned. But if you have an original plan, stick to it and add to it. And figure out how you can take care of it for very little costs.
The next tab is not going to happen in every campaign. And that’s your advertising plan. We talk about radio, cable TV, regular TV (which is also broadcast TV), social media, newspaper, and billboards. We’ve got totals for each one of those groups and then a total advertising budget.
You need to think about your market. If you live in a big, urban area and the radio is covering the whole urban area and you are running for city council, that might be your best bet.
Cable TV can be really effective in that it can be narrowed down to certain zip codes or even smaller areas. You can talk to your cable company about that. But you can be a lot more targeted with cable TV.
Regular broadcast TV, only if you are covering a big area and there is a TV station. Maybe you are running for Congress or state rep and that one TV station covers the majority of your district. But it is expensive. It is becoming less effective. You could be better off with cable TV ads than regular TV ads.
Social media. We are talking about Facebook ads. We are talking about other situations, Twitter ads and things like that. And Google ads. You need to look into that. It is possible to be very targeted and very effective with certain keywords. You need to get some help with this. You need to understand who you are talking to. You can look at Commonwealthy #27 to get some background.
Quite frankly, you need to find someone that kind of understands the social media world that could put some ideas together for you and research it for you. And often there is a volunteer that is willing that. That is something they can do at their leisure on the side. And it is fun for them. But you need to think about that. Social media is very effective. How do you build that in?
Newspaper. Sometimes they are effective; sometimes they are not. Again does the newspaper reach your district? Are you paying for a lot more area than just your district if you put an ad in? You need to think about it.
And then billboards. Billboards can be really great, especially in your district on a busy street. Look into that. You can put it up for a limited number of months. And it can at least build your name ID. Put it on some highway or somewhere where people see your name all of the time.
So your advertising plan is important. It is something you should consider for something county seat and up. If you are running for local school board or things, maybe a little ad in the local newspaper. But that is about it. Maybe cable TV. It has got to be very targeted. The social media has to be very targeted.
We have a tab in here for earned media. Earned media means getting free press. It isn’t necessarily free for you in terms of you are going to have some costs. Are you going to have buy a list of the media in your area because you don’t own one and that’s possible. That often happens.
Do you have to mail anything out? Now, most earned media nowadays is done through email. You can email your newspaper, your TV and radio stations, local blogs, and anything like that. But you should have a plan.
When are you going to announce? That is here on the plan. That should be a press release. Letters to the editors should be timed. Figure out when people can mail some things. You should also figure out what other events you are having and put them in your earned media plan.
Will you be making a statement about something? Put that in your earned media plan. You aren’t necessarily going to get the press to show up, but you can put together a press release and get it out to the proper people.
Now, if you are bigger campaign and you are paying somebody to do media for you, that all needs to end up in here. Those costs will be a lot higher. I don’t have staff in here. I am thinking of the campaign that is doing this themselves or they’ve got a volunteer who is trying to become a press person. And often you can find somebody that will volunteer for you that has an interest in this or a background it. That is your best bet. Do what you can there.
After you’ve got all of those other tabs filled in, all of this money funnels back to your fundraising plan. How much money do you need to raise? Well, you take that total campaign budget number and start with that. That is what you need to raise.
How much are you going to raise per week? How much per donor? Per contact? And obviously there are donors that give different amounts. Hopefully you’ve started a list of people that you know and that you are going to ask for money.
And you can ask just about everybody you know for twenty-five dollars or fifty dollars or a hundred dollars. You shouldn’t be flinching at making these small asks. You have to make these small asks.
Now if you are asking for five hundred or a thousand or five thousand or more, then you need to be aware of your campaign finance law limits first of all. What is the most you can ask for? You need to know what the person’s background is and their wherewithal and how much money you think they can give. And you need to go do it.
Now, this sometimes takes practice. It takes coaching. Many people are afraid to do that. You can get a hold of me at email@example.com. I coach people on fundraising. I get it. I know it is hard. It is matter of rehearsing and practice just like anything else. It is a lot like public speaking. Once you’ve done it a while, you get over the fear and it just flows.
The other thing that is on here is we’ve listed a couple of fundraisers, actually three fundraisers. Not necessarily saying you should be doing fundraisers. Fundraisers are one way of raising money. Having one on one meetings and asking directly is a better way of raising money. Fundraisers takes time.
I think one fundraiser for your campaign isn’t a bad idea because it gives focus and you give people a reason to write a check. So maybe it is six weeks before the election. You are having a fundraiser, something inexpensive at a restaurant.
And you are asking people to underwrite a portion of the fundraiser or to be a sponsor and you are going to put their name at a handout at the door and perhaps on a little marque at the door, a little board you are going to make up and set up at the door saying “John Doe is a founding sponsor. William Smith family is a patron sponsor.” You are going to have different levels like that.
In a fundraising situation where there is an event, that’s a way to do it. I prefer to just call on people and say, “Can you pay for my yard signs? They are five hundred dollars. Can you pay for my first mailing? It is going to be fifteen hundred dollars. Or pay half of it. It is fifteen hundred dollars.” I prefer to go out and do that one on one.
You need to put that on this fundraising plan page. And if you are having fundraisers, you need to figure out who you are inviting, how many people you need to get there, and who your potential sponsors are. All of that happens on this fundraising plan page.
You can also have a direct mail fundraiser. If you are an incumbent, that works well. If you are an unknown, you are probably going to lose money on it. You can do it. There will be costs. You need to figure out how much is being printed and being put out there with a return envelope.
And you can put things like that in your campaign literature in your regular direct mail plan. Include that in there, a card or a return envelope or something. Do not expect that it is going to make money or break even.
The way you make money on direct mail is you build that list, you ask them for money, and they said yes and they send in twenty dollars. And then the next time you mail to those people who have already given you money and they usually give again. You don’t really break even until the second or third time. Those people you are just mailing them those that have given before.
That is how that works. So don’t think it is going to happen up front. It just doesn’t. It is like a perpetual motion machine; it sounds good, but doesn’t happen.
So there you have it. You’ve got the overall view of the overall campaign planner. I think this is really going to help you out. Those of you that are lost or have questions and need help with this, you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to go to the website, Commonwealthy.com/planner/, and that will get you right to the page for this podcast. You’ll find the link there to download the planner. You will also find the planner in the resources page of Commonwealthy. Just find that in the tabs up above across the top.
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Campaigning is about hard work. We love to talk politics and complain and get upset and get mad and throw a shoe at the television set. But the bottom line is unless we win some elections, we have no power. Get this planner. Get to work. Pick an election you want to run for, a local office, Every office counts. Every office is government and growing government.
Talk is cheap. Let’s win some elections.