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Fundraising Guide

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Sister District teams and affiliates are exceedingly creative and devote substantial time and energy into designing and executing effective fundraising projects. This document is intended as a go-to guide for any Sister District fundraising leader seeking information and tips on everything from using refcodes to creating virtual fundraising events to recruiting matching donors. Please contact your Organizing Department staffer for any and all support in designing, promoting, and executing fundraising projects, and with any questions or feedback!

Fundraising Process Overview

In the course of each wave of endorsements of an election cycle, HQ creates or updates the following evergreen ActBlue links for every team/affiliate.

    • HQ link to raise money for Sister District Project
    • “Candidate” link(s) to raise for individual candidates
    • “Slate” link for all team’s candidates, to be created if/when a team has more than one candidate. This link will split fundraising equally between those candidates. This “Slate” link is suggested for multi-candidate fundraising projects, Automatic Welcome Emails, and Team Pages.

Using Refcodes

Refcodes are extremely easy to use. Just add “?refcode=” plus the identifiers of your choice to the end of your ActBlue link. Then distribute the link and, as soon as the first person donates to it, you’ll start to see the donations reflected in real time in your unique Fundraising Portal. No need to hit save, or do anything else.

For example, the San Francisco team might be holding a virtual fundraiser for their AZ candidates on April 25 and a small house party on September 1 in the Glen Park neighborhood. Instead of requesting and waiting for two separate links from HQ, they can simply distribute their evergreen AZ link with two different refcodes, e.g.:

    • https://secure.actblue.com/donate/sd016-az-sf?refcode=virtual-200425
    • https://secure.actblue.com/donate/sd016-az-sf?refcode=glenpark-200901

It’s up to you how you would like to name your refcodes. We suggest a format that includes a date and a short descriptor so that you can easily recognize them on the backend. (These examples use the date format YYMMDD.)

Using Text-To-Donate

Every team/affiliate has access to a unique text-to-donate keyword that is based on the name of your team. When someone texts your keyword to 833-602-8124, they will receive an automated reply. You can customize the reply text to include the ActBlue link of your choice. If you want to assign or reassign your keyword or make any changes to the custom text reply, please submit the ActBlue Request Form.

Working with Sister District Staff

Fundraising touches all parts of the Sister District organization, so team fundraising leaders will work with different staff members on different aspects of fundraising.

For anything related to ActBlue links, including requesting links, customizing links with custom content, refcodes, setting up automatic email alerts when donations are made, please begin with the ActBlue Request Form. Submissions are handled by Operations Associate Faith Lowe. To email Faith, please use support@sisterdistrict.com.

For anything related to organizing your event, handling Action Network, Mobilize, or your Fundraising Portal, please contact your Organizing Department staffer.

For candidate special guest appearance requests, please use the Candidate Appearance Request Form, and contact the Field Manager assigned to communicate with that candidate’s campaign.

A team/affiliate’s Treasurer is responsible for communicating with HQ to request or make changes to the team’s ActBlue links, and is given access by HQ to the team’s Fundraising Portal. Every team (and affiliate wishing to fundraise) must have at least one Treasurer.

Fundraising Portal

HQ also creates a unique Fundraising Portal for every team/affiliate. This Portal provides rich donation data. A team/affiliate’s Treasurer(s) and those doing donor relationship management should have access to the Fundraising Portal; to request access, please contact your organizing department staffer or support@sisterdistrict.com.

For full detail, please see How-To Guide: Treasurer or How-To Guide: Donor Relationship Management

Fundraising Roles

Sister District teams and affiliates come in all shapes and sizes. You might have one person handling all three of these roles in some form or an entire committee with subcommittees. Please work with your organizing department staffer to organize your fundraising efforts in a way that works for you and your team. The following are three types of roles we recommend to cover fundraising tasks. For more on mapping Task Coverage to Leadership Roles and Leadership Structure, see Organizing Your Sister District Team.

Treasurer

Every team/affiliate must have at least one Treasurer (see How-To Guide: Treasurer) who can work with HQ on ActBlue links and access the Fundraising Portal and report on team donation data. Any fundraising leaders can be Treasurers.

Donor Relationship Manager

We suggest one person in leadership thank and engage donors. This person should also be a Treasurer. See How-To Guide: Donor Relationship Management.

Fundraising Project Programming and Execution

We suggest — to the extent your team is able — engaging multiple leaders to take roles in designing, planning and carrying out different fundraising projects. The rest of this guide will be useful for all leaders taking a part in organizing events and other initiatives.

Fundraising Programming

Sister District team and affiliate fundraisers have shown incredible prowess in fundraising both for HQ and candidates (e.g. check out our 2020 Impact Report!). A large part of our success is down to ingenuity and creativity in programming.

To get ideas for fundraising projects, please see the following our How-To Guides and Case Studies, organized by project type in the Fundraiser Types folder.

Using Mobilize For Fundraising Events

We strongly recommend using your team’s Mobilize account as your RSVP system for fundraising events. Mobilize optimizes for greater attendance at community fundraising events. Experience suggests that we want to lower barriers for people to be a part of community events (in part to recognize that some cannot afford to donate but still would like to be included) and focus on making effective donation appeals in promotion and during and after your event to maximize your fundraising haul. Other advantages include:

  • Attendee data will automatically be ported into your team’s Action Network volunteer database. If you’ve tagged your event as a Fundraiser, a tag will be added to the records of those on your team who attended the event. This level of data means you can communicate selectively with, say, all those who signed up for a fundraising event.
  • Your event can automatically appear on your sisterdistrict.com Team Page in its Mobilize feed and on the main sisterdistrict.com/events page
  • If all teams’ events are on Mobilize, it becomes easy for other teams with the same candidates to promote one another’s events.
  • Mobilize is easy for potential attendees to navigate, and its automatic confirmations and reminders make it very helpful to convey Zoom and ActBlue links and other details.
  • If your fundraising event is on Mobilize, other teams can very simply “Promote” that event and it will show up as an instance on their Mobilize page. Those who sign up through that instance are also added to your central signup list and receive the centralized confirmations and reminders coming from your Mobilize account as per your settings. They will not receive duplicate confirmations and reminders. Those teams “promoting” your event cannot edit the event or control those automatic communications.  Please see the “Promoting HQ and Other Team Events” section in our How-To: Mobilize guide for steps!

Notes on Creating Your Fundraising Event in Mobilize

  • Please see our Virtual Fundraisers Event Step-by-Step Guide for a broader picture of designing, building, and executing your event.
  • Please see How-To: Mobilize guidance on logging in, creating your event, managing confirmation and reminder settings, and more.
  • In both the How To Prepare (Private Details) and the Event Description boxes of your event page, we recommend that you include an AB link and ask folks to donate a specific amount.
  • If you want to be assertive around ensuring an RSVP follows through with making a donation in advance of or after the event, you can pull a list of your Mobilize sign-ups and compare against the list of donations made for your event ActBlue link/refcode in the Fundraising Portal, and send emails or texts with friendly reminders to donate. Work with your Organizing Department staffer to help create a process.

Collaborating with other Sister District Teams on Events

With HQ and all Sister District teams using Mobilize for event RSVPs, collaboration — recruiting and fundraising off of the same event — becomes a snap! Just use the Mobilize “promote” function!

Think of “promoting” HQ or other team events on your Mobilize account as our way to reflect a Host / Co-Host relationship. All teams involved can raise money and track fundraising using their own links in the promotion and follow-through after events. All teams involved can use their own branded Mobilize instance to drive sign-ups. The Host teams will use their links to make the ask at the event, but perhaps there is room for multiple links to be shared in the Zoom chat (i.e. “We’re sharing three links in the chat right now, if you feel closer to SD NYC, use that link, if it’s SD SF or SD Sacramento, please use those links”).

Examples:

SD EUG adopts the SD Portland phonebank. The SD EUG leaders will want to “promote” the SD Portland phonebank event page on the SD EUG Mobilize account, and start recruiting using the unique URL for their branded “instance” of the event.

SD NYC wants to be involved in SD South Bay LA’s trivia night. SD NYC would “promote” that event in their Mobilize account, and start recruiting using the unique URL for their branded “instance” of the event. In recruitment efforts, SD NYC would include their ActBlue links to raise money for their candidates.

Here’s how it works:

If you “promote” events hosted on the HQ Mobilize page or on other teams’ Mobilize pages, those events will show up on your Mobilize page feed with your branded logo, appearing to the visitor as though it’s your team’s event. People searching your team’s Mobilize page will see those events.

You’ll have a unique URL to promote your instance of the event. For example, the HQ State Bridges event series Mobilize URL is https://www.mobilize.us/sisterdistrict/event/377479/. If SD CA Peninsula follows the steps below to “promote” the HQ State Bridges event series page unique URL is: https://www.mobilize.us/sisterdistrictcapeninsula/event/377479/ (notice the same six-digit numerical indicator on the end).

Here is an example of what the HQ Mobilize account’s State Bridges event page looks like as an instance on the SD CA Peninsula Mobilize account once they’ve “promoted” HQ and the event:

Those who sign up through the promoting team’s instance are reflected in the “Host’s” global signup list and receive the centralized confirmations and reminders like everyone else. Promoting team cannot edit the event or control those automatic communications.  Signups will not receive duplicate confirmations and reminders.

The advantages to “promoting” through your Mobilize account are:

  • You will be able to monitor the sign-ups specifically created by your team (the account admins will see the global sign-up total)
  • Those who sign up through your event instance not currently on your list in Action Network will be added automatically

Does A Joint Event Make Sense For You to Co-Host/Promote?

Before you move too quickly to participate as a Co-Host in joint fundraising events, consider the following:

  • The financial ask at the event will be made by the Host using the Host’s links
  • Does the event feature a candidate or Sister District Co-Founder? Those particular special guests are valuable for building team camaraderie, recruiting volunteers, and developing leaders, in addition to fundraising. If you join an event for your candidate as a Co-Host, will you be taking off the table what otherwise might be a big opportunity for your own team-building efforts?

In short, we suggest events like Trivia Nights, Comedy Nights, Bingo, Talks with Authors and other Academics, Auctions, Music Events as generally great Joint Events opportunities for both Hosts and Co-Hosts. But consider the pros and cons of joint events with candidates or Sister District Co-Founders.

Suggestions for Effective Fundraising

Recruiting Matching Donors & Making the Most of Matching Donations

There is tremendous allure to potential donors of a “Matching Donation” to multiply the impact of their contributions. Great to have, but how do you find matching donors? We suggest exploring two approaches:

  1. Who do you know? Do an exercise to have leaders think through which of their friends might have the financial wherewithal to be a matching donor, and then coordinate to investigate and make asks for upcoming events/projects
  2. Ask a current donor. We recommend thanking donors contributing up to $999, as described in our How-To: Donor Relationship Management. If someone donates a larger amount, e.g. $250-$999, perhaps a subsequent ask after your thank you message might be if they would consider being a matching donor at an upcoming candidate fundraiser event.

Keep in mind that the amount of a matching donation offer matters in that it’s nice to have a larger number dangling out there for potential contributors, but a matching donation doesn’t have to be large to effectively motivate donors. It’s about how you make the ask, how you make the most of the idea of the match.

Making the Ask At Your Event

An effective donation appeal can make all the difference to your fundraising outcomes at an event. To prepare to make an effective financial ask at your next fundraiser, we invite you to do the following:

  1. Watch the 10 minute video of SD DC/VA/MD leader Rachel Madan make the ask at our 2021 Summit
  2. Read through the Case Study that features Rachel’s tips and entire 2021 Summit ask script
  3. Continue reading through the following

Though “the ask” needs to be tailored to set and setting and to your audience and appropriate for the culture of your team and your mission, there are several things you might want to consider in preparation.

  1. Timing. You want to make the ask at a point in the event when people feel connected and fired up about the mission/project. In terms of timing, you want people to feel like they’ve — wholly or mostly — experienced the entertainment or education or togetherness they showed up for. For example, we suggest making your asks at a candidate appearance event after the candidate has spoken and before Q&A and then again after Q&A. See these sample agendas:
    1. Sample 30min Agenda for Single Guest Speaker Virtual Event
    2. Sample 45min Agenda for Two Guest Speaker Virtual Event
  2. Flow and Ingredients. Everyone has their own style and approach. You want to make it feel personal, and reflect shared values. It needs to feel positive and energetic. It needs to foreground the stakes involved and the prospects for good things happening as a result of your candidate winning. You want to focus on what we’re for much more than what we’re against. You want to connect the dots, in a general way, between donations and how they help a campaign win. You want to hit on highlights of the candidate’s background and goals if elected to office, and celebrate their courage for running. You want to telegraph togetherness and connectedness in your language. It’s great to communicate your fundraising goal and talk about different amounts people can consider giving. Make it comfortable for people who can’t donate, and use that as an opportunity to underline that you’re all in this together (e.g. thanks to those who can give more to cover those who can’t!). If you’re looking for where to begin, consider how the following ask works:

    Thank you so much to our courageous, wonderful candidate for speaking with us and being here with us today. We’ve heard a lot tonight about the stakes in this election — if she wins, she’s going to be a critical vote and voice for healthcare expansion, women’s reproductive rights, equity and social justice. We learned that her background as a teacher and a mom really informs the way she thinks about education policy. This is personal for me and for many of you in so many ways — as a teacher, I’m committed to doing everything I can to elect other teachers! She is exactly the type of candidate we need to be supporting with all of our might.

    We’re here because we want to help advance progressive policy and power in the states and we do this together by supporting candidates just like her. We’re very fortunate to have been assigned such a great candidate, and we’ve got her back all election cycle, each step of the way!

    And it starts right now.

    The campaign needs money to hire staff, get their message out to voters, pay their utility bills, fund advertisements and mailers. We’re putting a link in the chat right now — please click that link and give what feels good and appropriate for you to give. 100% of what you donate will go directly to her campaign. It might be that $50 is a level that feels right. Great. Maybe you want to go bigger — now is the time to do that! The earlier the money the better to jumpstart this campaign to become a winning campaign. Maybe you can’t donate right now, and that’s OK — others who can are going to donate on your behalf. There are other ways to help, which we’ll talk about after the Q&A. Our goal is to raise $2,000 here tonight, and we have a generous matching donor up to $500. Please donate what you can, we’ll move to Q&A now and then report on our progress after! Thank you so much!

  3. Track Progress, Thank and Celebrate. You can track donations in real time using your Fundraising Portal. It’s a great idea to explain your goal, take in donations, then come back and report on progress and make a second ask to close the gap to your goal. You want to thank profusely and celebrate your fundraising haul.

Pro Tip!
We suggest activating the chat with “Just donated! Thank you!” messages. Perhaps ask other leaders to help get the chat going in this regard. If people see that others have donated, they’re more likely to jump in!

Continuing the Ask After Your Event

We think about making effective donation asks at an event and in the promotion in advance, but what about after? Here are two ideas to consider for how to make the most of post-event financial asks:

  1. Send a mass email solicitation. You thank your candidate and those who attended, highlight a few things you learned about the candidate, the stakes of the race, the policy ideas the candidate will fight for, etc. Then you make a simple ask, something like “We nearly reached our fundraising goal of $2,000 – we’re $400 short. We have a matching donor jumping in to match $200, which will close the gap. Can you please donate $20.21?” We like this email sent by SD MA-RI after the April 7, 2021 New Virginia Majority State Bridges event:

  1. Send an email to those who signed up for the event. Some who signed up didn’t attend. Some who attended didn’t donate. Some who attended and donated might donate again. Give it a try!
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