We’ve been talking about some of the things that need to be done before you step out your front door as a candidate for public office. Today, a word or two about your preliminary budget.

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If you do not have a budget, you do not have a strategy. If your budget is not in writing, it does not exist. If your written budget has been constructed without thoroughly researching what it costs to hire staff, pay the rent, the electric bill air the TV or radio commercials, send the persuasion mail, and build the website, then you don’t have a real budget. You have a disaster waiting to happen.

What kind of disaster?

There was once a woman running for Governor of California. The race was close and she was on the verge of overtaking the incumbent Governor going into the last weekend of the campaign. When it came time to cut the check to the TV stations for the final weekend TV buy, she discovered that the money had already been spent on other things. She went dark on TV during the last four days of the campaign just as voters were making up their minds. That mistake ended her career in public life.

Divide your budget into two parts.

That which I will call direct voter contact, and that which we’ll call overhead.

What is direct voter contact? Those are the tools you use to communicate directly with voters. Benchmark and tracking polls. Your website. Social Media. Internet ads. Television. Radio. Persuasion Mail. Professional phone banks. Newspaper Advertising. Yard Signs. Your door to door operation.

What is Overhead? Staff. Consultants. Headquarters. Rent. Utility Bills. Accountants. Legal Counsel. Fundraising Costs. Candidate and staff travel.

You will need to budget for both. And the trick will be to avoid spending too much of your money on overhead at the expense of your advertising budget. You can have the best paid staff, the highest paid consultants, the nicest office space and great looking furniture. Whoopee. That is a good way to lose an election if those luxuries come at the expense of your advertising budget. Your message is what wins an election, and if you do no advertising, no one will ever hear your message.

This is a general rule of thumb. You want at least 2/3rds or more of your budget going to direct voter contact— the tools you use to communicate your message directly to voters. One third or less should go to overhead.

One note of caution about constructing the budget. No guesswork. No guestimating. Real Numbers. It is essential that you have an accurate picture of what things cost. And it is equally important that you know when you are going to spend how much on what. Yes, you need to break your budget down month by bloody month.

Boring? Yes. Essential? Yes, unless you like losing, or ending a campaign in debt, or being stuck with a stack of bills on your kitchen table and people lined up at your door demanding their money.

Don’t let that happen to you.

This past election season I was involved in more than 2 dozen campaigns. Every single one had a budget. Nobody ended their campaign in debt. All programs were fully funded and all funds went to wherever they need to go right on schedule. And everybody slept well at night knowing that we were always at or under budget.

Have Questions? Call me at 845-458-1210If you’d like a copy of the budget template I use, with a line item list of things you should budget for, email me at [email protected]. I’ll send it to you. Just put budget template into the subject line.

Last Week’s Video: Running for Office? Preparing for the Campaign: Issue Research

Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

How to win an election:

Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.

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