Conservatives tend to look at political donations the way they look at giving to charity or paying dues in an organization. Politicians and political groups capitalize on this.
Thus, political fundraising letters have the same feel as direct mail from your favorite charity: “I need your help to carry on the fight against Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and her liberal cohorts.” Conservatives have also gotten used to political groups borrowing persuasion methods from ransom notes: “If we don’t raise $100,000 by midnight Tuesday, we’ll be unable to stop the destruction of this country by the far left.” Other letters try guilt: “I have to wonder if you’re really committed to the values we share.”
The effectiveness of such fundraising methods has waned for a variety of reasons: the fundraising scandals at the Republican National Committee; the National Republican Senatorial Committee throwing in behind Charlie Crist only for Crist to leave the GOP and take the money with him; and the National Republican Congressional Committee’s wasted half-million-dollar investment in Dede Scozzafava, who endorsed the Democrats. Thus, while the GOP is favored to gain seats this fall, its donor base is not turning a political edge into a cash advantage.
If conservatives want to change their fundraising fortunes, they must change the way political giving is viewed. Political giving should be considered an investment in the future of the country. Leaders who govern according to conservative principles and groups that forward conservative values help to preserve and maintain an environment that allows for economic freedom and the preservation of the American way of life.
To begin thinking like investors, conservatives need to look at three key points:
1. What they hope to achieve
A donation to a candidate who faces token opposition will have little return. The only thing you’re giving the incumbent is an “attaboy” or “attagirl,” and money they don’t need. Donations to a candidate in a tight race, however, can actually turn a race.
We should also support candidates who may not be able to win their race but are strong prospects for future political success. An example is the Senate campaign of Indiana state Senator Marlin Stutzman, who received generous support from conservatives. While Stutzman lost to Dan Coats in the Senate race, his strong second place finish led local Republicans to nominate him to replace Mark Souder in the U.S. House.
The same goes for political organizations. Before conservatives give to any organization, be it the Heritage Foundation, the American Conservative Union, or the Family Research Council, they should have a strong grasp of what the organization’s goals are and what it’s doing to achieve them.