5/Fundraising & Budget

Set a high and low estimate of how much money you need to win and design a strategy to reach these goals.

The cost of a successful campaign can range from nothing to tens of thousands of dollars. Be prepared for circumstances like falling short of fundraising goals or having to fight opposition at the last minute. Most campaigns do not have enough time to fundraise through direct mail. They generally raise funds (and in-kind donations) through personal contacts with potential donors.

Establish a Fundraising Committee

Selecting a fundraising (or finance) chair and committee is very helpful for campaigns that need to raise thousands of dollars. This committee will be responsible for raising the funds needed to win. Choose people who are respected in the community and have wide professional or social contacts. Experience in fundraising is helpful, but enthusiasm goes a long way.

Role of the Treasurer

The treasurer is in charge of creating and sticking to the budget, tracking all funds that go in and out of the campaign, and complying with campaign finance laws. The treasurer is also responsible for meeting the campaign finance reporting deadlines set down by the law and should be easily accessible to answer contribution questions.

Fundraising Tips

  • The core members of the campaign group should be prepared to make a donation that is significant for each individual.
  • A single donor or organization can make an early leadership gift as a challenge to the campaign. For example, the donor may pledge to contribute $1,000 if the campaign raises that amount.
  • Local land trusts and larger conservation organizations are likely donors to conservation ballot measures. These public charities are allowed to contribute to ballot question committees as long as the contribution falls within their lobbying limit defined by the IRS.
  • Local businesses may usually contribute to ballot question campaigns. These companies may be interested in maintaining outdoor recreation opportunities for their employees or inclined to support community initiatives that improve quality of life more generally.
  • Many campaigns hold one or more events to bring potential donors together with respected and persuasive members of the campaign. However, events are a lot of work. In a campaign with a short time line, the effort of holding an event may be more costly than the funds raised.
  • Whatever your fundraising method, don’t forget prompt, personal thank-you letters.

For more ideas, go to the website of the Grassroot Institute for Fundraising Training. Also useful: Fundraising for Social Change, by Kim Klein, Fourth Edition (Chardon Press Series 2001).
Remember: Contributions to the campaign are not tax deductible.

Sample pledge form 1

Sample pledge form 2

Sample fundraising letter 

With assistance from the TPL Action Fund, the 2008 Yes! Santa Fe Parks and Trails committee developed a plan to send three carefully timed and targeted pieces of mail to 10,000 households of likely voters. A designer and printer provided by the TPL Action Fund would keep costs down, but the committee still needed to raise $20,000 for the mailing. “I never in a million years thought we could raise that much money,” the treasurer said. The committee sought to match a large early donation, seeking contributions by spreading the word to everyone they knew. In the end, checks in small amounts came in from a wide range of people who cared about parks and trails. The committee ended up meeting its goals — and actually raised more money than any of the candidates on the ballot.

For up-to-the-minute election examples in your state, contact The TPL Action Fund.

Online Donations

Most campaigns create an informational website and also want to make online giving available. Unless your campaign strategy includes a lot of electronic outreach, the web will not be a large source of revenue for the campaign. Of the online giving tools, PayPal is generally the cheapest and easiest to set up. You can set up a PayPal Web Payments Standard account for free. Visit the website.

Budget Examples

Your budget depends greatly on your campaign plan, but almost all campaigns include at least one mailing to registered voters, and ideally a minimum of three.

Sample budget for a mid-sized campaign in Massachusetts.

Examples of how past campaigns worked with the money they raised.

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