Real Simple: Hosting a political fundraiser


Real Simple Magazine printed the following article. Thought I would share.

Hosting a Political Fund-Raiser

What to know when throwing a political party

Whether in support of a close friend’s run for city council or a well-established candidate’s campaign in a federal election, political fund-raisers are a wonderful way for concerned citizens to make more than just their votes count. However, hosting these events is a little more complicated than throwing one designed to help a local school or a nonprofit organization. Indeed, you can’t just jump into the political fund-raising arena armed with only good intentions and enthusiasm. Cindy Darrison, the managing director of Eliot Spitzer’s 2006 New York State gubernatorial campaign and a professor of campaign finance at New York University, offers the following advice on doing it by the book.

  • Know the rules. Depending on the level of the election in which you hope to get involved (local, state, federal), your fund-raising for the campaign will be governed by differing sets of regulations. You must contact the campaign-finance board for your jurisdiction to learn the limit on individual campaign contributions. Even if you don’t personally write a check to the organization, your event spending, which is considered an indirect contribution, cannot exceed this amount. You also need to find out whether you can accept corporate donations and how much money you’re allowed to receive in cash. “Always know the rules and play by the rules,” warns Darrison. “Because if you do it wrong, there are criminal penalties.”
  • Know the ropes. Once you’re up to speed on the financial protocols, you’ll need to address some practical concerns. Before you start planning any political fund-raising event, touch base with members of the official campaign. First check the campaign’s website for general information, then contact a representative by phone for specifics. Apart from the legal considerations, each campaign has its own guidelines covering the types of fund-raisers it typically hosts and how it plans them.“Often,” says Darrison, “a campaign will have a house-party kit — basically, a party in a box, with sample invitations, response forms, materials to hand out. And they may have particular rules: The candidate doesn’t do events in bars, for example, or they really need more neighborhood events.” Conferring with those who are intimately involved with the campaign’s long-term goals and strategies will ensure that your efforts are as effective as possible.
  • Know that every little bit helps. While the laws for political fund-raising may seem complicated or discouraging, don’t let them deter you from participating. Many people can and do plan fun, original events, including concerts, dinners, and cocktail parties with speakers. Even the smallest events can be helpful to a campaign. “If you’re bringing in new donors and votes,” Darrison says, “you don’t necessarily have to raise big money.”