Every successful organization realistically estimates its financial needs in advance and builds a plan for raising necessary funds.
In the Democratic Party of Oregon, County Parties, Caucuses and, if they desire, CDs, should draft a plan for the two-year cycle, prepare a corresponding budget and strategy for fundraising, and start early — well before the campaign season begins.
The first step is to create a plan for building an organization that is well-prepared for the upcoming campaign. A good question to ask, whenever considering what the group will do is: “How will this help us win?”
If the answer isn’t a clear positive, rethink the plan, add some new activities, and replace “We’ve always done it this way,” with “What can we do differently?”
With a plan in place, it’s time to create a budget — not based on what funds are in the bank at the moment, but based on what is actually needed to work the plan effectively.
A group must actively engage in fundraising, so it can effectively organize and communicate with the voters. It is important to “sell the vision” when asking for donations. Donors will give to the party organization when they know how the funds will be used and have confidence in the people running the organization.
When planning any fundraising activity, the County Party Treasurer should contact the Oregon Secretary of State in advance to be certain what rules or limitations may apply and how to report funds received. This step will protect the party unit from compliance errors that could result in fines and bad publicity.
Caucuses and CDs should work with DPO staff to ensure any fundraising efforts they pursue are compliant with DPO rules and State and Federal law.
The best strategy for local fundraising events is to keep the cost to a minimum and the fun at the maximum. The ticket cost or suggested donation should at least double the cost per person. You can bring in extra money during the event by having someone do a fundraising pitch, having a raffle or auction, and by putting out donation envelopes in visible places.
Tips for keeping expenses low:
- Ask local businesses and volunteers to make in-kind contributions of food, drinks, decorations, raffle prizes, etc.
- Ask for non-profit discounts for everything you’re renting or buying for the event
- Have guests buy their own beverages
- Follow venue rules and clean up properly so you don’t lose any deposits
You should experiment with different types of events during the year to see what works: a house party for reliable donors; a banquet with a silent auction and featuring a guest speaker; screening a topical film; or holding a garage sale. Mix in new events with tried-and-true annual events to attract new supporters and keep things interesting for everyone.
This approach is quite expensive for a local party organization to use and unless the message is especially impactful, it is easy for the mail piece to be lost in the clutter and be cast aside.
A postcard promoting the activities of the local party unit and including the website URL where a donation can be made requires less postage than a letter, but design and printing costs are higher. A letter with a self-addressed return envelope or, better yet, a printed remittance envelope with space for the donor to fill in all necessary employment information, etc., may be somewhat less expensive to produce.
In any case, it is good practice to rent a post office box for the party unit, giving keys to the Treasurer and Chair, and then use this address for all correspondence and return mail — rather than a person’s home address.
A solicitation of donations by email is less expensive than direct mail and can reach a wider audience. Think about ways to make your emails stand out from other emails people may be receiving from Democratic organizations. Promote activities and initiatives in your area that would interest potential contributors and spur them to click on the link and donate!
Special Rules for Caucuses
As caucuses, their committee, and local chapters are a part of the state party, not independent organizations, the DPO Bylaws gives the Party the responsibility to set policies for the activities of Special Group Caucuses. Be sure to refer to Section 14 of this Guidebook for specific rules and policies that exist for caucuses.
Special Rules for Congressional District Committees
As CD Committees are a part of the state party, not independent organizations, the DPO Bylaws gives the Party the responsibility to set policies for the activities of Congressional District Committees. Be sure to refer to Section 15 of this Guidebook for specific rules and policies that exist for CDs.
The DPO Check for Democracy Grant
The Democratic Party of Oregon receives a portion of the funds collected through the Oregon Political Tax Credit, and distributes these funds to our county parties through the DPO Check for Democracy Grant Program. Every even year we encourage our county parties to submit grant proposals for capacity-building projects to our Check for Democracy Grant Committee, which awards grants based on eligibility and merit. Over the last six years the average grant award was $500.
The two-year budget of the Democratic Party of Oregon is drafted by the Budget Committee and approved by the Administration Committee, Executive Committee, and the State Central Committee. The DPO Treasurer will review and give a report on the budget at each State Central Committee Meeting.
Major Fundraising Events
The Democratic Party of Oregon hosts several major fundraising events each cycle. Each year, the Wayne Morse Gala is held in Portland. This event has been held intermittently since the mid 1970s, but has been an annual event since 2010. The Democratic Party of Oregon also hosts a biennial conference called The Oregon Summit in Central Oregon, which we have been holding since 2001. The Oregon Summit features several days of panels and special guest speakers. These fundraising events also have opportunities for scholarships and volunteer opportunities to increase grassroots participation. Beginning in 2018, the DPO also now hosts the Nan Wood Honeyman Dinner in conjunction with our biennial Platform Convention.