Fundraising strategies for women candidates



Fundraising strategies for women candidates

What are some strategies that women have used effectively to raise money? What makes some women very successful fundraisers? What fundraising techniques work best in different political environments (i.e.: corporate donors, direct appeal to individuals, fundraising events, etc.)? What are some networks that women can draw upon for help in raising money?

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WCFF's picture

Female candidates should be sure to remember a key constituency they can access when fundraising - women donors. There are several values that are most inspiring to women and to mobilize women donors, these drivers are key.

Impact - Women need to see the impact elected officials have on the issues women care about.

Inspiration - Women need to be inspired to get involved and are more motivated to give if contributing to candidates is reframed as a civic or social responsibility.

Information - Women find information to be a powerful motivator and make extensive research a prerequisite to financial investments of all types.

Inclusion - Women want to be included in decisions about how funds are spent, and are more inclined to give if they have a sense of how their contribution will be spent.

Interaction - Women want to interact as part of a larger movement – the idea of joining forces with others through small donations is very motivating.

You can read more about our research on women and political giving to learn how to tap into this network for female candidates:

Lissy Moskowitz
Women's Campaign Forum / Foundation

Nurgul Djanaeva's picture

One thing to share - importance of the long term approach. We have started raising funds for women candidates long before the elections. we found that it is very difficult but possible. Within on long term comprehensive program of preparation of 50 women candidates there is a financial program, which includes raising money from potential voters from sites, constituencies. For making this process efficient we have set up a separate financial council from women's network with the aim of accountability and responsibility for this work. It was and is one of the challenging processes, but we hope that in future it will lead not only to collected significant amount of funds, but to creating long term voters' commitment to certain women candidates. Another possible resource - business people from constituencies. But probably this strategy won't work if it is not long term, and has several layers of approaches to public, part of which is business community.

Nurgul Djanaeva
Forum of Women's NGOs of Kyrgyzstan

gitonga's picture

From my experience working with women in politics in Kenya, I learned that for any fundraising strategy to succeed, TIME is everything. This especially applies to women in developing countries. They have to plan way in advance like the male counterparts do, then implement the 4 circles in Emily list. The list is a brilliant idea.

In essence, women in developing countries, especially Africa, MUST lay the ground work very early, that requires a clear vision for at least a whole election term. Hence, if the next election is in 2012, a woman should have made up her mind by now (2008), that she will be running for a political seat and rolled out her fundraising strategy.

The main barrier in this region, developing countries, is that; taking into consideration that women already have scarce resources, they fundraise on the election year, making them vulnerable to their political parties, especially in countries that lack policies/legislation on funding political parties.Even those that have policies, the political parties patrons are still manipulative.

Secondly, The women's movement, especially those in gender and governance initiatives; NGO's, CSO's e.t.c, implement women political participation programmes too LATE!!! This is either on the election year or a year before elections.
Noting that most of the programmes do not reach as many women, they build the capacity of women in goal setting, the political system e.t.c when its too late.

Until all players rethink and understand that TIME is paramount for any fundraising strategy to work,we'll keep running around at the last minute gathering up what we can, whereas the men will be hundreds of miles ahead on the campaign trails.

Developing fundraising strategies that are time bound will ensure that Women not only have time to review their political strategies within present and future political dynamics, but also have the ability to negotiate for space, approach as many people and institutions as possible in each of the funding circles and share experiences with other potential women especially in the grassroot areas. This also implies focus, harmonization and SUCCESS of efforts put by all interested players.

SUCCESS here being more women in national parliaments, local government and diplomatic appointments!!!!

Olfa Tantawi's picture

The question of women getting the financial support in the world of politics , I believe, needs to be addressed differently. Why do some women get support and others don't? why would any one anywhere in the world support a female candidate rather then the opposing male candidate?

I believe the point to highlight in any fundraising strategy, is not gender but trust.

Another very important question is about voters, are they gender blind or not? And when do they become gender blind by choice?

If there is a gender bias in a community then addressing this bias by stressing the quality of education, knowledge, experience, wide connections, good reputation...etc is one key. Another, is simply to address interests. Supporting a candidate financially means supporting a political agenda. If in the society addressed there is some common approach, a practical strategy that will serve the people, the society at large and suits the objectives and strategies, ideologies of the financing body, then there is a basic common language.

In a political party, especially in third world countries, largely the bias for advancing male rather then female candidates is a result of some male fraternity circle, they understand one another, they bond beyond politics, this is where women are at a great disadvantage.

However, when a woman earns the trust and the high respect of the party leaders and colleagues, she is usually stronger then any rival candidate, suddenly gender becomes at this point an advantage, an added value, it would be to them like getting two in one, a trust worthy candidate, with all the advantages of a male colleague who is also, a woman.

Getting support for women is, thus, a long process of image construction and connecting.

yet in my view, relating to the people, the voters, long before any election, gaining their trust , as an active servant of the public interest is often the best strategy. This is because, funding a likely winner male or female is always a good investment, financially, and politically.

Olfa Tantawi

Media Researcher&Journalist
The American University in Cairo

kateatemily's picture

Women and Raising Money for Political Campaigns
By Kate Coyne-McCoy
October 22, 2008

In 2008 no one running for office in most corners of the world can deny the essential need to raise money. In order to win elections, candidates must communicate a consistent message to voters. In most electoral campaigns the number of voters a candidate needs to communicate with in order to win is a large number: there is never enough time to meet every voter needed to win. To effectively communicate candidates at all levels must employ mass communication strategies including television, radio, mail, and advertising. These things cost money. Lots and lots of money.

Now, close your eyes and imagine that you are back in grade school, and you have taken the bus to your friend’s house after school. You call your mother and say “Mom, I just invited myself to dinner at Susie’s” If your mother is anything like my mother, she gasps, is horrified, and says “we don’t invite ourselves to dinner, come home right now young lady!”

Now, many years later, I am going to suggest that not only are you going to invite yourself to dinner, but when you get there, you are going to ASK FOR MONEY! It is unnatural, especially for women. It goes against everything ingrained in our make-up. We are terrific givers, but we are not good askers. If we want to change the world by serving in elected office- we had better improve.

I ran for a seat in the US Congress in 2000. In the course of 18 months I raised $750,000., ran a competitive campaign, but lost. I have since traveled across the US training women to raise the money they need to win elections. It isn’t that hard. What it takes is discipline, willingness, confidence, and nerve.

The thousands of women I have present with many of the same barriers to raising money, and many of them make the same mistakes. I am going to outline some of the rules and the process of a successful fundraising operation. If a candidate follows a few simple rules, and commits to engaging every day in the process, they will raise money.

The system I use to train candidates was developed in the US by the country’s largest political action committee. EMILY’s List was established in 1985 to recruit train and support Democratic women seeking local, state and federal office. For more information about EMILY's List go to

First, people give because they benefit in some way from the giving. There are four circles of benefit; the personal circle is the first. People in the personal circle are your family and friends, your close neighbors, your classmates. These people are the foundation of every campaign. This is the first money you ask for- it is the early money. People in the personal circle give because they love you. They benefit because they want you to be happy. They know you. They are FOR you. Women often are hesitant to ask personal family and friends for money- I say to those women- you aren’t asking for money so you can buy new shoes, you are asking to change the world- or a little piece of it.

The second circle of benefit is the ideological circle. These are the people who share your values or positions on a cause. Colleagues in the women’s rights movement, members of labor organizations, environmentalists- people who share your issues. Your message to them is “you know when I am elected that I will work on fill in the blank because we have worked together on that issue. I will carry the water. Give me money. Think of where you have been, issues you believe in and what you have supported. The people in this circle will give you money because they want elected leaders who share their values.

The next circle of benefit is the axe to grind circle. The people in this circle don’t give a hoot about you they dislike the other guy- your opponent. They benefit because you aren’t the opponent. This circle of contributors will give after you have built a foundation, after you demonstrate some viability to win.

The last circle of benefit is the power circle. People in this circle are powerful and desire to protect their assets, usually their economic assets. Examples might include the President of the Chamber of Commerce, the states largest employer. These people give late in the campaign because you are going to win and they want access to you. You don’t have to agree with them on everything, in fact you may disagree on many things. Power circle members don’t want to wake up on the day after the election and discover you won and they weren’t part of your victory. Women often make the mistake of going after this money too early in the campaign- again, these folks give because you are going to win and they want their assets protected.

So you now have four circles, and four messages designed for each circle:

Personal – You love me
Ideology- You share their values or a cause
Axe to Grind you aren’t the other guy.
Power You are going to win and they want access.

Make four excel spreadsheets, make lists of people you know in each circle. You have the foundation for a fundraising operation. Now what?

The process of asking for money is the same whether you are asking at an event, in person, on the phone, or in the mail. I would strongly urge you to consider using the phone as your major source of fundraising and events, which are more expensive and less effective, should be used only rarely during a campaign.

There are 7 steps.
1. Establish rapport- make a connection between you and the donor.
2. Hit the donor in the needs: tell them how they benefit.
3. Explain what the contribution will do for the campaign- what will it buy?
4. Convince the donor you can win.
5. Ask for a specific amount (ask for something and you get nothing)
6. Shut up. First one to talk loses.
7. Collect.

I know how hard this is. I do it nearly every day with a candidate. I remember vividly the first time I asked someone for money. I was curled up in a fetal position with my eyes shut and my fingers crossed. Practice makes perfect. If you can get yourself to a training do that. In the beginning you will stumble and have bad days- just keep going. Ask as many times, as many ways for as much money as possible. Until women start to ask, they can’t win. And if woman can’t win, we can’t change the world. From where I stand- the world needs a lot of change.