What To Do Before Running For Office – Part 4: Cost Analysis

onducting a thorough cost analysis will give you an idea of how much money will be required to win your election.  To determine this number, look at the last three election cycles on the FEC website or via Open Secrets.  Look for any trends in the last three elections.  Have the numbers gone up, down or remained flat?  Be sure to determine the average money raised and money spent by each participant in all the races.  What information can you deduce from these numbers?  Next, match the money raised with the vote totals you reviewed earlier.  You will begin to see the dynamics of the prior races come into focus.  This narrative will inform the conditions you will likely face in your race.

Keep in mind, a sitting incumbent has a tactical fundraising advantage over a challenger because they can use their influence to sway donors and special interests to support their campaign.  It is unlikely—but not unheard of—that a challenger will outraise a sitting member of Congress.  That being the case, your goal should be to match your opponent’s fundraising dollar-for-dollar (1-to-1) or at least at a rate of 75% to 80%.  Anything less and it becomes difficult to fund the necessary operations of the campaign.  However, some campaigns have come out victorious after raising only a fraction of their opponent’s income, but these cases are the exception and not the rule.

Once you determine how much money you need to raise throughout the campaign, divide that number by 18 months (or however many months you will be fundraising and reporting to the Federal Elections Commission).  The result is your average required monthly fundraising target.  In real-time, your actual numbers may vary widely from this average, but at the end of the campaign—if you performed near your target—typically, your average should be close to this number (unless there are extenuating circumstances).  The purpose of determining your average monthly fundraising target is to provide a benchmark against which to measure performance.