As an election year dawns, associations are gearing up to advocate for their members in 2020. Learn what political action committee managers are doing to maximize their effectiveness.
Managing a political action committee—small or large—takes time, knowledge, and preparation. There are Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports, primaries, retirements, rapidly changing political dynamics, donors to educate and motivate to open their wallets, and contribution decisions to be made. On top of this, PAC managers must also develop post-election reports analyzing the effectiveness of their strategies to share with members. With the glow of the holidays receding, here are five things PAC managers are doing to prepare for the upcoming busy season.
PAC managers need to plan rigorously this year to make sure they don’t miss a filing or an opportunity. The 2020 calendar contains 50 state primary elections, presidential primaries, two national party conventions, three special elections, and only 25 full or partial DC workweeks scheduled for the House before voters go to the polls in November. In addition, there are Lobbying Disclosure Act filings and FEC filing dates that cannot be ignored. Add to that solicitation drives and prior-approval forms that need signing.
Planning out monthly or quarterly newsletters ahead of time is a best practice to keep you on track and your donors engaged. Theming them can help focus your content and allow you to restate your points in different ways. Remember, 50 percent of readers are visual, meaning they won’t read the text, so use pictures to inform them.
Julie Schrei, principal of Schrei Solutions, says PAC-related communications must be informative and consistent. Newsletters should go out monthly. We are all super busy, and it’s easy to let a publication date slide, but donors will grow to expect and appreciate your consistency.
First it was Super PACs that confused donors; now Scam PACs are a thing. In addition, some members of Congress shun corporate PACs, but will accept personal or trade association contributions. And last year, two democratic congressmen introduced legislation to ban corporate PACs (H.R.5129). With all this happening, how are PAC managers coping and correcting any misinformation that is out there?
Ellie Shaw, a co-leader of the PAC PALS, the networking community for PAC professionals, runs American Express’ PAC and believes education is key. She plans a two-prong approach to prep for their spring fundraising drive by working with their employee resource groups to educate staff about the PAC and leveraging the built-in election year activities, while encouraging current contributors to increase their payroll deduction.
For most PACs, the “About Us” or “PAC FAQ” page is what potential donors will see first, so take advantage of the opportunity to educate readers. Next, since nothing turns off readers quicker than an outdated message, make sure your PAC solicitation materials and messages are up to date.
With more than 45 House seats and five Senate seats being vacated and more announcements expected, it’s likely the PAC budget crafted a year ago will need some tweaking. Maintaining a reserve is always a good practice. This will afford you the resources for debt retirement for races you weren’t active in. However, be cautious of having too much money in reserve, as it can be viewed negatively by donors.
Linda Auglis, who manages the National Beer Wholesalers Association PAC, will be working with NBWA’s political team to re-evaluate their targets and adjust contributions accordingly.
One best practice is making sure you are contributing to your targets. Consult with your PAC’s board when allocating funds to support current allies, develop new relationships, or hold onto resources to take advantage of opportunities early in the next session of Congress.
As the primary season progresses, both parties will be touting their next generation of leaders. Contributing to open seat candidates can be risky as more than one leading candidate has flamed out, but the reward for supporting early will always be remembered.
A best practice is to consult frequently with local stakeholders about candidates they think should be supported before endorsements are made.
Nathan Fisher, who runs ASAE’s PAC, plans to examine candidate recruitment and keep an eye on who is winning open-seat primaries. He will be looking for an opportunity to educate or help a candidate ASAE members have identified as worthy.
Studies show a handwritten thank-you note is better than an email and that donors respond well if you can connect the donation to a component or result of your campaign. A best practice to consider: send an email acknowledging the donation and follow-up with a mailed thank-you note.
The election season is quickly approaching, but with smart preparation, you can make sure you don’t miss important dates and are prepared to take advantage of opportunities.