Fundraising Your First Political Campaign Doesn't Have To Be Awkward

by Morgan Brinlee
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Sure, you've heard of FOMO, but have you heard of FOTA? While FOTA, which stands for "fear of the ask," may be an acronym best known to those in the non-profit world, it can nonetheless be a challenging hurdle for those with dreams of running for political office. But while concerns over money and where you're going to get it are understandably anxiety-inducing, a fear of fundraising shouldn't keep young women from running for political office, EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock tells Bustle.

In a "Campaign Bootcamp" interview with Bustle's Emily Shire, Schriock says money is "one of the number one questions we get from every person who is interested in running for office." That makes total sense when you consider that running for office can cost thousands, even millions of dollars depending on the position you're after. A study by the Center for Responsive Politics, for example, found that in 2010, candidates who won seats in the House of Representatives spent, on average, roughly $1.4 million while the average cost of winning a Senate seat hit nearly $10 million. That's a lot of moolah.

But Schriock swears that raising money doesn't need to be the road block many potential candidates think it is. "The stumbling block for so many is, what am I going to do about the money?" Schriock says. "Here's the thing: We can teach you how to raise money. We can do this. We are very good at this."

In January, EMILY's List announced they'd raised more than $90 million during the 2016 election cycle, breaking the organization's previous record of raising $60 million in one election cycle. To date, the organization has raised more than $500 million to help recruit, train, and elect pro-choice Democratic women.

Through EMILY's List's new campaign Run to Win, pro-choice Democratic women interested in running for position in local, state, or national governments can attend candidate trainings geared at guiding them through "the basic nuts and bolts of planning a run for office," which includes fundraising. Schriock says EMILY's List works with candidates to practice how to ask for money.

But while the idea of raising thousands of dollars may seem daunting enough to keep some people from running for office, it doesn't need to be. "It is not that complicated," Schriock says. "You're going to have to raise money and you're going to have to ask people, not just people you know but the people that you've met in these organizations that you've worked to build your political connections."

Lauren Betesh/Bustle

To make things easier, Schriock suggests starting by approaching friends and family first. But she cautions against diving into fundraising without having done the appropriate research into the campaign finance rules attached to the office you're running for. "Every city, county, state, and federal government have different laws that relate to how you raise money as a candidate and what information you need to collect from a donor, and how you report those donations to the government," Schriock says. For those thinking about crowdfunding to raise money for their campaign, Schriock encourages thoroughly researching the ins and outs of the laws to ensure everything is legal according to the election you're participating in.

If the idea of asking other people for money, lots of money, still feels downright impossible, Schriock recommends looking at fundraising as an investment — not in you, but in the community. "Think of it this way, you're not asking for money for yourself, you're asking [donors] for an investment in their community, and in this community," Schriock says. "You're the vehicle for that investment."