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Campaign Boot Camp 13: Campaign Plan Details, Timeline, and Budget

(Thinking about running for office? RightVoter presents “Campaign Boot Camp,” a series of essential “how to run for office” rules for your campaign. For the full series, click here.)

We’ve covered the strategic side of the campaign plan, the “why.” (As in, “Why should I vote for you?”) Now it’s on to tactics.

A brief note: As we’ve mentioned before, your campaign plan will change. You’ll be constantly updating it. Your strategy and messaging may change due to a shift in events or media focus or opponents joining or leaving the race. The tactical side of your campaign plan will change due to the availability of resources: volunteers, money, and time. Your campaign consultants and staff need to be constantly monitoring the timeline and budget and be prepared for contingencies that are good (extra money, more volunteers) and bad (less money, bogged down voter contact efforts, fewer volunteers).

A traditional campaign plan will have five sections in the tactical section: the Political Plan, the Communications Plan, the Paid Media Plan, the Timeline and Budget, and the Finance Plan. (“Paid media” is paid advertising (television, radio, online, direct mail). “Earned media” is press coverage (news stories, letters to the editor, blog posts, social media shares) you earn through Communications.)

Political Plan

Your Political Plan covers how you will utilize your volunteer grassroots supporters to contact, identify, and persuade voters. Write a description of your grassroots organization and how you’re going to recruit volunteers. Create a list of tasks you’re going to (hopefully) get volunteers to perform.
You will need a coherent Voter Contact Strategy that follows the ID-persuasion-GOTV cycle. Who are you targeting?

Begin to build out a Precinct Walk Schedule and a Phone Schedule. How many voters are you targeting? How long will it take your callers/canvassers to ID them all? How many will need a follow-up persuasion contact? How many will be in your GOTV universe? Once you figure that out, you’ll need to start building a schedule to get it done. When do the walks start? How many volunteers can you expect? How many doors can they hit per hour if they’re knocking and delivering a simple ID script? (The answer is 25, by the way.)

Anything that involves recruiting, activating, organizing, and deploying volunteers goes in your Political Plan. (e.g. How are you handling the distribution of Yard Signs? When will they be ordered? When do they go up?)

Communications Plan

Write out a clear Communications Strategy, one that’s based on your Strategy and Messaging. What do you want to get to the press, and when do you want to get it to them?

Building from that Communications Strategy, create a Communications Schedule that is timed to reinforce your campaign’s Paid Media Plan. Will you be simply sending press releases? Holding press conferences? Placing op-eds? Calling in to local talk radio?

Who speaks for the campaign? How are press inquiries handled? Who updates the website and social media accounts? Write it all down.

Paid Media Plan

Your Paid Media Plan includes television, radio, direct mail, digital, and phones. Who is your target universe for each advertising vehicle? What is your message? Budget it out. Get it all onto the timeline.

Campaign Timeline

Let’s try an example here:

October 18 (Election Day -14)

Political
ID Canvassing Precinct 313, 314, 315.
Call-From-Home Calling Republican Absentee Ballot Request List
County GOP Meeting (Candidate Speaking, Staff Advance)
Yard Sign Replacement

Communications
Press Conference on Tax Plan
Letters to the Editor Deadline
Social Media Push to Share Tax Plan Post

Paid Media
Television Spot 1 (Bio 1) Running on Cable
Radio Spot 2 (Bio 2) Running on AM 610 and 104.5 FM
Direct Mail 4 (Contrast 1) in Mailboxes
Direct Mail 5 (Contrast 2) at Printer
Direct Mail 6 (AB Chase 2) in Final Edits
Digital Video 3 (Tax Plan Video) Launch
Live-Operator ID Phones to Likely Undecideds
Robo Calls to Push Town Hall Turnout

(That’s one day, and I simplified it.)

Campaign Budget

If you want to stick with the Campaign Timeline example above, your budget would be:

October 18 (Election Day -14)

Total Budget: $250,000
Raised: $240,000
Spent (Including Payables): $160,000
Cash on Hand: $80,000
Budget Shortfall: $10,000

(Again, that’s a specific number for a specific day. You need to be tracking your raised/spent/COH/shortfall weekly, at the very least.)

Finance Plan

The Finance Plan comes last because the goal is to win. So determine a strategy to win. Apply that strategy to specific tactics. Budget out how much your plan will cost. Raise the money to win.

Yes, the reality is that you’re going to be forced to do this backwards. There’s no such thing as a perfect campaign. You’re going to have conversations that begin with “How do we win with only 70% of our initial fundraising goal?” You’ll change your tactics nearly every day during the campaign. You’ll be forced to cut out a direct mail piece, shorten your digital run, utilize more paid phones to reinforce flagging volunteer calls, etc. But you need to start the campaign with the plan to win and then write a Finance Plan to raise the money to fund the plan.

Your Finance Plan should include specific goals for each week, month, and quarter, a list of your targeted potential donors, and the specific tactics you’re going to use to reach those donors: Candidate calls, finance committee calls, finance committee/large donor events, small dollar events, fundraising mail, fundraising email, online fundraising. How much money can you realistically expect from each tactic?

So there you have it: your Campaign Plan. You have a strategy. You have the tactics. You know when things will happen. You know how much it will cost.

Now get prepared to start making edits on Day One. (Oh, and if this seems like a lot, remember that this is a scaled down, simplified description.)