Speaking with Authority (2001)

A Word on Raising Money and Organizing Women

Raising Money

“The difference [between men’s and women’s campaigns] is simply money, the availability of money…”
– Candidate

Like it or Not: The Most Important Factor is Money

While women candidates have become financially competitive in federal races, many of the women who ran for governor in 1998 lamented that they did not have sufficient financial resources to launch and maintain a winning campaign.

Candidates had different explanations for their lack of funds. For some women, it was a lack of an organized party structure in their state or a dearth of support from their national party organizations. Some cited gender as a factor.

Political, business and labor supporters were more likely to hedge their bets by giving more money to the male candidate in the race or simply giving the female candidate $500 when they should have given her $5,000.

“It’s one thing to get the women’s vote, it’s another thing to get the kind of business and monetary support that businesswomen can give.”
–Communications Consultant

Interviews with campaign fundraisers and managers revealed that some candidates resisted asking donors for large contributions and some consistently avoided their fundraising “call time.”

There are a number of preparatory steps a candidate for statewide office can take to improve her fundraising.

  • Develop a diverse and wide-reaching donor network. Go beyond the party and interest group networks. Mining new networks of donors through sports, law, business, healthcare and other professional connections is essential.
  • Establish a presence within the national women’s donor network. Whether a member of WISH List, EMILY’s List, or your party’s high donor circle, potential donors give more quickly when they know you and your record.
  • Be willing to ask, and ask big. No one is ever insulted if you ask for more money than they are willing or able to give.
  • Hire a strong fundraiser who will stay with you year-round. Put a solid and involved finance committee in place early in your campaign. The more people committed to raising the money you need to win, the easier it will be to reach your fundraising goals.
  • Raise money for others. Your donors don’t mind. They won’t wear out. Beneficiaries will reciprocate.

In the last three decades, more than 700 women have been nominated for United States Congress – and 131 have been elected. Comparatively, 53 women have been nominated for gubernatorial office, and 12 have been elected.*

Our conclusion is that despite the challenges unique to executive office detailed in this guide, convincing more women to run for gover- nor is imperative if we are ever going to see parity for women in gubernatorial contests.

Women must not be afraid to lose. Donors and supporters invest in a candidate’s political career long term, and name recognition is an advantage for a candidate running a second time. Former Democratic Governor Madeline Kunin, for instance, lost her 1982 bid for governor of Vermont, but came back to win in 1984. Kunin was reelected in 1986 and again in 1988.

* Center For American Women and Politics, National Information Bank on Women in Public Office, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University.

Round the Troops

When a woman runs for governor, a solid network of volunteers can be as important as support from a statewide network of opinion leaders. Individuals interested in electing women to higher office must organize at the neighborhood and community levels.

*Center For American Women and Politics, National Information Bank on Women in Public Office, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University.

Often local chapters of non-partisan organizations like the American Association of University Women, the YWCA, the National Association of Women Business Owners and other civic women’s groups are over- looked. The networks are there. Connect with them.

Better coordination between established political women’s groups and women’s campaigns could have a big impact on increasing the number of women governors.
Many of the candidates for governor in 1998 gave mixed reviews on the support they received from women’s organizations. These women noted that they received some support from women’s groups, but not as much or as timely as would have been optimal.

Regular communication between women’s political groups and women’s campaigns could go a long way in determining whether the priority after fundraising is field, media or press. These groups can have a major impact on getting the right voters to the polls.

As one candidate suggested, “My advice to other women is to find somebody who knows all the women’s organizations and get that person on as an organizer.”

The more volunteers, the better chance a candidate has of communicating her message through the most persuasive medium available: a personal recommendation from a friend or co-worker.

After all the research is analyzed and parsed for meaning, it is still up to us – each one of us – to do all that we can to elect women to the highest state office … Let’s get to work.