Make your finances more professional

Make your finances more professional

Mary Robb D. Teague

A wise Georgetown University professor often lectured, “Do not put yourself in the spotlight until you are ready to become a target.”

Those who run for office, whether a well-entrenched incumbent or a new kid on the block, stand in the spotlight before the public and the opposition.

Any campaign with money is a target. Yet any candidate who is not raising money cannot be taken seriously. When dealing with campaign dollars the call for strict, accurate and professionalized financial operations is no longer a luxury. Smart money management and compliance with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is critical to the livelihood of any campaign.

Most small campaigns rely on loyal and trusted employees, including friends and family members, to run their financial operations. Frequently those staffers are not trained to perform FEC operations, serve as financial and legal advisors, and develop and maintain relations with fund-raisers to maximize profits. Not only is there a risk in failing any one of these demands, but the advantage to using a financial service is too great to disregard.

Hiring campaign financial professionals saves you money, consolidates your business, and protects you from ill reporting and discrepancies in book keeping. It guarantees organization, stability and accuracy. It means access to the greatest legal advice; counselors who know the rules and understand the gray areas of a complicated set of laws. Professionalizing your financial reporting operations also means protecting yourself from media scrutiny, because no FEC report should ever be submitted without proper paper backing for every transaction.

Here are some tips:

Save Money. By utilizing a campaign financial service you save on the cost of additional employees and allow your staff to focus on their area of expertise, such as constituents in the district or special interest issues. Your team is now able to work specifically on organizational, fund raising and grass-roots operations. In addition, you can now have a virtual office saving you the cost of rent and utilities, and helping you to skim superfluous expenses.

Choosing one financial service not only saves money, it ensures that the money that is available is used wisely and efficiently. A campaign checkbook must be in safe hands by avoiding multiple signers. A financial service works closely with the candidate and staff to help them achieve greater control of their money and to offer them regular, thorough fiscal reports.

It should be equally expected that checks are generated and delivered in a matter of minutes to D.C. fund-raisers and other functions. A financial service should always work closely with existing campaign fund-raisers to generate donor lists and offer advice about how to maximize contributor dollars. Your financial interests should be first at heart.

FEC Report Precision. Campaign financial services take the responsibility and pressures of day-to-day inputs and monitoring of FEC rules, regulations and deadlines off of the campaign’s shoulders. Contributions should be entered into the reporting system by the financial staff immediately. It should also be expected that any missing information is collected by the financial service for complete and accurate reporting.

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A financial service should carefully analyze the bills received. Through minimizing the number of expenses and evaluating the spending pattern, it can save the campaign money almost immediately. In addition, all bills should be paid promptly, and any unusual bills should be run by the campaign staff contact before being sent.

A financial service then prepares the FEC reports and submits them after they have been reviewed. The campaign benefits from the service’s access to top legal advisors and FEC experts, but it also has the option of running the report by an additional outside FEC consultant. Any financial service should have a bevy of outside advisors to assist with various issues and inquiries that may arise.

Value. The additional bonus to hiring a campaign financial service is the valuable analysis that the candidate and staff receive on a regular basis. Rather than hiring a service to strictly handle book keeping, expect a comprehensive report of your financial transactions for the same cost. This includes an evaluation of contributions and expenses, so that your campaign can maximize donations from each contributor, assess previous financial activity, and compare the costs and benefits of different fund-raisers and events. The financial service should go the extra mile to provide campaigns with monetary goals and suggestions to reaching those benchmarks.

The financial service should also prepare phone lists to help the candidate maximize the contributions from each donor. The service can compare contribution amounts from different individuals and organizations, and offer insight into target donors. It is far easier to get money from a person or PAC who has already given to the campaign than to seek a new contributor.

One Stop Shop. Housing financial operations under one roof helps campaigns function efficiently. Accuracy is guaranteed and advice is always on call by financial and FEC professionals who are devoted to more than book keeping, but also to yielding the highest contributor dollars and to building your fund-raising portfolios.

The power of a campaign is measured by the information, support, credibility and visibility that it has earned in the marketplace. A word of caution: Do not become visible to the public eye until you are ready, proud, and armed to become a political target.

Mary Robb D. Teague is a campaign financial consultant at Talent PayMaster, Inc. in Washington, D.C.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Campaigns & Elections, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group