Fact: Running a successful campaign will require you to spend some money. Once you accept this unfortunate reality for what it is, building, managing and following an appropriate campaign budget will help you avoid unnecessary financial distractions during your campaign. We have included a few key guidelines to remember when building your budget below:

1) Be Realistic – don’t aggressively underestimate the cost of items, or what you might be able to get discounted. In fact, as a rule it’s generally better to overestimate; in this way you should always have more than enough wiggle room for any unexpected or additional costs

2) Budget from Election Day Backwards – when you have a whole year to campaign a lot of candidates find they run out of money – budgeting backwards helps you know how long you can run a sustained campaign

3) Ensure to leave room for contingencies – build a budget to 80-90% of your allowable limit because there will always be surprises along the way

4) Be sure to budget for items outside of your allowable limit as well. Items like fundraising and accounting are not considered part of your spending allowance, but be sure not to miss them in the budget

5) Keep checking in – once the budget is built, it is important to come back to see where your expenditures are in correlation to your expected limit

Prioritize your budget by major categories. Here is an example of typical expenses:

Office Expenses/Administrative 15%
Signs 15%
Print/Handout Material 20%
Website 5%
Voter Identification/Tracking 15%
Election Day/Advanced Voting 10%
Wages 5%
Contingency 15%

Sample Budget
We have included a basic sample of a campaign budget simply as a reference. Of course, this will vary greatly depending on the size of your race, and you may have different priorities for your campaign; but we hope this will help give you a concrete real-world idea of how a campaign budgets.

Sample Campaign Budget For Mayor of Town with 37,000 Electors

Base Amount for Head of Council $7,500.00
Amount Per Elector ($0.85 x 37,000 Electors) $31,450.00

Office Expenses/Administrative
Rent & Utilities $3,200.00
Phone $600.00
Internet $280.00
Computer Rental $700.00
Office Furniture/Supplies $740.00
Filing Fees $200.00
Insurance $120.00
SUB-TOTAL $5,840.00

Lawn Sign Poly Bags (Small) $2,000.00
Large Signs $3,000.00
Frames/Screws for Large Signs $300.00
Fuel for Vehicles $540.00
SUB-TOTAL $5,840.00

Print/Handout Material
Graphic Design $390.00
Literature $4000.00
Postage $2000.00
Newspaper Ads $1,400.00
SUB-TOTAL $7,790.00

Design/Hosting/Tech Support $1,947.00
SUB-TOTAL $1,947.00

Voter ID/Tracking
Polling $2,240.00
Phone Bank – Voter identification $3,600.00
SUB-TOTAL $5,840.00
Election Day/Advanced Voting
Advanced Voting – Telephone $595.00
E-Day Get Out the Vote – Telephone $800.00
Get Out the Vote Cards/Stickers $1,000.00
Get Out The Vote Postage $1,500.00
SUB-TOTAL $3,895.00

Accounting Services $390.00
Campaign Manager $1,557.00
SUB-TOTAL $1,947.00
Contingency $5,840.00
SUB-TOTAL $5,840.00
Office Expenses/Administrative $5,840.00
Signs $5,840.00
Print/Handout Material $7,790.00
Website $1,947.00
Voter Identification/Tracking $5,840.00
Election Day/Advanced Voting $3,895.00
Wages $1,947.00
Contingency $5,840.00
TOTAL BUDGET $38,939.00

Budgeting is a crucial aspect of running a successful campaign, and, no doubt, a key skill required if you succeed in your race and end up serving on council.

Depending on the size of your community, running for office can be expensive – however, it should be viewed as an investment in your term in office, rather than as an unfortunate inconvenience. A major part of this series is about preparing candidates for some of the tough realities facing them in this challenge, and financing the campaign is, and should be, a major consideration.

If you have decided to run, you should run to win, and that means being prepared. We encourage you to seek our experts and those who have run before to provide more detailed advice specific to your local race.

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