Australia is only six to ten months away from a federal election, while voters in Victoria head to the polls in November this year, followed by voters in NSW in March 2019.

Political fundraising season is definitely upon us. This is the period before elections when the major players pull out all the stops to raise a war chest to fight the upcoming campaign.

With three big elections close together, party organisations are sweating the pressure of having to raise even more than usual.

It’s during this period that many organisations find themselves with multiple invitations to fundraising events. It can be quite overwhelming and there is a temptation to abstain from attending any political fundraising events to avoid accusations of being too close to one particular political outfit.

Here’s some tips to dealing with the risks and opportunities associated with the political fundraising season.

  1. Think long term – While it’s tempting to view the price-tag of a fundraiser in the ‘here and now’, remember advocacy campaigning is about the long game. Attending fundraisers is a great way to start or continue to develop your post-election working relationship with key targets.  
  2. Going to nothing is a risk – A number of organisations have decided not to attend political fundraisers in an attempt to seem bipartisan or apolitical.  In reality, your unwillingness to show any support is what’s remembered and you risk ending up with zero relationship on both sides.
  3. Try to pick fundraisers relevant to your organisation – This seems intuitive, however some organisations jump at the first fundraising opportunity without thinking whether it’s advantageous to their post-election advocacy objectives.  Spend your fundraising dollars where it’s going to do you the most good.
  4. Spread the love – The advantage for advocates during fundraising season is it’s possible to have a bet each way. Both major parties expect organisations to give some love to both sides, which makes it an excellent opportunity to show support without showing bias.
  5. Keep a small ‘bail out’ fund – Late in the season there are always a few MPs late out of the gate when it comes to raising funds for the campaign. Sure, they may have a good Minister arranged for a lunch or dinner, but most organisations have already done their dough on earlier events!  Here’s where you can be remembered as the knight in shining armour, saving a tardy MP’s bacon.
  6. Offer to host – Some organisations have very strict rules when it comes to attending fundraisers. They don’t want their name on any official receipts or invoices for any political party. In this case, offering to host the event – providing a room and catering – without making any sort of payment can be as much a help as taking a place at a fundraiser.
  7. Don’t overlook the little fish – Many organisations reject out of hand invitations to attend fundraisers for backbench MPs. Post-election they may find that said backbencher is now a Minister and responsible for issues directly relevant to them – oops! Assess every invitation carefully and make an educated decision. The best possible outcome is that a newly minted Minister remembers the support you gave when they sat on the backbench.