KB’s Blog

What the Ice Bucket Challenge Can Teach Us About Political Fundraising

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


Unless you pride yourself on your cozy existence underneath a rock, you have likely heard about the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” which has taken the Internet by storm the past few weeks.

If you aren’t aware, the Ice Bucket Challenge began as a viral campaign to raise money for ALS awareness and has spread rapidly across various forms of social media. Just how rapid has it been? The New York Times reported on August 17th that over 1.2 million #IcebucketChallenge videos have been posted to Facebook so far, and that the challenge has been mentioned more than 2.2 million times since July 29th this year.

And, get this — as of this blog posting, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $79.2 million in donations – compared with $2.5 million during the same time period last year .

According to ALSA, these donations have come from existing donors and (brace yourself here, fellow fundraisers)… 1.7 million new donors to the association.

As a fundraiser, I am undoubtedly impressed by that huge surge in receipts – but what is even MORE impressive is that second number: 1.7 million new donors to the cause of ALS awareness. Those of us involved in politics, which often deals in the currency of data and contact information, understand the amazing power of having that many new contacts, emails and individuals plugged into your cause.

So, “the Challenge” has proved to be a tremendous success story for ALS. But what can it teach us about political fundraising?

Disclaimer: I fully recognize that there is a significant difference between fundraising for a worthy non-profit, especially one that raises funds for such a devastating disease, and fundraising for a political candidate. However, I specialize in political fundraising and I believe that when you’re asking for resources, certain principles work across the board. 


So, What CAN this teach us about fundraising for candidates? 
  • It is possible to make fundraising viral!
    I will admit, this goes against many points that I often make on this blog and with my clients.  I do still believe that there is often no “Magic Fix” for political fundraising that will relieve candidates of the hard work of making calls and doing events. However, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge proves that it is possible to engage donors on a large scale using social media and a successful viral campaign. The key here is authenticity and the passion of your ‘seed participants.’  A campaign like this couldn’t work if it wasn’t original and coming from influential ambassadors – people who have strong reputations in the community, celebrities and local leaders.How this translates to political fundraising: It is possible to bring fundraising effectively into the world of hashtags, retweets and selfies – if its done effectively. Find strong ambassadors who can promote your cause and your campaign with passion and authenticity. Don’t try a new gimmick each week — pick one and stick to it. Make it original to you and your campaign. And please, on behalf of the entire internet…. don’t try to get people to pour buckets of ice water on their head. It’s been done.
  • Peer Pressure Works!
    Every good fundraiser knows that peer pressure isn’t just a high school phenomenon. Applied in appropriate doses, a little bit of peer pressure is an extremely effective way to cut through the clutter of your donors’ everyday lives and ensure they know the importance of your cause. What made the Challenge successful (among many things) was the pressure individuals felt to either pony up or ice up after being named by their friends and colleagues. After all, no one wants to look like they don’t care about a worthy cause like ALS awareness… and certainly no one wants to look cheap in front of their friends.What does this look like for political fundraising? Utilize your influence and influencers to remind your donors of the importance of your cause! You are working to make your community a better place and their investment is key to making it happen.Use individuals’ names! I am a huge proponent of host committees on invitations because it keeps individuals invested in your event. List your hosts on the invite, send updates with their current totals to the finance committee and allow for some accountability within your fundraising apparatus.
  • Even backlash can (sometimes) be good for your cause    Ok, stick with me here, folks…One thing that has fascinated me about the Ice Bucket Challenge is the wide variety of reactions that these videos have spurned. Frankly, its impossible to have something distributed so widely on social media without a few commentators posting their disgust for one reason or another. However, in the case of the Challenge, editorials calling it out for being “narcissism posing as altruism” or “inauthentic” have only served to increase awareness for the challenge and engage more people in the greater debate. This is a great example of  the old adage “there’s no such thing as bad press” – as ALS continues to raise money hand over fist through this challenge!Major Caveat – As a former PR professional, I do strongly believe that bad press exists – especially for fundraisers and politicians. I can think of thousands of examples of bad press, including but not limited to fundraising pitches involving poor taste, illegal contributions or inappropriate asks. 

    My point here is that oftentimes public figures avoid taking a risk because of potential backlash and miss out on the potential benefit. Keep in mind that sometimes the ‘haters’ who disagree with your campaign or your tactics are often doing you a favor. If you are confident in the appropriateness of your campaign, then brush it off and keep on fundraising!



Do you more thoughts on how the Ice Bucket Challenge translates into lessons for political candidates? Post them below!!





Campaigns & Elections 2014 Rising Stars

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments



C&E 2014 Rising Stars

Since 1988, Campaigns & Elections has recognized the up-and-comers of the campaign world with its coveted Rising Star award.

Over the years, Rising Star recipients have climbed to the heights of politics, launching dozens of successful consulting firms and guiding hundreds of successful state and federal campaigns.

This year, we’re proud to present 25 new Rising Stars. The class of 2014 will be recognized on June 16 at C&E’s annual Art of Political Campaigning Conference in Washington, D.C., and they’ll be joined by four members of our inaugural Rising Stars class: Stan Greenberg, Celinda Lake, Neil Newhouse and Craig Shirley.


Kirsten Borman, 28



Founder, KB Strategic Group

Sink or swim. Treading water. Take the plunge. It’s the kind of language Kirsten Borman uses while training her candidates on the ins and outs of campaign fundraising. It’s borrowed, though, from her earlier career as a competitive swimmer, lifeguard and children’s swim coach on Florida’s Space Coast, where she grew up.

“When I get cynical and jaded and sick of politics, that’s my fallback job,” she says with a laugh. Not that her fundraising business is about to dry up. Borman, who counts Karl Rove and Lee Atwater as her role models, has made a smooth graduation from Tallahassee to Washington. She sees fundraising as a backdoor into greater influence over campaigns, candidates and potentially even the national party. “I saw a lot of opportunity in fundraising to make a bigger difference and a bigger impact,” she says.

That’s already happening. Borman was fundraising director for Florida Rep. Dan Webster (R) when he unseated liberal firebrand Alan Grayson in 2010. The following year she launched her own Capitol Hill firm and subsequently traveled the country for the RNC as part of its “Ready to Run” program that coached female candidates on how to launch campaigns.

“My personality is naturally suited to it,” she says of being a fundraiser. “I’ve always been tenacious and extremely driven.” Just as she coached kids to take their first plunges into the deep end in Brevard County, Borman now finds herself getting candidates excited for call time and evening fundraisers. “It is about encouragement and recognizing someone’s strengths,” she says. “Personalization is really important in fundraising.”

Campaigns & Elections: McCutcheon could boost candidates, parties

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

McCutcheon could boost candidates, parties 

by Sean J. Miller / Apr 02 2014

The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon v. FEC ruling has already been labeled a “disaster” and “scarier than Citizens United” by some reform groups. But for candidates and the national parties, who were marginalized four years ago by Citizens, it may be a boon.

The court’s decision to lift the aggregate contribution limits for individuals to candidates and national parties mean that major donors can now max out contributions of $32,400 to the three national committees of each party and aren’t bound by the aggregate biennial limit of $48,600 to candidates. Previously, they were limited to an aggregate limit of $123,200, of which only $74,600 could go to PACs and parties.

“The real winners will be national party committees,” says Neil Reiff, a campaign finance attorney at Sandler, Reiff, Young & Lamb. “It’s been the national committees who are able to find and cultivate these larger donors. If an individual wants to triple max each year to the three national committees, that is $194,400 for the two-year cycle, way more than the aggregate limit.”

As there were only about 650 rainmakers making contributions at that level last year, says Kirsten Borman, a GOP fundraising consultant, “this doesn’t affect a huge segment of the donor population.”

But it does change how the many candidates who chased these big donors operate.

“While normally there is a ‘race’ amongst certain candidates and elected officials to secure large contributions from these ultra-wealthy, mega-donors before they hit their biannual limits, that necessity will be gone,” she says. “With increased freedom for donors to give as they desire, we’ll likely see donors give to more candidates instead of Super PACs and other entities.”

With more money on the table, candidates will be spending more time soliciting, which means more time dialing for dollars.

“Candidates will have more call time,” says Lisa Wagner, an Illinois-based fundraising consultant. “Now donors have no reason they can’t give.”

Do You Measure Up? …. Time to find out.

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Campaigns and Elections, Fundraising | 0 comments

(Also posted Campaigns & Elections blog, found here )

Campaigns have to create their own metrics. After all, we don’t make widgets, we elect (or defeat) candidates. And like any business or professional venture, campaigns must be constantly measuring their progress and pushing the candidate to succeed.

If you aren’t holding yourself and your candidate accountable with objective metrics, you’re setting yourself up to slack off. In fact, you may already be slacking off.

Many people think the only metric that counts towards your success is dollars received. After all, fundraising is objective – you’re either raising or you’re not, right? Wrong.

Fundraising is a temperamental business and just because you have a good week doesn’t mean that next week is going to be equally good. It’s important to keep the heat up and the pressure on until you hit or surpass your goals. If you aren’t tracking your efforts, it’s impossible to hold yourself accountable.

What’s a candidate or campaign staffer to do?

I recommend establishing clear, measurable goals each week and making these goals well known. For example, you may give a candidate the following goals for the week:

  • Calls: 200
  • Events Booked: 3
  • Pledges/Commitments: $25,000
  •  Receipts: $15,000

These goals should be slightly uncomfortable but not totally impossible. Just like any new skill, fundraising requires discipline and a bit of personal growth. You want to push the candidate to go out of their comfort zone and allow them to succeed — and then keep going.

From a fundraising perspective, the “calls made” goal is a great stat to measure. I’ve found that most candidates will increase the amount of money they raise simply by ramping up the quantity of calls they make — provided, of course they’re making the ask effectively.

Other helpful metrics include measuring events booked, pledges received, meetings attended and, of course, monies raised.

Remember, if you aren’t setting goals and keeping track, you’re probably slacking off. And there’s a good chance your opponent isn’t making the same mistake.


Kirsten Borman is a nationally recognized Republican fundraiser and founder of KB Strategic Group, a Washington, D.C.-based firm specializing in personalized fundraising consulting. Her clients have included several members of Congress, candidates for federal office, PACs, committees and gubernatorial candidates.


In Fundraising, Silence Has Power

Posted by on Jan 28, 2014 in Campaigns and Elections, Fundraising | 0 comments

In Fundraising, Silence Has Power

Note: This blog is also available on Campaigns & Elections Magazine “Campaign Insider” Blog


What do Beethoven’s 5th symphony, a library and an effective fundraising ask have in common?

They all require silence in order to be effective.

If a candidate is especially new at the fundraising process, they’ll often rush through each step of their fundraising calls to get to the critical “ask” portion. They’re in such a hurry that they scarcely give their donor a moment to get a word in edgewise. Whatever the reasoning, don’t allow your candidate’s questions to crowd the donor out of his or her answer.

Silence, during these exchanges, is important for many reasons. Not only does it allow your donor to respond fully to your answer and have time to respond accurately. But the silence is also critical to add the necessary weight to your request.

Don’t get too worried if the pause becomes lengthy while your potential donor formulates a response – and certainly don’t jump in and offer other options. Allow the donor to respond to your question before offering alternatives or further information.

Assuming you’re speaking with adults capable of making their own decisions, you don’t need to help them out or soften the blow. Give your donors the respect of allowing them to say, “yes” or “no” to your request.

And remember, the next time you ask a donor for money, bite your tongue after your ask. The silence is just as important as the ask itself.


P.S. – be sure to check out last week’s blog post “Make The Ask” for more on the essentials of the fundraising ask!

Kirsten Borman is a nationally recognized Republican fundraiser and founder of KB Strategic Group, a Washington, D.C.-based firm specializing in personalized fundraising consulting. Her clients have included several members of Congress, candidates for federal office, PACs, committees and gubernatorial candidates.


KB’s Top 5 Fundraising Mantra’s: #1 – Make The Ask!

Posted by on Jan 8, 2014 in Campaigns and Elections, Fundraising, Politics, Top Lists | 0 comments

KB’s Top 5 Fundraising Mantra’s: #1 – Make The Ask!

Now we come to #1 in my “Top Five Fundraising Mantras,” my ongoing series to highlight the five pointers I find essential to fundraising success. While working with candidates and fundraising staffs, I often find myself repeating these five tips so often that they have become ‘mantra’-like. Though there are certainly many tips that are important to remember, these are the few I find myself accentuating most frequently.


KB’s #1 Tip: Make The Ask!

Note: This blog post is also available on CampaignsandElections.com 

Of all the fundraising advice I give, “make the ask” is the phrase I find myself repeating most often. This advice may appear simplistic, but it addresses what is the Achilles’ heel of many candidates and campaign fundraising structures.

Oftentimes candidates or fundraisers truly believe they are making “the ask” because they’re saying all the information regarding their request, but they leave out the part they’re most unfamiliar with. They’re checking all of the seemingly correct boxes while leaving off the most important item on the list: Directly and concisely asking for what they want.

An inexperienced candidate will often engage in small talk, discuss the campaign, ask about a particular issue that’s important to the donor, maybe even a comment about how they really need to raise money. Still, they’ll neglect to make “the ask.” They’ll come away from the interaction believing they have successfully impressed the donor, when in fact they’ve lost their perfect moment, and possibly lost that donor’s respect as well.

The major donors you want to support your campaign are business leaders, entrepreneurs and dealmakers. They respect direct behavior and understand that by giving money to your campaign, they’re investing in a cause, candidate or movement. These types of people will respect you more if you ask for their support directly and politely, however they could easily think you less credible if you make innuendos, assumptions or beat around the bush.

What makes “the ask” effective? In my opinion, an ask must have a question, an amount and a date in order to qualify as a successful request. Without these elements you aren’t asking, merely suggesting. Here are some examples:

  • Instead of:  “I’d love to have your support.”
    • Say: “Will you support my campaign by giving me $1.000 by the end of January?”
  • Instead of: “I’m looking for people like you to donate and help me hit my goals.”
    • Say: “I need to raise $10,000 by the end of the week in order to make our new TV ad buy – can you help by contributing $500 today?”
  • Instead of: “I hope you can attend my fundraising breakfast next week.”
    • Say: “I’m having a fundraising breakfast next week. Tickets are $100 and it will be a great time. Can you and your wife attend?”

As with all parts of campaigning, the skill of directly asking for financial support improves with practice. Remind yourself (or your candidate) that every fundraising call, meeting or opportunity is another chance to perfect your version of “the ask.” If you continue to focus on making sure every conversation includes a polite, respectful “ask” – you’ll see great improvements in your fundraising.


Kirsten Borman is a nationally recognized Republican fundraiser and founder of KB Strategic Group, a Washington, D.C.-based firm specializing in personalized fundraising consulting. Her clients have included several members of Congress, candidates for federal office, PACs, committees and gubernatorial candidates.

Watch the Clip: KB on Obamacare/Millenials (FoxNews)

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in In the News, Politics | 0 comments

Watch the Clip: KB on Obamacare/Millenials (FoxNews)

Yesterday I had the opportunity to appear on Fox News’ “America’s News HQ with Shannon Bream, discussing the recently released poll numbers on young people and their attitudes towards Obamacare. Not only is the new data encouraging for Republicans as we work to appeal to younger, more diverse demographics, but it is genuinely entertaining watching Progressives try to defend Obama’s blatant selling out of his core constituency.

Check out the clip here:

I’m in Tampa with a client till Tuesday, hence the sunny and bright Florida background. This was a lot of fun – I appreciate my Demoratic counterpart Richard Fowler being a good sport, too.

Millenials’ Opinion on Obama (and ObamaCare) Souring

Posted by on Dec 8, 2013 in In the News, National Journal, Politics | 0 comments

Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long.

A poll from earlier this week, conducted by Harvard University, shows that 57 percent of young people disapprove of Obamacare and 47 percent say they would ‘recall’ Obama if they could. 

What’s happening here? How could the very generation that catapulted President Obama to the Presidency TWICE with record turnout and intense enthusiasm (zomg! Oprah! Scarlett Johanssen! Bo the dog!) be souring on President Obama?

I’m enjoying the media furor over this story this week, as its entertaining to see baby boomer pollsters and pundits try and explain this rapid 180. (Speaking of media punditry, I  will even play a small part in it myself, will be on Fox News’ America’s News HQ at 1:00PM today discussing this issue.)

However, its simple: Young voters are worried about making ends meet. Say what you will about my generation — maybe we’re “selfish” or “spoiled” or “entitled” – and certainly the argument can be made for all these things, but we are not stupid.

Young voters are realizing that this program does not benefit them in the slightest. In fact, Barack Obama has pandered to seniors and the Medicaid generation by building these exchanges on the backs of young voters. Without the buy-in of these young, healthy Americans, the program will become unworkable and Obama’s ‘signature achievement’ will be a colossal failure.

Heads up, Boomers and old folks in the White House – Technology matters to young people. Just ask any 3 star reviewer on Yelp — if your website sucks, we don’t trust you.  And that credibility is hard to earn back.


My Post on Campaigns & Elections Blog: “In Fundraising, the Kickoff Matters”

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Fundraising, In the News, Women in Politics | 2 comments

Crossposted from Campaign & Elections Magazine’s Blog – “Campaign Insider” on Monday, December 2nd



In fundraising, the kickoff matters

by Kirsten Borman / Dec 02 2013

At the launch of a campaign, fundraising probably isn’t the first thing on a candidate’s mind, but it should be.

Sure, it’s a hectic, confusing time. And most candidates know that they must raise money in order to spread their message. But it’s in the opening stages that political consultants and operatives often focus on the “why” rather than the “how,” leaving candidates grasping for direction or details on how to get their effort off the ground.

And though Plato may not have had direct experience with the modern American political campaign, the philosopher’s notion that “the beginning is the most important part of the work” rings especially true when applied to political fundraising.  Without doubt, the beginning matters.

So what do you do when you’ve decided to run and need to fundraise? Though every race and candidate is different, many steps in the onset of any campaign are the same. Here’s a primer on five basic tips for those starting out on their first campaign for office:

The golden question. If you want to run for office, you absolutely, positively must know the answer to the following question: “How much money do you need in order to win?”  Why? You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going. This is the most important step in preparing your campaign (as well as your donors, family and friends) for your ultimate goal. This is also the first step in making your campaign finance plan, as it will determine the rest of your fundraising action throughout the campaign.

Know thyself, and thy race. Many candidates who run for public office ignore the most important resource they have at their fingertips: public disclosure information. Most states and municipalities require some sort of public disclosure of donors for every political office, usually mandating that every donor be reported, along with the amount of their contribution, the date it was made, their address and often their employment information. This data is available and provides the ultimate starting place for any candidate, and is always my first stop when compiling information for a new potential client. For federal offices, this information is available through the Federal Election Commission website. If you’re seeking a state or local office, you’ll go through your individual Supervisor of Elections website.

Start by finding out how much the preceding candidates who ran for the office you’re seeking raised. Is it more or less than you expected to raise? Then delve deeper into the data by looking for average amounts and similar donors, industries and geographical areas that are target rich environments. Look for trends, patterns or simply for people you know.  Then, sit back and congratulate yourself for successful “donor mining.”

The ultimate homework assignment. Each time I meet with a new candidate who wants to run for office, especially those who have little experience raising funds, I give them the same homework assignment: Go home tonight and make a list of 50 people you can call tomorrow to ask for a maximum contribution. For federal candidates this is $2,600 per election and varies according to the office you are seeking. This is the time to reach into your Rolodex and to be honest with yourself. Don’t list those that you will “eventually” call once you have Mr. XYZ on your team, or the people that you need to go through four different people to reach. Instead, truly list those you could call and ask to contribute tomorrow. Don’t stop until you’ve written down 50 names and numbers. This is your first target list and will soon turn into your donor file once you start asking for money and bringing in contributions.

Making a list and checking it every day. As you start making calls, guard your list of donors and potential donors very carefully. (Side note: If you ever want to see a fundraiser, finance director or successful candidate get very territorial, very quickly, insist that you need a copy of their donor list with contact information.) Continue to build your list throughout your campaign and fundraising time as you add more names, numbers and contacts. As you collect pledges and contributions, add this information and keep the list organized, up-to-date and protected. Though this may sound incredibly basic, keeping an accurate record of your donors, calls, and contributors is a crucial step that many candidates miss.

Ask for help. Though as a professional fundraiser I’m admittedly biased in this regard, I suggest candidates consider getting some professional assistance with their fundraising efforts. No matter the size of your campaign or goal, a dedicated person to help you stay accountable, track pledges, reach out to new donors and organize events is a worthy investment. Though larger budget races always have several staff members devoted to fundraising, I suggest smaller campaigns consider hiring a finance director or fundraising consultant with experience in the office you’re seeking.

Remember, there’s no magic fix for fundraising, and no easy way from point A to victory. You simply must get started, and get started with the basics, including research, detailed recordkeeping and a thorough inventory of your network. Though every campaign and candidate differs in distinct ways, these fundamental tips will help get any candidate started on the right path with fundraising.

Kirsten Borman is a nationally recognized Republican fundraiser and founder of KB Strategic Group, a Washington, D.C.-based firm specializing in personalized fundraising consulting. Her clients have included several members of Congress, candidates for federal office, PACs, committees and gubernatorial candidates.


KB’s Top 5 Fundraising Mantras: #2 – There are two types of people in this world…

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Fundraising, Politics, Women in Politics | 0 comments

KB’s Top 5 Fundraising Mantras: #2 – There are two types of people in this world…

Today I continue to count down my top five fundraising “mantras,” highlighting the five tips that I find absolutely essential to fundraising success.  While working with candidates and fundraising staffs, I often find myself repeating these five tips so often that they have become ‘mantra’-like. Though there are certainly many tips that are important to remember, these are the few I find myself accentuating most frequently.

(In case you missed it, check out last week’s #3: There is no Magic Fix)


#2: There are Two Types of People in This World…. 

I’m pretty sure this mantra will ruffle a few feathers — or at least I’ll have a few people tweeting, emailing and calling me to argue with me about it. Fine, bring it. I can handle it… please just don’t throw any more rotten fruit. That gets messy.

Here’s the bottomline:

There are two types of people in this world — people who give money politically and people who don’t.

Don’t waste your time trying to force the latter to become the former.

It will raise very little money, frustrate the living daylights out of you, and may cause you to become so cranky that no one wants to hang out with you. (Who, me? Experience with this? Naaahhh.) Plus, no matter where you live and what your issue is… there are probably plenty of people around you who belong to the “give money politically” group. Our task is to find them, and find the ones that want to invest in YOU.

I know what you (and the angry aforementioned fruit-throwing people) are going to say: “But… But… what about that guy who I talked to on the corner outside the Monroe County Strawberry Festival for 30 minutes who told me he’d never given to anyone before and then he handed me a check for $500?!” or “What about all those ladies at my church who gave to my last campaign…. I bet they never give to anyone else!”


And, you may be right.

However, in the long run of an entire campaign, it will behoove you to rely not on those experiences as you strategically target potential donors, but to look to those who have a proven history of giving. Many times, elected officials – or those hoping to become an elected offical – believe they can “win over” just about anyone, if they only have the chance. This may be true — but earning someone’s vote is very different than winning your way into their pocketbook.

The donors that will fuel your campaign are the ones who understand the power of giving and feel led to invest in a campaign and candidate they believe in.

How do you find them? Thanks to the advent of online technology and many recent campaign finance transparency laws, its extremely easy to find who is giving in your area. Check out your home state’s Secretary of State or Division of Elections website – or your local county or municipality. So get researching! And, if you want help finding those high-giving targets, contact me to start a conversation about how I may be able to help you find fundraising success. 

Side Note: Did you know that WOMEN make up only 21% of all federal contributions? And, in my experience, many of these contributions from women included in this figure come from couples contributing jointly — that is, their husbands probably intiated the gift from a joint bank account. I hope that by the time I retire from this industry, we change THIS imbalance. It pains me to know that women don’t understand the power that comes from investing in the candidates, issues and groups they support. 

And don’t forget to check back next week for my #1 Tip!