Give Your PAC A Check-Up

Give Your PAC A Check-Up

Around this time of year, when budgets are being finalized, many PAC managers are receiving their fundraising goals for the year.

Unfortunately, this is not always a happy time. If those goals are larger than you anticipated, how are you going to get achieve them? With shrinking PAC budgets, do you have the resources? There’s also a new Congress and a looming presidential election, promising an even more unpredictable political landscape.

It all adds up to one thing: it’s a good time for a PAC assessment.

Ask the Right Questions

While some call it an audit, a PAC assessment is not a reconciliation of financial records. Rather it is a cold, hard look at all of the operations that keep your political action committee running.
To avoid obstacles down the road, you are examining what happened in the past, looking at how you got here and figuring out if there are missteps that could become traps in the days ahead.
Some key questions to ask:

  • Which fundraising tactics worked and which didn’t?
  • Are your email communications being read, and are they establishing the value of being a PAC member?
  • Does the staff have the resources they need to be effective and to achieve their goals?
  • Are those goals realistic, given your company or association culture?

Finding Some Answers

To find the answers to these questions, there are many tools available:

  • Examine the numbers.  It’s important to look at fundraising data, comparing PAC performance over the years in order to see trends. Is fundraising trending up or down among different salary bands? What about geographically? How do things look by business unit?
  • Do Some Benchmarking.  How do you compare against others in your industry? If the PAC has hit a plateau, but similar organizations are making gains, then what does that tell you?
  • Do Some Surveys.  What do your PAC eligibles really think about the PAC? You cannot know what your audience is thinking unless you ask them. An anonymous survey with questions that get to the core of the PAC and its goals will provide an enormous wealth of information. That information can help you dig out of a hole — or make even greater gains.
  • Make Sure You Edit.  It may not be Shakespeare, but every piece of writing needs a critique. How effective are your PAC communications in educating and recruiting PAC members? Compared to other company emails, do your email bulletins carry the same themes? Are your calls to action items clear and easy to find?
  • Track Your Email.  Are you tracking who is opening and clicking through your emails? If so, what are you doing with that data? Can it be used to bring about more effective communication and fundraising? (For more on improving email programs, check out this white paper from our friends at CQ Roll Call Connectivity)

These are just some of the most important parts of an assessment. A complete PAC audit would go further, defining each stakeholder’s responsibility in the PAC operation and determining if each PAC activity — fundraising, communications, compliance and others — is setup to meet its goals.

An honest assessment can show pitfalls that the PAC has tripped over for years, and it can be a humbling experience. But without turning over some stones, you never know what treasure you can find beneath.

Lawrence Young is the Vice President of PAC Programs at 720 Strategies.