As a campaign operative, you may know the state of your race through polling numbers, fundraising numbers, or how many doors you’ve knocked. But when was the last time you checked the budget? If your campaign isn’t using Warchest, the answer is likely “a long time ago” (and if you’re the Trump campaign, the answer may be “never”). The budget is one of the most overlooked, and yet one of the most important, pieces of your campaign. It’s your roadmap to success.
To win you must know things like how many ads to run, how many voters to reach, and how much staff you’ll need to reach these goals. All of these decisions must be made in concert with each other and they are all directly tied to the campaign’s budget. None of your strategy can be implemented if it is not accounted for in the budget.
We have heard dozens of horror stories of campaigns going into debt without realizing it. But we’ve also heard the even worse outcome of not spending all of the campaign’s cash and losing in a close election. When thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars are left in the campaign’s coffers after election day, the campaign is unnecessarily handicapping their chances to win.
So campaign budgeting is like hitting the bullseye of a moving target. At every stage of the campaign, you must be mindful not to overspend or underspend. Overspending means you won’t have the resources you need in the critical closing weeks. Underspending means you’re missing opportunities and may leave money on the table you need to win a tight race. It’s a science that requires frequent–and, yes, early–analysis of the numbers. A great budget optimizes not just how much you spend, but when you spend it. You can only get an accurate picture of when expenses will happen in the course of your campaign if you start budgeting early.
This skill is immensely difficult to master with spreadsheets. Formulas break, numbers are missed, updated versions get lost, or they just cannot match the granularity needed when campaigns are changing day to day. These errors lead to damaged reputations, financial challenges that extend beyond election day, and even losses.
Warchest will give you unprecedented precision in your budget, but your projections are ultimately only as accurate as the work you put into them. Not updating your budget causes more room for error and missed opportunities by passing up early investments that would benefit the campaign.
We at Warchest pride ourselves on helping campaigns avoid these pitfalls, but it still requires an engaged campaign staff to create a winning budget early and continually update it to make sure the campaign is on track for victory. We will explain how to do all of this and more in later posts, so stay tuned!