28 Jul 2015
July 28, 2015

Must-have Financial Tools for your Political Campaign


Stop the disastrous situations.  It's time for financial organization.

It's Friday. There are ten days remaining in your candidate's election and you need to get that final mailer out the door and into the mail boxes of your voters. Your direct mail vendor needs a payment to the tune of $8,000 to proceed with printing and postage, and the clock has run out on your ability to mail a check via the post office. Your candidate is trapped at an event for the afternoon and didn't bring the checkbook. The campaign treasurer is at work until 6 p.m. and can't wire funds over the phone. To make matters worse, you're staring at the checkbook 

Financial-analyst

but you don't have signing ability. If your printer doesn't get the funds today, the piece won't drop until late in the last week of the campaign, and that's just too late. What do you do?

Although you may have been there before, and you likely figured out how to make it work, the real answer is really simple. 

That situation should have never arisen in the first palce.   

Political campaigns are no different than small businesses and start-ups. They need to be run smoothly, efficiently, virtually, and decisions and actions need to happen immediately.  In this blog, we aren't going to cover fancy campaign finance reporting tools that help you stay compliant with your state elections commision or the FEC. Rather, we will cover some new technology that you can put in place to manage and track your receipts, invoices, vendors and maintain the paper.

If you execute the suggestions in this blog post, you will be replacing your filing cabinets with a scanner. Your late night campaign finance sessions that often consist of chasing down paper copies of donor checks and vendor invoices will be few and far between. Oh, and that mailer? No problem. It will get out the door and into the hands of the voter who needs to see it before casting their vote on Election Day.

Need ideas on fundraising for your political campaign? Check out this great series on political campaign fundraising from Campaign Now:

Think paperless and virtual

Most of the tools for financial organization for your political campaign that we recommend in the following sections are web based.  They will require a simple internet connection, laptop/desktop computer, smartphone and app, any browser, and just a little bit of time to get used to.  Not to mention, most of these tools range from $0 to $80 dollars per month!  Ready? Here we go.

Start by digitizing your receipts

We recommend Expensify.com and the Expensify app for tracking expenses and getting rid of paper receipts.  Expensify will let you snap a picture of that volunteer pizza delivery receipt (you know, the one covered in grease) and attach it to an expense report in the Expensify app.  When you need to be reimbursed, all you have to do is send your digital expense report- in the form of a PDF- to your campaign treasurer to be reimbursed.  All receipts will be attached for viewing, and you can throw away that greasy receipt. Furthermore, Expensify will let you track mileage automatically or manually and also allows you to create multiple expense reports so you can sort receipts by credit car, date range, or project.
And if you're a campaign treasurer, no worries. You can manage and set various user levels, expenditure limits by user, and also add expense categories that match your expense account codes or finance filings. 
 
Not to mention, Expensify is web based so users can manage expense reports from their mobile phone app or by logging in online!

Stop writing checks and {shred} the paper 

You can't beat the price and the productivity of Bill.com.  This software will literally replace your checkbook, your filing cabinet and the stress of having to meet up at a coffee shop with your campaign treasurer to review finances.  Bill.com is completely web based, works on all smart phones, and costs as little as $50 to $100 per month (the price depends on the number of payments you process).  Shredder
The web based portal allows you to send emails, upload donor checks, process credit card donations, and upload Invoices from vendors.  The software will allow you to manage all donors (customers) and all vendors in one simple log-in.  Once you code in bills from your campaign's vendors, you can add multiple or zero layers of users who have to approve each bill. From there, you can set a payment date and how you want the payment to be processed. Bill.com makes the paying easy for you by offering e-payment, pay by check or "fast pay".  E-payments are a direct deposit payment to your vendor and are processed within 24-48 hours for a little more than 50 cents per payment.  Bill.com will cut the checks for you with its "pay by check" feature for about $1.50 per check (you don't have to run out and buy stamps!). "Fast Pay" is a new feature which allows you to overnight checks or payments to vendors.  All you have to do is select a time you want a bill paid by and hit the "Pay" button.  
You can stop carrying around your campaign check book and maintaining that filing cabinet of donor checks! Instead, you can shred the paper! Since we all work in a political world, we recommend shredding these sensitive documents.

The best software for accounting and financial reporting

Bill.com works seamlessly with many great accounting software programs.  You'll need accounting software to manage a P&L and a balance sheet (so you know when the bank account is almost depleted). Also, you'll need to manage expenditures by vendor and expense category, as well as manage donors.  If you're a small campaign, we recommend Quickbooks or Quickbooks Online.  
Both programs allow for easy donation and expenditure reports to be exported into Excel spreadsheets or imported into various campaign compliance software programs for campaign filings.  Quickbooks Online is simple and easy to use and its right for any incumbent or campaign, from the state level on up, that wants to track its finances perfectly.

Now go get it done.  Make your Campaign's finanances easy.

Hopefully you've learned how to take some of the financial headaches out of the up-coming election season. Many of the software programs that we mentioned above are do-it-yourself, but if you need a recommendation for a specialist, don't hesitate to contact us and we will recommend an expert.  

Best of luck in the coming year of political campaigining!  We hope this will change your life.
John Connors

Written by John Connors

John Connors is the President and founder of Campaign Now. He grew up in northern Wisconsin and now lives in Dallas, TX. He's a political guy with a good eye on marketing and metrics.