A Political Campaign Checklist (10 Must Haves)

A Political Campaign Checklist (10 Must Haves)

Image of a person at a desk. They're holding a pen above paper as if to check off items on a political campaign checklist.

Running for office, even at the local level, is no easy task.

Starting a political campaign can be challenging, as there are many factors to consider, such as fundraising, navigating campaign finance laws, building a team, and getting your message out. (And that’s just the beginning!)

Therefore, a political campaign checklist is a must-have for any candidate who wants to stay on track with deadlines and the aforementioned plethora of to-dos.

Quick tip before we move forward: To make your life easier and increase your chances of success, campaign management software like Campaign Deputy can be a lifesaver for candidates who are juggling a lot of tasks.

It can help you organize, track, and automate your campaign while giving you the peace of mind that you’ll stay compliant with campaign finance laws. That way you can spend more time focusing on the more important stuff.

But back to what you came here for, here’s our political campaign checklist for navigating your race to Capitol Hill.

What Does a Political Campaign Include?

Campaigns can vary depending on budget and location. However, here are some key steps we think all campaigns should take.

Here’s a comprehensive checklist of 10 steps every political campaign may take to succeed:

  1. Research the political landscape
  2. Register your campaign
  3. Open bank accounts and purchase insurance
  4. Choose a voting audience
  5. Draft a campaign message
  6. Fundraise for your campaign
  7. Recruit campaign staff
  8. Build a public presence
  9. Hold public outreach events
  10. Participate in candidate debates

Ensuring you’ve checked all these off is a good start to put you in the running to win office.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of them.

#1 - Research the Political Landscape

Every government, whether local or federal, has its own unique political landscape. This means that the political parties, the issues that are important to voters, and the way that elections are conducted can vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another.

To prepare yourself, it’s important to research the political landscape you’re running in to better understand the following:

  1. The candidate registration process
  2. The rules and timelines of your election
  3. The total voting population and how many votes you need to win
  4. The voter demographics and the issues that affect them
  5. The local media outlets and their political correspondents
  6. Local influencers in business and politics
  7. Past campaigns and how they were won

By understanding the political landscape, you’ll be better prepared to run a successful campaign. You’ll be able to tailor your message to the voters in your jurisdiction, and you’ll be able to build relationships with the key decision-makers who can help you win.

In addition, understanding the political landscape can help you to avoid making mistakes that could disqualify you from the election.

By doing your research, you can increase your chances of success and avoid making costly mistakes. So, if you are thinking about running for office, make sure to do your homework and understand the political landscape of the jurisdiction you’re running in.

#2 - Campaign Registration

Registering your candidacy with your local government committee is a necessary step in running for office. It is also required before you can open an official bank account or sign up for any service providers.

To register, you will need to provide the following information (at a minimum):

  1. Your full name
  2. The office you intend to run for
  3. Your campaign mailing and emailing addresses
  4.  The name of your committee
  5. Your party affiliation

You can find more information about how to register your candidacy with your local government committee on their website or by contacting them directly.

Here are some additional details about the registration process:

  • The registration process typically takes a few weeks to complete.
  • You will need to provide original copies of your identification documents, such as a driver’s license or passport.
  • You will need to pay a registration fee, which varies by jurisdiction.
  • Once you are registered, you will be issued a certificate of candidacy.

The certificate of candidacy is an official document that proves you’re a registered candidate. You will need to provide this document to any service providers that you want to work with, such as campaign finance vendors or fundraising platforms.

Registering your candidacy is an important step in running for office. By following the steps outlined above, you can ensure that your candidacy is properly filed and that you are eligible to receive campaign contributions. Which brings us to the steps to open an official bank account.

#3 - Bank Accounts & Insurance

To process campaign funds and pay staff salaries, you need to open an official campaign bank account.

Before you can do this, you will need to obtain a Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN).

In case you didn’t know, this is a unique identification number that the government assigns to businesses and organizations.

Having a FEIN will allow banks and other service providers to treat your campaign committee as a legal entity.

In addition to opening your campaign’s bank account, you’ll also likely need to obtain insurance for your campaign.

This could include worker’s compensation insurance, special events insurance, and/or general liability insurance.

In light of this, keep in mind that anticipating emergency costs could likely save your campaign during a crisis (though we hope you don’t have to handle one at all).

So, it’s important to get your finances and insurance sorted out as early into the campaign as possible. 

Here are some more in-depth definitions of those terms we mentioned above:

  • Official campaign bank account: This is a bank account that is dedicated to your campaign finances. It is important to keep your campaign funds separate from your personal funds. This will help to ensure that your campaign is compliant with campaign finance laws.
  • Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN): This is a unique identification number that the government assigns to businesses and organizations. You need a FEIN to open a bank account for your campaign. You can apply for a FEIN online or by mail.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance: This type of insurance covers employees who are injured on the job. It is important to have worker’s compensation insurance for your campaign staff. This will protect them in case they are injured while working on your campaign.
  • Special events insurance: This type of insurance covers events that are organized by your campaign. It can cover things like liability, property damage, and loss of income.
  • General liability insurance: This type of insurance covers general risks that are associated with your campaign. It can cover things like property damage, personal injury, and libel.

Furthermore, it is important to seek legal advice from an attorney who specializes in campaign finance law. They can help you to ensure that your campaign is compliant with all applicable laws.

#4 - Choose a Voting Audience

Deciding which sector of the voting audience to appeal to is crucial. It affects your campaign message, appearance, outreach strategy, fundraising, and more.

If you get this wrong, no matter how hard you campaign, appealing to the wrong audience will not score you enough votes to win.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a voting audience:

  1. Which sector of the population is most likely to vote based on past campaigns?
  2. How many of those voters do you need to win over?
  3. What are the local issues those voters care about?
  4. How will you reach those voters?
  5. How is your own image/reputation perceived by your target audience?
  6. Is your target audience a good source of campaign funding or will you have to find financial support elsewhere?

These are just a few of the questions you should ask when considering which voting audience you want to appeal to.

Here are some additional tips for choosing a voting audience:

  • Be strategic. Don’t just focus on the largest voting bloc. Instead, identify the sectors of the population that are most likely to vote for you and that you can reach effectively.
  • Be flexible. The voting audience can change over time, so be prepared to adjust your strategy as needed.
  • Don’t forget about the undecided voters. Even if you’ve identified your target audience, don’t forget about the undecided voters. Make sure you have a message that appeals to them as well.

By following these tips, you could increase your chances of choosing and appealing to the voting audience that aligns best with your campaign.

#5 - Drafting a Campaign Message

Now that you’ve chosen the (hopefully perfect) voter audience to appeal to, getting your campaign message right is a crucial next step to a successful political campaign.

Your campaign message is dictated by two important factors:

  1. Who are your voters?
  2. What do they care about?

In other words, what are their concerns? What are their hopes and dreams? What are they passionate about? Once you understand your audience, you can tailor your message to resonate with them.

If you can’t address the issues voters care about and encourage hope for the future, they simply won’t have a reason or the motivation to support you.

Here are a few examples of iconic campaign messages to inspire you:

  • “Stronger Together.” – Hillary Clinton, 2016
  • “Make America Great Again.” – Donald Trump, 2016
  • “Hope and Change.” – Barack Obama, 2008
  • “Forward.” – Joe Biden, 2020
  • “For the People.” – Elizabeth Warren, 2020
  • “Build Back Better.” – Joe Biden, 2020

These messages are all short, impactful, and memorable. They also tap into the emotions of voters and make them think about the future.

Here are some other modern campaign messages that you may have heard:

  • “A new kind of Democrat.” – Pete Buttigieg, 2020
  • “Not me. Us.” – Bernie Sanders, 2020
  • “Believe in Better.” – Amy Klobuchar, 2020
  • “We can do this.” – Kamala Harris, 2020
  • “The fight of our lives.” – Elizabeth Warren, 2020
  • “For a better future for all.” – Andrew Yang, 2020

It is also important to keep your message consistent throughout your campaign. This means using the same message in your speeches, ads, and other campaign materials. By repeating your message, you will help it stick in voters’ minds.

Finally, don’t be afraid to change your message if it isn’t resonating with voters. The political landscape is constantly changing, so you need to be flexible and willing to adapt your message as needed (within reason, of course).

#6 - Campaign Fundraising

Now that you’re prepared to actually begin campaigning comes the fun part – fundraising.

Unless you plan on running your campaign on hope and tears, fundraising is one of the most important aspects of any political campaign.

In other words, it’s the lifeblood of your campaign, paying for everything from staff salaries and offices to public events and marketing.

Luckily, there are many ways to go about fundraising. Here are some of the most popular methods:

  • Direct outreach: This involves reaching out to potential donors directly through email, text, or phone calls.
  • Fundraising via your website: You can create a dedicated fundraising page on your website to make it easy for donors to contribute.
  • Posting physical fundraising requests: You can mail out fundraising letters or flyers to potential donors.
  • Working with finance committees and fundraising networks: These organizations can help you raise money by reaching out to their own networks of donors.
  • Hosting fundraising events: This could include auctions, galas, or other types of events where people can donate money to your campaign.

Once again, keep in mind it’s important to understand the rules for handling funds in a political campaign. These rules vary depending on the jurisdiction, so be sure to research them and consider contacting an experienced attorney in your area before you start fundraising.

#7 - Recruit Campaign Staff

With everything you need to do and with so much to think about, of course you’re going to need help running your campaign!

Obviously, you can’t be trying to connect with voters and organize events all at the same time. In which case means no political campaign is complete without campaign staff.

These people support your campaign in many ways such as organizing public events, managing campaign finances, canvassing and data entry, and provide pretty much any support you may need to succeed.

This team should primarily include people with skills in fundraising, marketing, and organizing.

In most cases, to run an effective campaign, you’ll need to fill a minimum of 4-7 roles:

  1. Campaign Manager: The campaign manager is responsible for the overall planning and execution of the campaign. They will work with you to develop a campaign strategy, hire and mange staff, raise money, and get your message out to voters.
  2. Finance Director/Treasurer: The finance director is responsible for managing the campaign’s finances. They will develop a budget, track spending, raise money, and file financial reports.
  3. Organizer/Field Director: The organizer is responsible for building and mobilizing the campaign’s base of support. They will recruit volunteers, organize canvassing and phone banking efforts, and help get voters to the polls.
  4. Communications Director: The communications director is responsible for crafting and delivering the campaign’s message. They will write press releases, manage social media, and work with the media to get your message out.

In addition to these roles, you may also need to expand or solidify additional roles, such as a policy advisor, a scheduler, or a graphic designer.

Keep in mind, the specific staff you may need will depend on the size and scope of your campaign. Some small races may involve as few as 3 staffers or less, whereas larger races may essentiate 6-7 or more staffers to ensure a fighting chance (though don’t let that scare you).

Obviously, the more staff you recruit (unless they’re volunteers), the more it’ll impact the cost of your campaign.

This is the minimum recommended amount of staffers for most campaigns, and you’ll probably recruit far more staff as your budget allows.

#8 - Build a Public Presence

The public’s perception of you is essential for winning elections. It is important to develop and maintain a consistent public persona in order to build credibility and earn the trust and confidence of your voters.

A well-crafted campaign message is important, but it is also important to get that message out to as many voters as possible. Fortunately, with the invention of the internet, reaching voters has never been easier.

Here are a few ways you can build your public presence:

  • Create a professional website: This should showcase your strengths, the policies you are championing, your roadmap for achieving your promises, and blog posts that update the public on your work. You should also include contact forms for voter queries and volunteer sign-ups.
  • Use social media: This is a great way to interact with voters and share your campaign message. You should have a presence on multiple social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and more recently Threads. Make sure to create content that is tailored to each platform and that is relevant to your target audience. You can also consider investing in paid ads to reach a wider audience.
  • Post posters and signage: This is a more traditional, however still effective, method to raise awareness of your campaign. You might use yard signs, campaign flyers, billboards, posters, and/or whatever other creative print forms you can come up with. You can also do door-to-door canvassing to connect with voters in person and learn more about their needs and concerns.

By following these tips, you can build a strong public presence and increase your chances of winning elections.

Here are our 5 “Be’s” for building your public presence:

  1. Be consistent: As we’ve said before, your message and persona should be consistent across all platforms and channels.
  2. Be authentic: Be yourself and let your personality shine through.
  3. Be engaged: Respond to comments and questions from voters.
  4. Be positive: Focus on your strengths and the positive changes you want to make.
  5. Be active: Don’t just wait for voters to come to you. Get out there and meet them where they are.

By following these tips, you can build a positive public image and connect with voters on a personal level to help boost your chances of gaining their support at the polls.

#9 - Hold Public Outreach Events

While they are a great tool to boost your image and give voters some solid information to review, relying on digital or print media to connect with voters isn’t always enough. You need to get out there and speak to the people.

The best way to do this is by holding public events. This could include political rallies, community meetings, or speaking to unions and/or other organized bodies.

By getting out there and speaking to voters, you can better understand their needs and connect with them on a personal level. This will make it more likely that they will vote for you when the time comes and help you develop a strong campaign message.

Public events are also great for generating word-of-mouth. When people see you speaking to them in person, they are more likely to tell their friends and family about you. This can help you reach a wider audience and increase your chances of winning the election.

To maximize attendance at your public events, it is important to publicize them as much as possible.

You can do this by:

By applying these strategies, you can reach an even wider audience and increase the chances of winning the election.

#10 - Participate in Candidate Debates

Last, but not least, to be considered a prime candidate in your election it’s important to show off your competence.

One of the best ways to do this is by participating in public debates and taking on your opposition head-to-head.

When the public sees a competent and assertive leader logically addressing pain points close to their hearts, you’ll win their favor.

It gives you a chance to showcase how your policies will positively impact the lives of your voters.

And most importantly, how your policies and capabilities are more deserving of support than your opponents’.

Here are some ways to check what local democratic or progressive political debates you’re eligible to participate in:

  • Check with your local Democratic or progressive political party. They may have a list of upcoming debates or be able to point you in the right direction.
  • Search online for “local political debates” or “progressive political debates” in your area. You can use a search engine like Google or Bing, or you can check websites like Eventbrite or Meetup.
  • Contact your local media outlet(s). They may be aware of upcoming debates and be able to provide you with more information.
  • Attend local political events. This is a great way to network with other progressives and learn about upcoming debates.
  • Check the DNC and/or FEC websites for updates on upcoming debates.


Running a successful political campaign is no easy feat. It takes time, effort, and dedication. By following our political campaign checklist, you will give yourself a strong foundation for running a successful political campaign.

However, it is important to remember that every campaign is different. Be sure to adapt your campaign plan to the specific needs of your race and your constituents.

Some final thoughts:

  • Running a political campaign is a complex and challenging undertaking. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and planning.
  • The 10 key steps outlined in this article are just a starting point. There are many other factors that can contribute to a successful campaign, such as the political climate, the strength of the opposition, and the resources available to the campaign.
  • Ultimately, the best way to run a successful political campaign is to be prepared, to be organized, and to be passionate about your cause. If you can do those things, you will be well on your way to victory.
  • And remember, every campaign’s lifeblood is its financesClick here to start fundraising today with our all-in-one platform.

I hope this checklist has been helpful. Good luck with your campaign!

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