Monday, January 5, 2009

The Struggle for Finance

Lack of finance is of course an easy excuse for the ACDP. Whenever we're asked why we don't have a bigger share of the vote or why we aren't more visible, we just whip out the excuse like a foreign language phrase book.

The ACDP's struggle for finance has a number of both sound and dubious reasons. There's the obvious reason that the IEC allocation is awarded according to the percentage of votes you receive. While I can't easily see another solution (do you really want to award R5 million to the Soccer Party if all parties get an equal share?) I do also see the benefits of the arrangement. Firstly, the party that does the work to win an election gets its reward. Also, when an opposition party has to work with less for the same election, it provides an impetus - in other words, when they do succeed, you have a hard working party governing your country. Because the reverse is also true, that argument goes out the window! Quite simply, once you're in, you're in - you make money when you have it.

That you need money to win an election is undeniable. While credit must go to the ANC for achieving such an impressive 1994 win, gaining votes across a wide span of ethic groups, their preparation lasted over many decades. In the short term, money pays for a lot of things: TV and radio ads, posters, brochures, hire of public venues, transporting voters and rally attendees, petrol costs for canvassing, staff to run offices, telephone campaigning, stationery costs, and more importantly, labour. It's extremely difficult to win an election with staff who have normal jobs and work in their free time - they need salaries to devote themselves full-time.

I was once asked the question: if you want to run the country, why aren't you confident enough to raise finances? A powerful question indeed. The reality is that fundraising, especially for something notorious as politics, requires a certain amount of thick skin and a kind of carefree attitude that doesn't mind what people think. That style comes easily to politicians, but not to church folk, and the majority of ACDP members and staff are church folk. It truly is easier to stand up for something you believe in, like pro-life, than to knock on someone's door and shake the tin can.

The next big problem is that funding prefers to support a track record, but you can't have a track record until you've been elected. How much of a track record can you build up without funds? And how much zero-cost-based activity can you engage in when you have a job?

What I seem to be painting here is a circular problem that keeps coming back to itself. In other words, it looks like a Catch-22 or a dead end, and if you were a hyper-pragmatist or a cynic, you really would have to throw in the towel and leave politics to the dirty guys.

Personally, I don't lie down like that, so here's my vision of the way forward with regards to improving the ACDP's finances. Firstly, focus 60% of the party effort on a 2-month fundraising drive. Develop a core marketing package: a presentation that you can deliver in a businessman's office, including an impressive brochure, smart slideshow and clinically rehearsed speech, using your best orators. The ACDP does have enough strong points to get support going, but needs to present it well. Deliver these speeches to about 200 businesses with owners who sympathise with the Christian position. I guarantee this will have success, at least with about 10 businesses.

Then set aside 20% of those raised funds to sponsor a business fundraising dinner, where guests are invited to a free meal at a restaurant, where they will be sold the ACDP. The core list of guests will be those who showed interest but did not make a commitment, as well as those who sympathised with the party but did not make time for a presentation. In other words, get the more hesistant supporters in. Take a big offering on the night and sign debit orders.

Once again, set aside 20% to repeat this cycle, but in a new location with a different crowd. Also look at a strategy where the same businessmen can return for another free dinner if they bring a paying guest.

This cycle has to continue, but another 10% of the raised funds must go to partner maintenance, or in other words, marketing brochures and feedback materials that go back to those who have sponsored the party, including possible free functions.

Okay, that's a simple idea which even I could implement. Maybe I should.

DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: