A politician teaches you how NOT to fundraise for your project

One of a Broadway Producer’s primary responsibilities is to raise money.  It’s what makes us different from Movie Producers, Record Producers, and TV Producers. 

I used to complain about it. But as a mentor of mine said, “Ken, that’s the game. If you don’t like it, go produce movies instead of theater.”

That shut me up big time. Because it reminded me that we have the choice to do whatever we want in this life. I choose the theater, with all its idiosyncrasies. And instead of complaining about what bugs me, I take the serenity prayer to heart. I accept the things I cannot change, and work with a positive attitude to change the things I can.

One profession who has to raise more money than a Broadway Producer is a Politician.

So, I watch how they do it like a hawk watching a hawk.

I learned a couple of things about how they do it pretty quickly:

  • They follow up and then follow up some more.
  • They come at you through email, text, phone calls, direct mail and would send a carrier pigeon if they could.
  • They’d love a big check, sure, they’ll take lots of littles ones too.
  • They’re good at it. Because their jobs depend on it.


Which is why I was so shocked when a certain political candidate I follow was effin’ up so badly.

I’m not going to name names, because, well, it makes no difference who it is. And I eff up all the time, and I wouldn’t want someone else pointing it out either. (Let he without a marketing sin, cast the first e-stone.)

So what was this politician (or his team, more precisely) doing to decrease his/her chance of raising money?

This politician sent out emails that described their fundraising efforts as follows:

“pacing behind our goal.”

“not great.”

“we expect to get pummelled . . . “


There are more, but you get their drift. And I’m sure you get why this is the wrong approach when raising money.

No one ever wants to throw money at a sinking ship. One of the most powerful marketing strategies is social proof – demonstrating that whatever it is you’re selling is popular with tons of people. Because people want to do what other people are doing. You see a long line at a restaurant or a night club? You want to know what’s going on. You see a lot of people with the same sneakers or handbag? It makes you curious.

So telling everyone that people AREN’T giving you money when you’re asking them over and over? That can drive people the other way!

Now, the exception to this rule would be if this politician was going to his or her inner circle with open and authentic asks for real help. But communicating this way with potential backers who you don’t know that well, is a surefire way to NOT raise money.

(You can bet that I didn’t click “donate now” when I read these emails.)

Remember, when approaching investors, always be honest with where you are with your fundraising. But down-in-the-dumps, negative-marketing, is rarely a solution to raising money.  Or anything, for that matter.


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Want more tips on raising money?  Get my book, How To Raise Money For The Arts or for Anything.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.