What It Really Means To Run A PAC Fundraising Campaign Within A Member Company

By Bridget Sewell
Senior Director of Political Engagement, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

In 2015, with Sagac Public Affairs as its partner, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America PAC (PCI PAC), began to rethink the way it conducted fundraising campaigns within member companies.

Three factors contributed to this effort, but one made it a success: trust.

One reason we knew we needed to make some changes was because our industry was experiencing a higher than average number of CEO retirements. The chief executives taking over were excited about PCI and about partnering with the organization on state and federal issue advocacy. However, they weren’t as familiar with PCI PAC and we needed to educate them.

We also realized that the political climate was shifting. There were shorter lulls between Election Day and the unofficial start of the next campaign. In the wake of the financial crisis, candidates faces a growing number of issue areas to address and on top of that, many of them were unaware of the property casualty industry’s unique business model and how increased regulation could impact the industry. To make an impact and support individuals running for office, we needed more member company employees engaged. A light touch approach wasn’t going to help us move the dial anymore.

Finally, we realized that while we’d been successfully carrying out annual solicitations with our member company employees, new technology and communication tools presented the opportunity to enhance our efforts and make them more strategic. In other words, we were getting by without new shiny objects, but making new investments in them would improve our returns.

While our member companies were eager to learn about and implement new technology, they were skeptical of a strategy where PCI PAC offered more oversight and direction.

To put it bluntly: some member company officials were worried about us butting in too much and we understood this. PCI PAC fundraising campaigns within PCI member companies had been pro forma for far too long. It was not obvious how PCI PAC would complement—rather than compete with—their company’s own political efforts. Some executives were worried that messages and calendar deadlines would be forced upon them instead of working to identify the most effective communications and the best timing.

Member company executives also worried about overwhelming their employees, who are bombarded with politics and political activism whenever they turn on cable news. Some thought a more robust campaign on behalf of PCI PAC might be the tipping point. Instead of providing one more way to engage, it would result in employees turning off. On a more basic level, our member CEOs needed to be assured that we weren’t going to spam their employees, take too much of their time or ask for their whole paycheck.

So before we could implement our new strategy, we had to deepen the trust our member companies had in us. We did this by:

From talking with colleagues at other trade association PACs, I know that many association member companies still prefer the “light touch” approach. For my colleagues facing that wall, I’ll offer one more statistic: since we partnered with Sagac to revamp our PAC’s fundraising campaigns within our member companies, receipts have gone up an average of $10,000, which meant in 2016, PCI PAC raised more than it ever had before. We’re on pace to exceed our 2016 contributions and hit our target goal for 2017 before the end of the year.

Our members decided to trust us before we had data to show them. With care and thought, yours will too.

 

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Sagac Public Affairs is a national company providing communications, research, fundraising and issue advocacy solutions to hundreds of political, nonprofit and corporate organizations.

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