Planning for Success

Identifying goals and turning them into action plans that are executed within your organization all but guarantees the success of PAC marketing programs. An action plan is a document that begins with goals and identifies all of the steps required to achieve them.

Consider this example:

The Wine and Spirit’s Wholesalers of America (WSWA) developed a new strategy for expanding its PAC receipts among its member-companies through payroll deduction. This strategy supported its goals of: 1) giving membership the option of payroll deduction to spread contributions out over the year; and 2) locking in long-term donors by making PAC payroll deduction part of the corporate culture of its member companies.

To accomplish its goals, WSWA-PAC began by targeting companies of all sizes. The payroll deduction program was designed to be easily implemented through each company’s human resources and accounting departments. With the exception of CEO permission based on prior authorization, minimal leadership involvement was needed. Consequently, the payroll deduction program was pre-packaged with legal requirements, accounting procedures and ready-to-use documents, such as employee flyers, payroll deduction forms, and follow-up materials.

The overall strategy called for $1.75 million in PAC receipts by the end of the 2010 election cycle. In addition, WSWA-PAC wanted to have more than 1,000 individuals giving via payroll deduction by the end of 2009; a goal they surpassed this year.

To differentiate payroll deduction programming from other PAC solicitation activities, WSWA created a Corporate Payroll Deduction Kit, based on the kit developed by the National Association of Business PACs in 2006. The Kit made it possible to create customized documents and fit particular company needs and accounting processes.

Although WSWA-PAC successfully achieved its goals through a concentrated effort by WSWA-PAC staff, let’s examine how the same could be accomplished based on an action plan that unifies specific business units within the association to implement its payroll deduction strategy.

For the purposes of this example, five groups in particular would be most effective in implementing the new strategy: government affairs; executive office, membership; finance, and legal. For government affairs’ part, they might have set six goals for itself:

1. Work with membership to determine company targets by October 31, 2006.
2. Based on goal 1 results, design a prototype for beta-testing payroll deduction within three different sized companies by December 31, 2006.
3. Concurrently, work with legal and finance groups to handle the transfer of company payroll contributions into the PAC and ensure legal compliance by December 31, 2006.
4. Based on goal 2 results, create a specific Payroll Deduction Kit for customizable models by March 30, 2007.
5. Have the executive office and leadership announce the association payroll deduction campaign to member-companies by March 30, 2007.
6. Implement association payroll deduction throughout the organization by December 31, 2007.

Notice in this example how Wawa’s government affairs group could have translated the association’s strategy into specific, measurable goals. Government affairs could then develop specific action plans around each goal. Finance, legal and the executive office could do something very similar and their collective goals would be rolled up into a complete plan of action.

Any organization’s mission and strategic goals are the springboard for business unit goals. These should determine how the organization as a whole directs its efforts over a multi-year period. For example, WSWA’s strategic goal was to raise $1.75 million for its PAC within four years. For its part, the executive office could be committed to delivering numerous presentations and speeches about the PAC, writing articles and leveraging relationships with company leaders. In addition, the executive office could help ensure companies comply and follow through with their respective programs. Meanwhile, finance could be focused on how to handle a 1,000 percent increase in transaction volume for the PAC coming to them in high-volume, small dollar contributions each pay period.

In effect, the association’s strategic goals cascade down to the groups, which devise goals for their parts of the strategy.

Once you determine specific goals and a plan to reach them, you must find ways to measure performance. With PACs, the logical measurements include participation and receipts; however, performance measures should also address factors that you can actually achieve without targeting the next horizon, but rather a simple milestone . Whatever performance measures you use, they must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and bound by deadlines. For example, WSWA’s government affairs goals for its payroll deduction program could not only include receipts and participation, but through meeting deadlines, as well as innovation and process improvement in both finance and legal. Some examples of performance areas they may have measured include:


When embarking on an action plan, don’t underestimate your resource needs. If you fail to determine realistic needs or take shortcuts, you run the risk of having too few resources to execute your plan effectively. As you think about the resources you need, remember to look beyond today’s needs and consider what you may need in the coming years for the project. By forecasting needs for the future, your PAC can keep pace with the market you are building and creating a long-term advantage for your organization. Therefore, the final piece of an action plan is the costs associated with the plan itself.

For example, while WSWA’s resource needs in 2006 may have been limited for program development and beta-test among just two or three companies, imagine what their needs are today with 14 major companies implementing the program for PAC fundraising among more than 1120 donors giving through payroll. By forecasting growth in the program, WSWA can seize upon the opportunity to efficiently implement payroll deduction as it grew. In essence, WSWA could leverage efficiency and experience curves to incrementally improve payroll deduction launches within each company along the way, while managing the costs of growing payroll deduction throughout the association. Consider the financial impact estimate below.


As you can see, an action plan is a rational, building block approach to achieving specific goals. It begins with the question, what are we trying to accomplish? It then systematically gathers the resources and creates all the mechanisms to do the job. As a fundraising or PAC professional, your role is to ensure everything stays on track and is aligned with the strategy.

For more information about how to implement your own payroll deduction program, visit There you will find detailed documents and information for your use to get the job done in your organization.

1 The Human Element, Trey Richardson, Sagac Public Affairs, LLC, 2008
2 Low-Cost Strategies for Your PAC, Trey Richardson, Sagac Public Affairs, LLC, 2009

Trey Richardson is principal of Sagac Public Affairs, a national company providing communications, research, fundraising and management solutions to hundreds of political, non-profit and corporate organizations. Sagac is the leader in the political community for strategy and implementation of candidate, committee and PAC finance operations.

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