How to host a political fundraiser event
Last year, Joe Heck, DO, a candidate for the U. S. House of Representatives from Nevada’s Third Congressional District, asked me if I could raise at least $25,000 from orthopaedic surgeons for his primary campaign. I knew that Dr. Heck’s experience as an emergency department physician and a state senator would make him a great representative for medicine and Nevada, so I wanted to help.
Many national party committees look to new candidates to prove themselves as viable by raising a lot of money early on. The Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC) does not participate in primary elections, but the PAC was able to host a “meet-and-greet” for Dr. Heck in Washington, D.C., and encouraged me to organize a fundraiser in Nevada before the end of 2009.
I heard Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, chair of the Orthopaedic PAC, say many times, “Hosting a political fundraiser helps you build relationships with members of Congress.” To have a seat at the table, physicians need to step up.
Work with campaign staff
If you volunteer to host a fundraiser, you will find that the candidate’s campaign staff is usually very eager to help you work out the details of the event. We selected a venue for a simple reception with wine, beer, soft drinks, and hors d’oeuvres.
Determining the contribution amount for attendees was the next important decision. We decided to ask for a smaller amount of money from a larger pool of guests to encourage some doctors who were not involved in the political process to take an interest.
Establish a host committee
The host committee is key in political fundraising. I pooled my personal experience of 21 years of involvement in organized medicine with resources from Dr. Heck’s campaign staff to establish a broad-based host committee that represented several physician specialties.
The 18-member committee included three other orthopaedic surgeons, an otolaryngologist, a urologist, an anesthesiologist, an emergency medicine physician, a pediatric oncologist, a radiologist, an internal medicine physician, a family practice physician, a general surgeon, a pediatric general surgeon, an obstetrician/gynecologist, two cardiothoracic surgeons, and the owner of a chain of physical therapy/medical clinics. Most of the hosts were members of large groups, which meant that they could easily encourage their colleagues to donate. Each had a goal of raising $5,000.
We made sure that the host committee knew where our candidate stood on key issues. We had
Dr. Heck send an e-mail to the host committee, stating his positions on fixing the problems with Medicare and addressing unfair insurance industry practices. This e-mail not only helped build support, it also helped the hosts in soliciting contributions.
More tactics from the trenches
A good way to drum up support is to give invitations to each member of the host committee to distribute among his or her friends and colleagues. A diverse host committee enables you to reach and invite a broad range of potential contributors.
We also set up a file-sharing
Web site that enabled people to easily print out or e-mail invitations. Using the invitation as a flier that can be posted on a bulletin board also encourages other physicians to get involved. Just be sure that the candidate’s Web site address is on the invitation so that people know where they can go to contribute online.
In general, soliciting donations requires walking a fine line. You need to be assertive and persistent, but you don’t want to be perceived as aggressive and obnoxious. It helps to have a thick skin and no fear of rejection. You should also realize that simply mailing or handing out an invitation is vastly different from securing a commitment.
Building good relationships in the medical community makes it easier to promote a candidate and secure more checks. When an individual makes a contribution, ask him or her to get three other people to donate and bring their checks to the event.
All of my fellow orthopaedic surgeons on the committee worked very hard to bring in contributions. One in particular—Hugh Bassewitz, MD, from Desert Orthopaedic Center—deserves special recognition. He was able to convince almost 90 percent of his practice partners to participate in this event by continuously updating them on others who had contributed. This fostered excitement as the group strove to achieve a collective goal.
Many campaign strategists predicted that we would not raise more than $15,000. The event was scheduled the week before Christmas in Las Vegas, a city hit hard by the recession. Despite these challenges, we raised more than $40,000. Everyone had a great time, and more than 50 people attended.
As Grant Hewitt, campaign manager for “Friends of Joe Heck” put it, “Your event was a smashing success. Without your help, we would have not had any chance of hitting our goal, but with it, we blew the goal right out of the water.”
I encourage all AAOS fellows to work with the Orthopaedic PAC to hold in-district fundraisers and build relationships with their members of Congress. I am grateful to the medical community in Southern Nevada for their support, and the understanding and support from my family, friends, and office staff for their sacrifices to help make the event a success.
Fred C. Redfern, MD, is the Nevada representative to the AAOS Board of Councilors and the president of the Nevada Orthopaedic Society; he can be reached at email@example.com
About the Orthopaedic PAC
The Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC) continues to be a strong voice for orthopaedic surgeons in Washington, D.C.
In 2009, the Orthopaedic PAC raised more than $2 million, supported more than 140 candidates, and sent orthopaedic surgeons to more than 83 in-district events around the country. The Orthopaedic PAC strives to help elect or re-elect members to Congress who support AAOS positions on the issues. The PAC also focuses on supporting physician members of Congress and current members who serve on healthcare-related committees.
By participating in the Orthopaedic PAC, orthopaedic surgeons have an opportunity to develop or strengthen relationships with current or future members of Congress who can further the advocacy goals of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
For more information about getting involved with the Orthopaedic PAC, or hosting your own fundraiser, contact Cheka Gage, PAC and grassroots specialist, office of government relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about the PAC at www.aaos.org/PAC or by visiting the Advocacy Booth, located in Lobby A of the Morial Convention Center, during the 2010 AAOS Annual Meeting in New Orleans, March 9-13, 2010.