In this series, you will learn the processes behind running for a party office (District Leader) in the state of New York. The first part of the series focused on the foundational steps that must be taken when running for office. This second part is all about tracking your campaign finances. Let’s review some key steps from the first part before we begin.
- Have you selected a Treasurer and filed the correct paper work?
- Have you applied for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?
- Have you opened a bank account for your campaign?
- Have you selected a donations platform for fundraising?
Once you answer yes to all of those questions, then you may begin working with your Treasurer on a good record keeping system, fundraising, and preparing your filing report.
1. Set Up a Google Spreadsheet. With my treasurer, we decided to keep a Google Sheet that only we had access to. In the sheet, we used separate tabs to keep track of our campaign expenses, donations, in-kind donations, bank transactions, and a summary page. If you’d like, you can add an additional tab to calculate any interesting facts about your donations. For example, you may want to know your average donation, the number of unique donors, the number of unique contributions, your most frequent donation, etc.
2. Set Up Your Bank Transactions tab. In the “Bank Transactions” tab, you’ll want to create columns that include the date, bank activity description, deposit, withdrawal, new balance, and notes. Once you start making deposits (donations) and withdrawals (campaign expenses), it’ll be important that this sheet matches your banking history exactly. I recommend going to your online banking account and copying the transaction history. You could even take a trip to the bank and have them print out a copy of the transaction history, and then manually enter the numbers. The Bank Transactions tab may look something like this:
One way to keep a running total of the transactions is to set up a formula for your deposits and withdrawals. Since a withdrawal is another way of subtracting, I like to think of it as “adding a negative number.” You can use this formula in cell E3, “=E2+C3+D3” just like the image below.
Here’s how it works. The $18.00 in the withdrawal was a bank fee. It is written as “-$18.00”. Do that for all your withdrawals. Then in the “New Balance” cell E3, start typing the formula. You can calculate all deposits and withdrawals in the “New Balance” column by clicking the blue square in the highlighted cell and drag downward. It will automatically add what’s in the Deposits and Withdrawals columns. By the end of the filing period, the last “New Balance” cell should match what’s in your bank account.
3. Set Up Your Donations Tab. For our campaign, we only accepted donations via credit or debit card that were processed through ActBlue. It made filing a lot easier for us because all of the information was digitally kept in our ActBlue account. Mind you, there is a 4% processing fee for each donation, so if you want the full amount donated, then I suggest accepting cash or checks.
Setting up this tab is very simple. First, you’ll need to log into ActBlue. Then in navigation dashboard on your left, click on “Downloads.” It will bring you to a screen that allows you to down CVS reports over a period of time. In the first line, you can click on the calendar icons to specify the dates of the report. Then click the “CSV” button right next to the calendar icons. It will then download the report of all your donations through the specific time period.
The time period selected in the image was for our January Periodic Report. We used the day we received our first donation, November 20, 2019 (the day we launched our campaign) and the cut-off day, which was January 11, 2020.
When creating this tab, we copied all of the information (including headers) in the CSV Report and pasted it right into the blank donations tab. We then adjusted the headers for this tab. We started to use the headers in the ActBlue CSV file that we downloaded, but then we found it helpful to have the “Fee” tab near the beginning of the sheet. That sum of all the ActBlue donation processing fees is what’s needed when filing your campaign finance report. Then I added a “Net Donation” tab, which subtracts the ActBlue fee from the full donation amount. That way we could see how much net profit we made on each donation.
To keep track of your net profit, simply enter this formula in the cell under your “Net Donation” cell. Enter =C2-D2. In the picture below, you’ll see the formula used in the third row (C3 & D3) instead of the second row. That was just so you could see the numbers used in the row above and how the equations works.
Once the formula is entered. You may click on the cell again so it’s selected. Then drag the blue square in the bottom right of the cell and drag all the way down. Then you’ll see how much of the net profit you’re receiving on each donation.
4. Set Up Your Campaign Expenses & In-Kind Donations Tabs. Before setting up these tabs, it’s important to understand the difference between a campaign expense and an in-kind donation. The following excerpt is taken directly from the New York State Board of Elections Campaign FAQ section:
When I make an in-kind contribution, how do I report it?
If you are making an in-kind contribution, enter the contribution on Schedule F. If it is a contribution that you paid for, enter the purchase amount, which will affect your balance. If it is gift of service or something of value, enter the contribution on Schedule F with a dollar amount of $0, which will not affect your balance.
It’s good to keep track of what the value of an in-kind donation would have been if you never had to pay for it. We created values of the estimated cost for everything that was given to us for free.
As for these last two tabs, the information you’ll need for filing should be the minimum of what’s included in these tabs. You must collect:
- First Name
- Last Name
- Full Amount Paid (including taxes)
- Payee’s Name (The person who paid you)
- Payee’s Street Address
- Payee’s City, State, and Zip Code
- What This Campaign Expense is For (Type)
Please note that for an in-kind donation, the “Type” is different. It refers to how the in-kind donations was attributed. The three options are “Services/facilities provided”, “property given”, or “campaign expenses paid for.”
All of the aforementioned bullet points can become your headers in this tab. Then in each row, make sure to fill out every piece information as accurately as possible.
5. Save All Your Receipts & Invoices. The best way to stay organized is to keep a copy of every receipt and invoice. Make sure you have an email account where invoices can be sent. To be safe, you can also print of all of your invoices and keep them in a folder. You can even scan them (take photos on your phone) and then upload them to Google Drive. Don’t forget to keep your receipts and store them, too.
Now as you fundraise and make purchases for your campaign, you should be able to keep track of everything. It will come in handy when you have to file your campaign finance reports. If you have any questions about keeping track of your funds, feel free to reach out via Twitter at @NickforAstoria. Best of luck!