Behind every successful political campaign is a team of dedicated professionals working tirelessly to ensure that the campaign runs smoothly. One crucial role in any campaign is that of the treasurer. The treasurer is responsible for managing campaign finances, ensuring compliance with campaign finance laws, and maintaining accurate records of contributions and expenditures. In this guide, we will explore the key steps to hiring the right political campaign treasurer to help your campaign thrive.
Why a Treasurer is Essential: Because the Government Says So
Before we dive into the hiring process, it’s important to understand the significance of a political campaign treasurer:
- Financial Stewardship
At its core, a political campaign’s treasurer is responsible for managing the campaign’s finances, including collecting contributions, paying expenses, and keeping detailed records. In many states, the treasurer role has an obligation to ensure fundraising operations are conducted within legal and ethical financial boundaries and can be held liable if the campaign’s fundraising operation runs afoul of the law. A competent treasurer helps the campaign remain compliant with these laws, avoiding potential legal troubles.
- Compliance & Reporting
Campaign finance laws and regulations require campaigns to periodically report who funds their campaigns and who the campaign pays, however the reporting methods and mechanisms vary by jurisdiction. Most states and the Federal Election Commission offer some level of training treasures can take to better understand these requirements.
Steps to Hire the Right Treasurer
- Define the Role
Before you start your search, you must first clearly understand the treasurer’s role in your campaign. Consider the scope of the campaign, your fundraising goals, and the complexity of the finances. Will the treasurer be a full-time or part-time position? Does your campaign require the expertise of a professional firm experienced in campaign compliance?
One thing is for certain, you want to avoid the mistake many first-time candidates make when selecting a treasurer.
Because having a campaign treasurer is a requirement in many states when you file your candidacy, candidates often rush to choose someone as their treasurer to meet the paperwork requirements. While its true a subsequent amendment to your paperwork can enable you to change treasurers later in the campaign, its best to find the right person from the get-go.
Understanding your needs will guide your search.
- Identify Qualifications
At a minimum, the ideal campaign treasurer should possess the following qualifications:
- Financial Expertise: Look for candidates with a background in finance, accounting, or a related field. They should have a solid understanding of budgeting, financial reporting, and compliance.
- Familiarity with Campaign Finance Laws: Knowledge of campaign finance laws specific to your jurisdiction is crucial. Experience in political finance is a significant plus.
- Attention to Detail: The treasurer must be detail-oriented to maintain accurate records and report contributions and expenditures correctly. They must also have the skill set and patience required to audit fundraising reports down to the penny come compliance time.
- Ethical Standards: Choose someone with a strong sense of ethics and integrity, as they will handle campaign funds and donor information. It should come as no surprise to anyone that politics attracts characters and political lore is rife with tales of political staff who cut corners to give their candidate the advantage.
You want to avoid the potential for any improprieties. You want a campaign treasurer who knows and understands that the documents they submit to election regulators are legal affidavits and are subject to rigorous review.
- Start Your Search
Now that you know what you’re looking for, you can begin your search for a campaign treasurer:
- Internal Team: It’s common for candidates to have a close team of advisors, which is commonly known in the industry as the candidate’s kitchen cabinet. Some of those individuals may be family members or business partners, but all will be united by a sense of loyalty to the candidate. By considering members of your existing team who may have the qualifications and interest in taking on the role, you might find someone willing to take on the treasurer’s role for the right reasons.
- Network: If your internal team yields no good candidates, then you will need to tap into your political network to seek recommendations or referrals for potential treasurers. This outreach should include accounting or law firms who specifically handle political campaign finance services.
For more information and recommendations on professional firms who provide treasurer services and compliance, give us a call here at VOTEGTR. We routinely work with some of the best in the industry.
- Recruitment Sites: At VOTEGTR, we don’t typically recommend relying on job boards, even political job boards to find a treasurer because job boards are usually utilized by individuals looking for entry level positions. However, post staff openings on political job boards and websites can be helpful to building your broader team.
- Interview Candidates
Once you have a pool of candidates, conduct interviews to assess their qualifications and fit for your campaign. Ask questions like:
- Tell me about your experience in campaign finance and compliance.
- Tell me about your preferred system to handle campaign treasurer operations and compliance.
- How do you stay updated on campaign finance laws and regulations?
- Can you provide examples of your attention to detail in managing finances?
- How do you handle financial discrepancies or errors in reporting?
- What is your approach to ensuring transparency in campaign finances?
- How do you prioritize and manage multiple financial tasks during a campaign?
- How would you handle a situation where campaign finances face unexpected challenges?
- Check References
Don’t skip the reference-checking step. Contact their professional references to gain insights into their performance, work ethic, and character. Pay close attention to any red flags or concerns raised by references. In certain states, it’s surprisingly common for members of the opposition campaign to find ways to infiltrate a campaign for nefarious purposes.
- Assess Compatibility
Consider how well the candidate’s personality and work style align with your campaign’s culture and values. Compatibility can greatly affect teamwork and collaboration on a political campaign, especially as the campaign activity level increases as Election Day approaches. Does the candidate aim to be quick on the response because they are well organized, or does the candidate prefer to work on their own time and at their own pace.
- Evaluate Communication Skills
Effective communication is crucial for a treasurer. Assess their ability to explain financial matters clearly to non-experts and their responsiveness to inquiries from the campaign team and donors. In more than two decades of working on political campaigns, I know that even the most well organized compliance operations still require problem solving through collaboration and communications. This is important.
- Discuss Compensation
If your campaign decides on paying a campaign treasurer for their time, then you will want to discuss compensation, including salary, benefits, and any reimbursement for expenses related to the treasurer’s role. Ensure that the terms are clearly outlined in a written agreement and that they sufficiently address instances where the campaign treasurer is expected to put in time after hours to solve problems and to execute reporting tasks ahead of deadlines.
- Ensure Legal Compliance
Before finalizing the hiring process, ensure that the candidate is eligible to work in your jurisdiction and that they understand and agree to abide by all campaign finance laws and reporting requirements. Check to see if your state has a residency requirement pertinent to the treasurers role. In many jurisdictions, it is common for the treasurer to be a resident of the jurisdiction of the district for which the campaign is running.
- Onboard and Train
Once you’ve selected the right treasurer, provide them with thorough onboarding and training. They will need an intimate view of your campaign’s operation, tools, goals, and finances. Establish regular check-ins to ensure open communication and the broader campaign team will need to understand how they can assist the treasurer in their role.
Hiring the right political campaign treasurer is a critical step in building a successful campaign. They will be the financial steward who helps you navigate the complexities of campaign finance, ensuring transparency, accountability, and compliance. By following these steps and carefully considering qualifications, compatibility, and ethics, you can find a treasurer who will play a vital role in your campaign’s success. With the right treasurer by your side, you’ll be well-equipped to focus on your campaign’s mission and make a positive impact on your community or the nation.