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Planning for Success

By Trey Richardson

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

Consider this example:

The Wine & Spirits 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 prepackaged with legal requirements, accounting procedures and ready-to-use documents such as employee flyers, payroll deduction forms and follow-up materials.
The overall goal called for $1.75 million in PAC receipts by the end of the election cycle. In addition, WSWA-PAC wanted to have more than 1,000 individuals giving via payroll deduction by the end of the year – a goal they surpassed.
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. 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 this 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. To begin, government affairs would set six goals for itself:

  1. Work with membership to determine company targets by a set date.

  2. Based on the results of the first goal, design a prototype for beta-testing payroll deduction within three different sized companies a month later.

  3. Concurrently work with legal and finance groups to handle the transfer of company payroll contributions to the PAC and ensure legal compliance by that same date.

  4. Based on the results of the second goal, create a specific Payroll Deduction Kit for customizable models about three months later.

  5. Have the executive office and leadership announce the association payroll deduction campaign to member companies at that same time.

  6. Implement association payroll deduction throughout the organization the following year.

Notice in this example how WSWA’s government affairs group translated the association’s strategy into specific, measurable goals. Government affairs would then develop specific action plans around each goal. Finance, legal and the executive office could follow this process as well and combine their collective goals into a complete plan of action.

Every 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. In alignment with the action plan, the executive office would 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 focus on how to handle a 1,000 percent increase in transaction volume for the PAC, arriving in high-volume, small dollar contributions each pay period.

In effect, the association’s strategic goals cascade down to the five groups, which then devise separate 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 are simple milestones. 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 be measured not only by receipts and participation, but through meeting deadlines, as well as innovation and process improvement in both finance and legal. Some examples of performance areas WSWA could have measured are included below.

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 not having enough resources to execute your plan effectively. As you think about resources, remember to look beyond today and consider what you may need in the coming years for the project. By forecasting for the future, your PAC can keep pace with the market you are building and create a long-term advantage for your organization. Therefore, the final piece of an action plan is the cost associated with the plan itself.

For example, while WSWA’s resource needs in the first year may have been limited to program development and beta-testing among just two or three companies, imagine what their needs are with 14 major companies implementing the program for PAC fundraising among more than 1,120 donors giving through payroll. By forecasting growth in the program, WSWA can seize upon the opportunity to efficiently implement payroll deduction as it grows. In essence, WSWA could leverage efficiency and experience curves to incrementally improve payroll deduction launches within each additional company 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 guides you to systematically gather the projected resources and create the necessary mechanisms to do the job. As a fundraising or PAC professional, your role is to ensure everything stays on track throughout the process and is aligned with the overall strategy of the plan.

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

Trey Richardson is managing partner 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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