Nuts & Bolts: Attending a convention can be expensive. Here's how to afford it

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It’s another Saturday, so for those who tune in, welcome to a diary discussing the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic Campaign. If you’ve missed out, you can catch up anytime: Just visit our group or follow Nuts & Bolts Guide. Every week I tackle issues I’ve been asked about, and, with the help of a lot of great minds, we put together a series aimed at helping small campaigns.

Last week, I said that for the first time we’d go behind the scenes of the selection process for delegates to the national convention. This process involves a commitment to run for delegate, the expectation of a delegate, and the expenses to be a delegate.

One of the biggest factors determining who will be willing to run for delegate is in the last category: it can be incredibly expensive to be a delegate to a national convention. Between travel expenses, hotels, food and swag plus time off of work, people can find attending a convention to be particularly expensive and getting people to vote for them daunting. This week, we’re going to talk about how you can plan those expenses and what they will look like in Milwaukee. I’m also going to address how you build connections to get the votes you need to become a delegate.

You’ve decided to become a delegate

Some states provide forms, like Texas. In other states you just show up. In some you campaign for the slot in a direct process. We’ll cover more of that later. But in all states, you will find that a big part of how you get to a convention, budget for it, and provide for funding your attendance will be expenditures you take on. So, if you’ve decided to become a delegate, let’s talk about different ways you have expenses or can contain expenses.

Containing expenses

It is absolutely possible and often encouraged to share a room at a national convention. This lowers your cost of attendance and lowers the pressure on hotels so that more rooms are available for other attendees. If you can, find someone else to share a room with from your own state. If you can’t you can look up other states who are staying in your same area or hotel and see if they have attendees looking to room share. This is one of the best ways to contain your costs.

But sharing a room isn’t the only great way to contain expenses. Planning in advance for your attendance can also mean budgeting days away from your work with vacation time or putting aside early savings to make sure that you have a set aside amount to budget for a period you may not be at work, especially if you work for yourself or your vacation policy is minimal to nonexistent at your work.

Finally, if you are looking to contain expenses, ask about scholarship opportunities in your state or fundraise as a delegate. You are completely free to fundraise for your attendance to a national convention. Several states do have scholarship funds set aside for applicants who want to attend but may have financial hardship. Investigate these opportunities before you decide to run if financing a trip is going to be especially difficult.

Work matters

Delegates do not need to be someone with a long period of party meeting attendance or stalwarts of the party infrastructure. Instead, people who work diligently within a campaign for president are far more likely to be respected by their peers and chosen to attend the national convention as a delegate of the candidate which they want to represent. The work that they put in to those candidates will be recognized and help generate them the votes needed to get them through the selection process.

While you don’t need to be a party stalwart, making sure some people know who you are can be very helpful in getting you through the process. So, be willing to attend a local county or district meeting and discuss what you are doing for a campaign. Make friends within the party and find ways to build those connections into support.

If you need to run in a second phase, as an at-large candidate, this kind of support can be very important in making sure you get to Milwaukee.

Next week on Nuts & Bolts: From caucus to delegate, please explain Iowa

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