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James Smith

Building a better future out of code

What did we spend?

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So, the spending returns are done, and officially, we raised £1620 in Horsham, but only spent £1195, leaving me with a profit of over £400! That is obvious bullshit, as you can see from our open accounts, so this post is all about what we actually spent over the last year. Also, I’ll look at what was useful, and what wasn’t.

Horsham Spending

When Total
Pre-campaign £244.06
Long campaign £603.72
Short campaign £1189.43
Everything £2037.21

The main difference here from the return is that the return doesn’t include:

  • Spending before 19th December 2014 (listed above as pre-campaign)
  • Election deposit of £500 (during the long campaign)
  • Crowdfunder fees of £97.20 (during the short campaign)

So, we actually spend nearly double what was officially counted on the Horsham campaign itself.

South West Surrey Spending

When Total
Long campaign £500
Short campaign £1087.73
Total £1587.73

We didn’t spend as much in the early days in South West Surrey, so it was all in the short campaign. Again though, the official return didn’t include deposit or crowdfunding fees. Here, we raised £750 against that spend from crowdfunding.

National spending

When Total
Sep 2014 to May 2015 £548.96 (roughly)

As well as spending on the local campaigns, there was some money spent on national-level stuff. This includes the party registration fee (£150), domain names, etc, but mostly is went on our NationBuilder subscription, which runs the website and manages our voter database. For a while we had multiple subdomains running for each local area, which bumped up the price a bit unnecessarily.

This stuff gets reported separately, sometime in the next month or so.


So, all in all, for the party bootstrapping and 2015 election campaign across two constituencies:

What Total
Raised £2370.00
Spent £4173.90

So, we’re a bit out of pocket, but a lot less than we would have been without our generous donors!

Just for fun; we got 695 votes, so we spent just over £6 per vote. Probably not massively efficient, but we were learning :)

Where did it go?

So most of the money went on the essentials; leaflets, deposits, fundraising fees. However, in Horsham there is about £400 that went elsewhere, which I probably could have used better.

Facebook ads

Over the year, I dropped £73.93 on Facebook advertising, and I’m pretty sure that was basically like throwing it into a black hole. The first campaign, 20 quid or so to get some likes on the page when we started out, seemed fairly successful, but after that, it really wasn’t. I would advertise the meetups we were holding (more on that in a minute), and near the end was trying to push 30-second pitch videos etc.

Without exception, the engagement rate on those ads was really really low. Each time I decided it wasn’t worth it, then a month later would get suckered in again, thinking that perhaps this time the content would work better.

Social media advertising is a black art, and Facebook make you spend a lot of money to reach anyone these days. Organic reach is dead unless you’re very lucky, and unless you have a massive budget, Facebook’s not going to help.

I’ll probably fall for it again though; please remind me of this when I do.

Face to face meetups

Through the campaign, I really wanted to be visible to voters, to be somewhere accessible to them. I ran meetups around the constituency, every week for about 6 months.

Admission time; that was a real slog, because a lot of the time they were empty. Sometimes I’d have one or two people come along, and the conversations we had were great and useful, but in general this wasn’t an effective use of time or money.

I started by booking meeting rooms in local halls, etc, but then changed to mostly meeting in pubs once it became clear that was just throwing money down the drain. All in all, £282.70 went on hiring meeting rooms, which was in all honesty probably just wasted.

I think there were two main problems here. First, telling people about them was hard; I could have done better with newspaper ads, local newsletters, etc, but that would have cost more, and I don’t know it would have worked anyway. Facebook advertising, even when specifically targeted, didn’t help either.

That comes down to the second reason, which is that perhaps people don’t really want to engage in that way. Who wants to go to the pub and talk to a politician? Really? I wish they did; I wish we had the town-hall meetings that we used to have, and that still seem to happen in the US, but it’s not where we are now. It will take time to rebuild that type of engagement.

Still, I’m glad I tried. I’m glad I can look back and say that I was available to people (even if they didn’t know it or want it).


So, there you go - that’s where your (and a decent chunk of my) money went! The crowdfunding money paid for the important bits; the leaflets, the deposits, etc. The rest was out of my own pocket, so I don’t feel too guilty that some of it wasn’t very effective.

There are definitely lessons to learn for next time; the main one is to get some social media expertise involved, because although I basically live online, using it effectively to get a message out is a completely different thing!

Thanks to everyone who supported us with their donations; it wouldn’t have been possible without you. We love you all :)


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