Running a political campaign is a team effort. Depending on the size of your campaign, you’ll need to hire staff, including a campaign manager, event or fundraising coordinator, finance director, and field director. For local office, many of these roles may be combined into one position or be fulfilled by a volunteer. At the state or national level, however, you typically need a trained individual to fill each role.
As you build your campaign team, you may consider hiring family or friends to support your efforts. Doing so can have both benefits and drawbacks— let’s look at a few factors that may impact your choice.
Pros of Hiring Friends or Family
It’s an obvious way to build your campaign team.
Running for local office often means working with a limited budget or hiring pool, which both require you to get creative. In this case, the circle of people you surround yourself with can be an incredible hiring resource. You know your family and friends’ strengths, and you can hire accordingly. It’s also likely that the hiring process will move quickly— an important factor if you’re running short on time.
You have the direct support of people you can trust.
Your family and friends are often your loudest and most vocal supporters. Verbal reminders that someone believes in you can go a long way in fueling your enthusiasm for your campaign. Your close relationship also means you can trust any feedback or advice they offer; you know they want the best for you and your future.
Friends and family are more likely to reach out to their network for financial and volunteer support.
And not only will your personal circle be more likely to reach out for support, but they’re also more likely to secure it. Even if someone doesn’t know you, they’ll feel like they know you. The power of mutual acquaintances could do much good for your campaign.
Cons of Hiring Friends or Family
You’re missing the opportunity to hire people with experience.
There’s no doubt that your sister-in-law is extremely organized, or that your friend Sarah is a great event planner. And while it’s always wise to utilize a person’s strengths, there’s something to be said for lived experience. A campaign manager who has worked on other campaigns will come armed with insight, advice, and ideas from someone who’s been there, done that. They’ll be better equipped to help you navigate the campaign trail— especially if this is your first time running for election.
It’s wise to treat a campaign the way you would a business venture, according to Da’Quan Love, Owner at Reflex Strategy Group. “While every race and district is different, I strongly believe that you should run your campaign like a startup business. Would you hire your friend or family member to your new business? If the answer is no, then it’s probably not a good idea.”
It can be more challenging to provide constructive feedback to someone you know personally.
Your team’s choices may not always line up with the vision you have for your campaign. When that happens, you’re responsible for providing feedback so that it doesn’t happen again. Critiquing someone’s decisions can be uncomfortable, but add in a deeply personal relationship, which can feel downright painful. On top of that, some family or friends may be less inclined to take the feedback to heart than a stranger would.
Personal relationships and impartiality can rarely coexist, and according to Marty Santalucia, Founder and Principal of MFStrategies, that makes hiring friends or family a poor choice.
“Unless you’re [a presidential candidate], this is probably a bad idea. And even then. One job of a staffer is to be clinical, to remove emotion, and assess a situation from a pure goal-driven perspective. That could mean delivering very bad news, and it could mean making a decision that makes people mad. Friends and family can be allies in those moments, but the starting point needs to be someone who isn’t emotionally invested at that level.”
Drew Prestridge of Prestridge Political also points out the barrier that personal relationships can create. “I’d lean toward not [hiring friends or family]. You may not have to pay them, but it is very hard to hold them accountable or push them like other staff.”
Transitioning into office may be more difficult.
Federal regulations prohibit hiring family or friends once you’re in office, making the transition into office challenging.
Unlike other campaign team members, you won’t have any option to bring your family on as your staff. In addition, starting fresh with an entirely unfamiliar staff may be jarring if you spent your entire campaign surrounded by people you know.
Hiring Friends and Family Isn’t a Simple Yes or No
The decision to hire close personal connections comes down to individual circumstances such as your budget, level of office, and personal convictions. As you weigh the pros and cons, it’s important to make the choice that you think will be most beneficial for your campaign and your relationships.