When I was first approached to run for a seat in the Texas legislature, I was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to have a broader platform to connect with supporters. I knew I could make a real difference on issues that mattered to me, like education, the economy, equity, inclusion, and other key areas that would help my community thrive. However, no matter how motivated I was by altruistic issues, there was one thing I needed a lot more of to win the election . . . MONEY.
As a Latina, I share a similar experience with many of my cultural sisters; I didn’t come from generational wealth, and no one in my family had prospered beyond the basics of paying rent and putting food on the table. As kids, we were discouraged from talking about money and knew better than to ask for it. Because I was immersed in a culture of scarcity, my money mindset never fully blossomed. Needless to say, if I was going to raise the funds for my campaign, I had a lot to learn.
But how do you disrupt a cycle of generational poverty? How do you overcome historical circumstances where policy and power have been structured to benefit people who don’t look like you at the expense of people who do? My elders were not beneficiaries of our nation’s economic policies but were the working hands that brought food to the table of its governing leaders. Migrating to America may have meant better opportunities, but “better” seemed to have a limit.
As is probably clear, my family’s habit of not talking about money doesn’t mean that I didn’t form opinions about it through observation and experience. More than once, I witnessed my mom “stretch that dollar” and watched my teachers host school events with minimal resources. From this, I learned how to be resourceful with the money I did have and to value each dollar. And while my elders did not show me how to earn more than “just enough” or how to invest, their contributions to my financial stability were handed down in the form of a strong work ethic, integrity, and resilience.
As I came to terms with the fact that winning an election would require raising more money than I’d ever made in a year, my family traits became the foundation for fundraising. And so, I began my journey of dialing for dollars and learning the art of pitching quickly.
I’ll never forget the first few calls I made. My voice was shaky, and it took me forever to get to the point. I honestly believe the first few dollars I raised were a result of people feeling sorry for me but giving me credit for asking. I was thrilled when I raised my first $20. They said yes! I figured if I could do it fumbling and mumbling, then I could do it much more effectively with a bit of focused practice.
And so, I practiced. I asked for feedback from trusted friends and advisors, and I wrote and rewrote my script. And rewrote it again: you want to sound authentic even when you’re saying the same thing over and over again.
Eventually, I realized that I sounded the most authentic when I was able to tap into the bigger reason for why I wanted the funds—namely, that it was the tool I needed to reach my goals and, ultimately, make a bigger contribution in the world. Money is a number, but money is also energy. An instrument of change. A way to build momentum and pave the way to new possibilities.
I ended up raising more than three times the money that the strategists told me I needed. Even before I won the election, I felt like I had achieved a “win” just through the process of fundraising. That process required me to overcome my limiting beliefs about money, learn new ways of attracting financial abundance into my life, and tap into the strengths of my elders.
I hope my experience inspires other Latinas—whether they be politicians, entrepreneurs, or nonprofit leaders—to overcome their own self-doubt and start pulling in the donations and funds they deserve.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Hispanic Executive or Guerrero Media.
Diana Maldonado’s Top Fundraising Tips
Whether you’re getting ready to fund a political campaign or raise funds for your start-up, you need to know how to make a strong pitch. Here some key advice from Diana Maldonado:
1. Practice in front of the mirror. Record yourself and then look for ways to improve (e.g., are you getting to the ask quickly enough?), but don’t be too hard on yourself.
2. Make a plan and stick with it. It is very easy to fall behind on fundraising goals. Establish your weekly and monthly goals and stick with them.
3. Get over being uncomfortable with the ask. As you shift your awareness about money, your old limiting beliefs will arise to keep you thinking small. See this as an opportunity to expand your abundance mindset and keep going.
4. Be tenacious. Some days will be full of wins. Other days, you’ll only hear “No.” Take a note from my ancestors (and maybe from yours too) and use your perseverance to get to your goal.
5. Hire an accountability team that has a strong database with multiple avenues for raising money. Don’t put your eggs in one basket—rather, make sure that the distribution is in the right categories to see you through to the end.
6. Remember why you’re doing this. What is the money for? How will getting it change your life and the lives of others? Write down your reasons and refer to them to give you a boost of encouragement.
Diana Maldonado is passionate about helping more women decode the process of running for office—and succeeding when they get there. She is also the president and chief strategist at Maldonado Strategies, where she positions businesses for unrivaled success and lasting impact. Most notably, in this role, Maldonado is known for being an effective relationship builder as she advances business initiatives through her expansive network.
Prior to this role, Maldonado served as the president and CEO of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GAHCC): a results-oriented leader, she strategically drove membership engagement, supported strategic policies, and led revenue diversification efforts.