One of the prerequisites to running for political office, local or national, is a solid fundraising game. Political success is largely driven by how much a candidate is able to raise.
Convincing people to donate to a campaign is no simple task. Messaging is central, but beyond styling the right message, accurately targeting potential donors is of paramount importance.
Former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders did exceptionally well with his progressive message within the Democratic Party, raising an incredible $228.2 million total for his campaign, largely through small donations.
Sanders, Clinton and groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee use the firm ActBlue to manage either all or part of their online fundraising. With a focus on building out infrastructure and tools to capture the interest of small donors, ActBlue has worked with more than 11,000 Democratic campaigns and organizations since its founding in 2004.
On the Republican side, CFB Strategies has been playing a similar role. Working with former presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, CFB’s focus is also on infrastructure and the building out of tools to optimize fundraising, even beyond digital.
“Some campaigns have worked with up to 18 or 20 vendors, each one doing a specific fundraising initiative,” Trace Anderson, founder and president of CFB Strategies told Red, White & Blog. “While a holistic approach is the most effective, tapping all potential channels from email to telemarketing to direct mail and developing insights from those initiatives is central to optimizing fundraising targeting strategy.”
“Email ROI is much stronger than other fundraising solicitation,” continued Anderson. “Campaign strategists can quickly see the people who are responding and develop more effective targeting. Over time, sophisticated campaigns will group donors together by average donation or other attributes, targeting different pools with more precise messaging.”
So far in the general cycle, the Clinton campaign has been particularly apt at using fundraising technologies to their benefit, says Anderson. “The Clintons have understood for a while the importance of centralizing data, and are capitalizing on their robust infrastructure.”
Trump’s fundraising organization, while less sophisticated, has quickly made up ground.
“Since June and July, the Trump campaign has made huge strides,” explained Anderson. “They no longer bad-mouth data, they now realize their fundraising success depends on it.”
There is little chance that Trump’s fundraising will catch up with Clinton before November 8; he started too late in the game. Still, his ubiquitous presence on the airwaves bolsters his candidacy and continually spurs interest in his campaign. The question is whether that can rival sophisticated data-driven get-out-the-vote campaigns as we approach the finish line.