For better or worse, campaigns are about raising money and putting those dollars to work educating, persuading, and mobilizing voters. The road to defeat is paved with candidates who self-fund their own campaigns, who say they don’t need donors, or who won’t make the necessary effort to keep money coming in the door.
With just about four months to Election Day, hopefully this doesn’t hit too close to home.
Of course, digital tools at your campaign’s disposal can help alleviate some of the pressure placed on the candidate and finance team by leveraging platforms tailor made for inspiring action.
More often than not, effective online fundraising succeeds or fails on the basics:
- Opt-In Email List: There is no greater resource for raising money online than your opt-in email list. As I mentioned in my last blog, your opt-in list isn’t a rented list of 60,000 individuals who have never heard of you, who didn’t subscribe to get emails from you, and who are more likely to flag your email as “spam” than click the donate button (assuming they open the email at all). Rather, your opt-in list is a carefully cultivated list of supporters and donors who have signed up through your website, through social media, and at events – and most importantly, who want to learn more about your campaign.
- Facebook & Twitter: Social media is a great way to attract new supporters, volunteers, and donors. While it may never pack the same punch as your emails, it can help expand your donor file by creating new avenues to gather emails addresses from your supporters. Leading campaigns know that email and social media messages are most effective when they work in concert.
- YouTube: Visuals are often more powerful than written words, and with YouTube, you can run quick-hit, 15-20 second videos asking supporters to help you reach fundraising goals, and other calls-to-action directing voters to petitions, surveys, donation likes, and other pages. Particularly as Election Day approaches, this can be a powerful weapon in your fundraising arsenal.
What about Instagram and Google+? Each cycle brings new opportunities, but today, neither makes the cut. Instagram, for example, offers no easy way to track engagement, has onerous minimum spends for advertising, and mobile donations are much harder to get. Similarly, Google+ hasn’t matured yet – and many are skeptical it will. Said one prominent consultant at a recent conference, “When was the last time you were on Google+, or cared about anyone who was?”
The reality is, on campaigns, the only resource as valuable as the dollars you need to run your campaign and reach voters with your message is time.
Simply put: don’t waste time on platforms that don’t perform.
Finally, when planning your digital fundraising program, be creative. Digital fundraising opportunities extend beyond “end of quarter” rushes, and hot-button national issues (Obamacare, Hobby Lobby, the IRS scandal to name a few). Other creative online fundraising themes include birthday cards, anniversaries, tie-ins to major sporting events, and other non-political solicitations that can build stronger relationships between candidates and donors.
Generally, candidates and campaigns who claim they “can’t” raise money are the ones who aren’t trying. Fundraising begins and ends with the simple rule “never stop asking,” and in digital, it’s just as relevant. Whether online or offline, the campaigns that work the hardest and smartest are the ones who stand to gain the most.