How to Invest in Digital Fundraising
Whether or not you’re in the business of digital fundraising — or even in the political world at all! — chances are, you know more about digital fundraising than you think.
Over the past decade or so — really beginning at a big scale with President Obama, and then pushed even further into the spotlight by the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016 — digital fundraising has become a must-have for Democrats everywhere. From city council races up to Presidential runs, we’re seeing candidates utilize digital tools to raise money across all platforms. As an example, you’ve probably seen something like this in your inbox:
Or something like this in your Facebook newsfeed:
Despite the appearance that digital fundraising is happening EVERYWHERE, it’s still very new and not universally adopted. That means that it’s often still very misunderstood as a medium, and as a must-have strategy for campaigns. So, we’re here to set the record straight and show you how it all works, answer common questions about what an online strategy really looks like from the inside, and explain why digital fundraising is definitely worth it.
Here it goes! Check out our top digital fundraising lessons:
1) The early stages of your digital fundraising program will be an investment.
There’s a reason candidates start so early with online fundraising (hello, 2020 is still a year and a half away!) — and that’s because a lot of this work is about building. You probably won’t get the fundraising results you want instantly with your digital program.
Your strategy is ultimately about fundraising, yes, but it’s also about building a community of people who support you and want to hear from you, who you can ask for small-dollar donations again and again, and who you can ask for more down the road, like volunteering, hosting a house party, or sharing your message on social media. And that’s what you’ll need to focus on in the beginning.
It’s important to remember that this list-building work is a crucial part of the fundraising effort, and that the list-building alone is a worthwhile investment. The more people you communicate with, the bigger your network and the more potential donors, volunteers, and voters you’ll have on your side in the end.
To put it more bluntly…
2) Your ROI probably won’t be where you want it to be at first.
As with all campaign fundraising strategies, digital fundraising is an investment. And in the first few months of your campaign, you’ll see how much of an investment it is — and you might wonder if it’s worth it.
You see, new email recipients usually take a while to “warm up” to you — meaning, they will need to hear from you for a while before they decide to take any action. Even candidates who go viral will have to contend with a dip in donations after their initial burst of donations and attention.
The truth is that it takes time to build a well-oiled machine. But, once you’ve built up a good-sized list, cultivated recurring donors who give monthly, and developed a message that gets people hooked, you’ll start seeing that ROI you want.
It may sound like a lot to take in, especially on fast-moving campaigns with quickly-changing budgets, so here are the numbers to back it up. Here’s some data from a real client who invested in digital, built up their community, and then saw results:
3) Being flexible and willing to try new things is fundamental to your success.
The downside to digital fundraising becoming more popular is that donors’ feeds and inboxes are becoming saturated, and you have more competition for their attention and dollars. Everyone is trying to be the most authentic, get the most attention, and win the most votes.
But that’s not meant to scare you. The great thing about digital is that when something doesn’t work, you can change it immediately with little effect on time or budget. This also means that candidates and staff need to be more flexible, patient, and bought in to get the return they ultimately seek.
A good digital partner will encourage and suggest new advertising tactics — that may seem like a risk — at strategic points and around pivotal happenings throughout the life of your campaign. Trust us: if you work with us, it’ll pay off!