What to Do When You’re Struggling with Fundraising
2018 was a groundbreaking year in digital fundraising — even after many groundbreaking years for digital fundraising.
Digital allows new candidates to gain the support they need to run for Congress, Senate, even President — without needing to rely so heavily on the high-level connections and support that have been a roadblock for many in the past. Online, candidates can express their own voices, find supporters nationwide, and earn enough small-dollar donations to power a campaign.
But it’s hard to run a digital fundraising campaign that works all the time, especially now that the digital space is becoming more saturated. For most, it’s a roller coaster of trial and error as we try to earn grassroots support, attention, and donations.
The bottom line is that digital fundraising opens up a lot of doors for new and unique candidates to step up to the plate, but it’s not easy. Here are some of our insights from the past few cycles on what to do when fundraising stalls:
1) Dive into the data.
This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t be looking at data regularly — every good digital fundraising program should include data. But when things stall out with your fundraising, dive even deeper into the data to find out the problem.
Maybe your email program’s spam score is unusually high. Maybe your ad campaign’s targeting is too narrow. Or maybe people are clicking on your ads or emails, but dropping off before they donate. In any case, taking a look at both broad and specific data points can help diagnose a problem you didn’t know you had — and let you know where to start to get your fundraising back on track.
2) Get off the treadmill.
Sometimes the data doesn’t point to one specific problem, and your fundraising efforts just aren’t working. We’ve been there. Truthfully, the digital and political worlds change so much that we often don’t know what’s going to work — but we try new things until they do, and we learn from challenges.
When things just aren’t working and you don’t know why, get off the metaphorical treadmill — take a minute to pause and try something new, instead of creating the same types of work over again. Whether it’s new audiences, new creative — maybe running old creative to a new audience — what’s important here is standing out and showing your supporters something they haven’t seen from you before.
And in order to try to think outside the box, seeing what other people in the industry are doing can help get the creative juices flowing. Sign up for other email lists, and check out what others are doing on Facebook and Google Ads — candidates, brands, and nonprofits alike. Check out Facebook’s political ads archive and Google’s database for political ads. For brands or nonprofits, you can always check out the “Info & Ads” tab on their Facebook Page.
3) Ask for help.
Collaboration is key when it comes to new, out-of-the-box ideas. Getting someone else’s input is a surefire way to get out of your own head and come up with some new ideas.
We find that internal team brainstorms and conversations with campaign staff and other consultants about what works for them are really helpful in shaping our work. Understanding what works for candidates during call time, or what voters are saying at their doors when volunteers canvass, is really helpful for online fundraising — and if we didn’t ask, we often wouldn’t get that critical information.
Overall, digital fundraising requires a lot of creativity, risk-taking, and determination to make it work. Any way you can think outside the inbox and try something new is a good practice, and we’re looking forward to seeing how online fundraising transforms in the 2019 and 2020 cycles. Happy fundraising!