Campaign Fundraising Like a Politician

Campaign Fundraising Like a Politician

Lessons Learned from Campaign 2016

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a political junkie…when it comes to candidates’ campaign fundraising strategies, that is. As nonprofit fundraisers, there is much to learn from these seasoned pros. Their undeniable success at raising tens of millions of dollars to fuel their political campaigns is intriguing, educational and – most importantly – doable.The frontrunners in today’s election season, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, in particular, use varied methods to achieve success. This New York Times article offers an interesting look at the differences between the Clinton and Sanders approaches to fundraising. Using that as a stepping stone, I’ve compiled a few lessons I’ve learned from studying these campaigns that you can apply to your playbook:

Every Donation Matters.

Bernie Sanders has dominated the online giving arena through small gift solicitation (which has proven very successful). Clinton, while certainly employing online tactics, has raised the majority of her funds through a focus on the more traditional in-person, “major gifts” approach. The key for you is to develop a balanced approach because every donation, regardless of the amount, matters. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is an excellent example of a campaign that expertly balanced these two distinct – yet important – approaches. His campaign successfully engaged legions of supporters who made small online donations (which added up big time) AND cultivated bigger donations by leveraging connections and headlining in-person events. Your goal is to find a way to multiply your grassroots endeavors while still taking the time to cultivate your major donors. Regardless of the level of giving, you need to make sure your donors are thanked for their contributions and clearly see how their hard-earned money is helping to fuel your mission.

Convenience Factor.

I’ve said it before but is most certainly worth repeating. Make it as easy as possible for your donors to support your mission. When a donor makes the decision to support you, don’t make it difficult for them to do so. It MUST be quick, easy and painless.

Know Your Audience.

Clearly identifying your target and being informed about their habits and preferences is key to your fundraising success. For example, knowing that the majority of Sanders supporters were younger Americans, the campaign team created a social- and digital-heavy approach that best suited the tech-advanced and online-savvy group. Armed with the knowledge that Millennials congregate online for their news and information, the team ensured Sanders messages were being heard – and shared exponentially – across those key channels. The takeaway: know who you are talking to and tailor your approach and marketing communications accordingly.As we head into the thick of the Presidential election, pay close attention to how the candidates inspire support and giving. If you do, you’ll mine valuable tactics you can apply to your efforts which will undoubtedly result in a landslide victory for the great work you do.

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