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While fundraising in the digital space has become increasingly important for political campaigns in recent years, the shift to nearly all-online campaigns as a result of the global pandemic has increased the importance of organized and robust digital fundraising operations exponentially during this cycle.

As your campaign adapts to this new online landscape, it’s critical to also adapt your donor recruitment and retention strategies accordingly to maximize the impact of your fundraising efforts. This post will walk through some of the strategies and best practices for running an effective digital fundraising program in the 2020 election.

Define your timeline and goals

Calculate the number of days you have between now and election day. Next, determine how much money you’ll need to raise to cover your expenses for the remainder of the election. From here, you’ll be able to plan how much money you need to raise by certain points in your campaign.

Make sure to factor in deadlines and other important events, such as:

  • FEC/filing deadlines
  • Voter registration deadlines
  • Vote-by-mail and absentee voting dates
  • Major holidays
  • Major campaign events

At a minimum, you should set your fundraising goals to cover your campaign’s operational costs. You may also want to include goals for some of the following metrics, which will be helpful to reference when you need to create persuasive personalized communications to supporters and donors:

  • Total amount of money raised
  • Number of donations (individual transactions)
  • Number of unique donors
  • Average donation amount
  • Number of in-district donors (This is especially helpful if you’re running against a candidate largely funded by outside donors or PACs)

Recruit and retain your donors

To run an effective digital fundraising program, you must remember that fundraising is more than just raising money—it’s about understanding who your donors are and providing them with personal and consistent communication.

Take the time to get to know your supporters. You can’t make personalized donation asks if you don’t know enough about the people in your community. Keep track of what they tell you and how they have been engaging with your campaign holistically. Send them surveys to understand what issues they care about. Keep track of which emails they’re opening and which ones they’re not engaging with. Log all the 1:1 interactions you have with each supporter in a centralized database.

Segment your donors and personalize your communications. Once you’re consistently accounting for the different ways people have been engaging with your campaign and have a clear understanding of what they care about as well as why they support you, you’ll want to build segments that reflect the varied groups within your database. Investing time in segmentation will allow you to send personalized messaging to your potential and existing donors at scale whenever you need to.

For example, someone who filled out an issues survey and RSVPed for a previous event might get an invite for an upcoming issue-based virtual fundraising event, while someone who is an active volunteer and highly engaged with the campaign on social media might receive prompts to share your donation pages with their networks.

Stay in touch with your donors. Campaigns often focus much of their energy on bringing in new donors, and in doing so, they sometimes let outreach to their existing donors fall by the wayside. This is a big mistake you want to avoid, because one of the strongest indicators that someone will donate to your campaign is whether they’ve donated before. Make donor retention a key part of your fundraising strategy—partly because they have the potential to give more, and also because you want to acknowledge these people for supporting your campaign financially.

Sharpen your online fundraising tools

Now that you understand who your donors are and the importance of sending personalized communications, let’s walk through some of the most commonly used digital features when requesting donations:

  • Streamline donation processing. The ability to accept donations on your website is absolutely essential for any digital fundraising program. Make sure that your payment processor integrates seamlessly with your website and is sleek and responsive on both desktop and mobile devices. Payment processing isn’t free, so you’ll also want to make sure you’ve selected a processor that charges the lowest rate available.
  • Use text keywords. Having people text a designated keyword to a phone number associated with your campaign is a quick and direct way to send links to your donation pages straight to a person’s phone. Text keywords can be especially impactful when you have a captive audience, such as at a (virtual) event.
  • Equip people with personal fundraising pages. Crowdsource your donation outreach to your community of supporters by setting up personal fundraising pages that they can share with their networks. They’ll be able to designate their own fundraising goals and personalize these pages to include information on why they support you.
  • Build recurring donation programs. Whenever possible, try to encourage people to donate on a recurring (typically monthly) basis. Once your infrastructure is set up to accept recurring donations, people who opt for these recurring donations will have their card charged for the same amount monthly until they cancel or your campaign ends, whichever comes first. It’s a great way to secure a more steady stream of donations, and recurring donors typically have two to three times the lifetime value of one-time donors.

Facilitate peer-to-peer fundraising

NationBuilder’s organizing philosophy is centered around empowering the people in your community to not only participate in your campaign, but also act as leaders within their own networks on behalf of your campaign. We’ve built our platform around this philosophy so you can equip your supporters with the tools they need to lead using peer-to-peer fundraising.

Make it easy to share donation pages with social share prompts. Whenever someone makes a donation on your website, you should provide them with the opportunity to share their support for your campaign and link to your donation page directly from their social media feeds using social share prompts. Not only is this an easy way for donors to share your donation pages in one click, they’ll also get credited for recruiting anyone in their networks who makes a donation through the link they share via NationBuilder’s recruiter functionality.

Spark good-natured competition with leaderboards. We mentioned personal fundraising pages in the last section, but they’re worth mentioning again here. Personal fundraising pages give supporters a lot of agency over how they decide to fundraise for your campaign, and you can also gamify fundraisers’ participation by setting up leaderboards on your website. This way, supporters can see how much they’ve raised in relation to their peers and clearly visualize the impact they’re having on your campaign.

Run a social media ambassador program. Chances are you have at least a few supporters in your universe with a substantial reach on Twitter, as indicated by the number of followers they have. Once they’ve indicated their support for you, you can reach out to them with specific content and donation page links to share with their networks for maximum impact.

Whether you’re a first-time candidate or seasoned campaigner, starting up a fundraising program can be daunting. However, with the right tools, effective strategies, and a commitment to truly understanding who your donors are, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of your fundraising efforts for a well-funded (and hopefully, winning!) campaign.

Want to learn more? Watch a recorded webinar on the topic here.

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