Learning from the Democrats: Raising Money Online

I think the online fundraising bonanza that is going on during this primary season is something we in the non-profit world should be watching closely.

I’m not primarily going to focus on how much has been raised, although the raw numbers are staggering. Today’s edition of The New York Times reports that of the $36.1 million that Obama raised during January, $28 million (78%) came over the Internet. The evidence is clear: motivated donors choose the Internet. The corollary to that is that if you have online donations enabled on your site, but you’re not raising a lot of money, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with your audience. People need to be motivated to give.

So let’s focus on strategy and e-mail design. First, the content of the e-mails that these candidates are sending out is primarily intended to raise money. Clinton’s e-mails are exclusively pitches for donations. Obama (or his staff) writes more often with editorial messages, commenting on victories or challenges ahead. They insert links to video clips more often. Obama’s e-mail list is apparently over a million names. That’s got to be paying off, since they send several appeals a week.

I would prefer more editorial. I find pitches for money tiring. It seems to me that there’s an opportunity for a better segmentation strategy where content for existing donors would be different than non-donors, etc. That’s not happening now, and I guess we’ll have to wait another four years for that.

What’s also interesting to me is that a standard template design for e-mails is developing. Take a look at this: 


Note that the "ask" happens in several different places in the same e-mail. There’s always a graphic on the right side. Then there’s a call to action placed several times within the text. Apparently putting it in several times, separated by white space works. Both Democratic candidates follow pretty much the same layout.

I have never seen a solicitation that looks like this from a non-profit. Perhaps someone should test it?

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One response to “Learning from the Democrats: Raising Money Online

  1. What Non-Profits Can Learn About The Staggering Amounts Raised by Candidates Online

    Let’s have a tutorial today on lessons non-profits can learn from the staggeringly successful fundraising strategies the presidential candidates are using–online. The New York Times reports that Barack Obama raised $36.1 million in January, with $28 m…

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