As I speak to candidates and their teams about the importance of cultivating an online donor base, the conversation very quickly shifts to (or even starts at) tactics, but we can’t lose sight of the basic workflow of how supporters become online donors. In fact, it’s clear that there’s a huge knowledge gap between candidates and digital experts in the online fundraising process.
If you’re still trying to figure out online fundraising, I’ll walk you through the process and if you’ve already got experience in this space, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to remind yourself of the fundamentals.
The journey from supporter to donor can be broken down into three fundamental steps:
Before we begin, we’ve got to orient ourselves to the core tenet of online fundraising for campaigns: the bigger your email list, the more money you will raise. There’s no secret formula that I, or anyone else, have.
How Someone Gets On Your Email List
We first begin with acquisition.
Your primary goal in ANY interaction with a supporter is email capture. If they visit your website, you want to get their email. If they follow you on social media, you want to get their email. If they attend an event, you want to get their email. An effective campaign is obsessive about capturing emails.
Your website should have clear and conspicuous email capture opportunities on every single page. You should invest significantly in building your list through lead capture tactics like petitions and surveys. This is where your paid efforts like social media ads and Google search ads come in.
At an absolute minimum, if you’re within a year of an election and you’re not spending money on building your list, you’re not taking online fundraising seriously enough.
Once a Supporter Is on Your Email List
Now you’ve got to begin engaging.
The instant a supporter joins your email list, either from signing up on their own or via a petition, a series of automated emails should immediately begin. Don’t miss the moment when they’re interested in your campaign – and you know they’re online – to ask them for a donation. Follow that ask up with as many as five more emails, spaced out over the period of a week asking them to engage with your campaign in different ways, including a donation.
There are lots of tactics and strategies we teach our members about how to ensure your email reaches the inbox, gets opened, drives action, and raises money, but at its most basic essence email fundraising is about getting the most effective ask in a supporter’s inbox at the exact right moment. This means sending lots of emails to different segments. It’s not a one and done proposition.
In my experience, it can take between 45-90 days between the time the average online donor joins an email list and makes their first donation.
The Donation Mechanics
The conversion is the last and most critical step.
Now that you’ve got the supporter on your email list and you’ve emailed them the right ask at the right moment, they’ll click on the donation link in your email and go to your donation page. The donation page needs to be secure, look good on mobile devices, and capture all of the legally required info (and no more) in less than a minute. The good news is if you use a widely used platform with experience in politics, like Revv, Anedot, or Victory Passport, they’ll handle all of this for you.
If your treasurer is picking your donation platform based on features other than usability for supporters, you should reconsider.
Those are the three fundamental components of a successful online donation program and they’re not hard, but they do take work and they take starting early. If Republicans are serious about narrowing the online fundraising gap with Democrats, we’ve got to embrace a cultural shift.