The GOP fundraising platform unveiled this week as the right’s answer to ActBlue is being met with skepticism by some fundraising and digital practitioners.
Republicans don’t have a single platform that has been able to channel the power of small-donor online giving in the way ActBlue has, which is why some were calling for practitioners to agree on a GOP counterweight to ActBlue—or risk further losses in 2020.
“If they don’t, [Republicans] won’t be around in the majority any time soon,” consultant-turned Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told the Boston Globe following the 2018 election.
It’s a tough act to follow. ActBlue, which is based outside of Boston and has some 100 employees, processed payments from 4.7 million small-dollar donors in 2018. The average donor gave about $40 each time, which added up to $1.5 billion for 14,440 Democratic campaigns, progressive organizations, and nonprofits.
“I’m withholding judgment until I see more details,” GOP digital consultant Eric Wilson said of Patriot Pass. Wilson has been among those calling for his side of the industry to rethink its digital fundraising infrastructure. “There’s not enough information in the Politico piece for me to offer an assessment.”
Most fundraisers on the right who expressed specific concerns to C&E about the new venture asked not to be identified, and at least one consultant in the fundraising space said he wasn’t likely to use Patriot Pass—at least when it launches next month.
“They didn’t announce a new platform yesterday,” the consultant told C&E. “They announced a rebranding of Revv and they’re still going to be working with Data Trust.”
Chief among the concerns expressed about the new arrangement is whether it will actively address the other parts of the right’s online fundraising ecosystem. Patriot Pass is mostly the creation of top officials at the RNC and the favored vendors of the party’s apparatus. Beyond the RNC and the Trump orbit, there exists other vendors already heavily used by Republican campaigns.
One GOP fundraiser, who uses Anedot, said there should have been wider outreach to consultants about the new service before the announcement was unveiled. “I want good things to happen, but I’m skeptical," the consultant said.
Moreover, will strategists be able to get comfortable with a donation process that’s largely controlled by the RNC, which will be squarely focused on President Trump’s reelection? What’s the expectation on data sharing? And will it truly benefit campaigns further down the ballot?
That there really isn’t a need for an entirely new platform to step in is a common line of thinking among some strategists on the right. In a Medium post last month, Patrick O’Keefe, executive director of the Maryland GOP, argued the GOP’s ActBlue already exists.
“Anedot dominates the Republican market nearly to the level ActBlue dominates the Democrat market,” O'Keefe wrote. “More than 125 of the roughly 250 Republican members of Congress and 43 of 50 state parties use Anedot … They are an honest broker in the market that everyone has grown to trust.”
Transaxt and Donation Report are also available to campaigns on the right. Additionally, Targeted Victory provides fundraising processing.
The real issue on the Republican side isn’t the lack of a fully dominant platform that closely mirrors ActBlue, strategist Eric Wilson has argued. The greatest problem is the lack of “interoperability” between the platforms in the current ecosystem.
“A small dollar donor giving to multiple campaigns would have to re-enter their information and details on each page they visit,” Wilson wrote in November. “And each page looks different so it’s a new process each time. The longer the process is, the lower the conversion rate will be.”
The early expectation is that strategists and firms who already work closely with the national party infrastructure will quickly embrace Patriot Pass. Tim Cameron, the former chief digital strategist for the NRSC, now the co-founder of FlexPoint Media, called the development “an excellent first step to closing the online fundraising gap” in a tweet yesterday.
“The most difficult part will be the necessary steps ahead, but this was a huge obstacle to overcome and gives the GOP a solid foundation,” Cameron tweeted. “We will be strongly encouraging all clients @FlexPointMedia to switch to Patriot Pass for the upcoming election cycle.”