Fundraisers have a higher ceiling to work with this cycle, which could help expand recurring-donation programs.
On Thursday, the FEC announced it raised the contribution limits for certain giving that's indexed to inflation. For candidate campaigns, the impact will be slight. Individuals can now give $100 more to candidates for a total of $2,800 for the 2020 cycle.
But in the small-dollar era, fundraisers note, that could have an oversized impact.
“Like every vote, every hard-dollar contribution can make a difference for a campaign — $100 can pay for social media messaging ads, pizza and pop for volunteers, bumper stickers for cars, or a host of other campaign needs," said Lisa Wagner, a Chicago-based GOP fundraiser. "I expect both Republican and Democrat federal campaigns will be happy with this news."
Now, fundraising practitioners note the limit increase will likely affect only a small percentage of donors personally. To wit, the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending on both sides, found that only 92,518 U.S. adults gave the maximum to a candidate in 2018.
But fundraisers are optimistic that pool could grow with the increasing popularity of recurring donations.
"If you have a strong recurring program with even a handful of donors who are giving $200-plus every month, you can bet those extra dollars will give you an edge at the end of the cycle—which makes those early recurring donors all the more valuable on Election Day,” said Cheryl Hori, a Democratic fundraising consultant.
Democrats certainly have an edge in small-dollar donor fundraising. In 2017-18, 1,250,396 adults gave between $200-$2,699, which was split 41-24 percent, Democrat-to-Republican candidates, respectively, according to the CRP. The rest went to PACs.
But Republicans are looking to make up ground this cycle. Last month, a new joint venture between Data Trust and payment processor Revv called Patriot Pass was unveiled. It was hailed as a platform that will “mimic ActBlue’s technology.”
Further up the fundraising food chain, meanwhile, there will be a slightly larger impact from the FEC’s indexing, which has been done every cycle since 2002 under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
For instance, the parties' congressional campaign committees can take in more from their well-heeled donors. The party rainmakers will now be able to give $35,500 per individual—$1,600 more than the previous cycle.
Still, the biggest impact could be felt by the convention organizers. They can raise $4,800 more per individual for a total of $106,500 for the additional national party committee accounts.