The following is based on an excerpt from Michael D. Cohen’s book “Modern Political Campaigns: How Professionalism, Technology, and Speed Have Revolutionized Elections.”
What I expect to see in the fundraising space is a doubling down on the professionalism necessary to raise money and cultivate donors, artificial-intelligence-driven technology that will anticipate your interest in candidates or causes and increasing speed of start-up to delivery of asks directly to your smartphone.
Using an Amazon.com metaphor, individual candidates may be able to leverage the platform, but those who succeed will be able to design the tweaks that maximize ActBlue’s or WinRed’s databases to target the right people at the right time. Fundraising pros adept at designing short, impactful, messages will be in high demand as donor texting becomes more the norm, rather than social media or cultivated email lists.
The only things that can hold back these developments in modern campaigns are regulation and security. One can envision a backlash of smartphone owners petitioning government agencies for relief from political fundraising via text as too invasive, much in the same way that surveys are now outlawed if they’re autodialed. This would effectively slow down the pace of electronic fundraising and require more volunteers to text to donors.
Transaction and data security are other aspects that cannot be ignored here. If ActBlue or WinRed were to be hacked and user data leaked, platform confidence might erode, causing disruptions in campaigns and perhaps leading to the parties opening up the space to competitors or taking it in-house.
Alternatively, one can also see that if those platforms were hacked, as many of our other accounts have been, donors would simply change their passwords and methods of payment because of the convenience the platforms offer.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility that components of these platforms could be offered open source, which would provide tech-savvy campaigns a way to skip the processing fees altogether, lowering the cost of raising money and shrinking platform dominance. Again, this is less likely, as these tools are highly proprietary and supported strongly by the parties, but if it were to happen, campaigns who hire the right professionals could save important dollars here.
The future of high-dollar fundraising is data driven. High-dollar fundraisers are already seeing the dividends in their ability to shorten the time spent doing background research on a donor before making the appeal. As voter data becomes more readily available, we’ll see races up and down the ballot being more efficient in who they approach, as they will be able to determine not only previous donation patterns but preferences on candidates, issues, and personal interests.
The most productive time with donors is spent getting to know them, and the very best high-dollar fundraisers ask for money only after spending a lot of time with them. What if you didn’t have to ask basic questions or questions that might make someone feel uncomfortable, and could better tailor how you approach someone as an individual, not just a random person who gives money to candidates?
That would lead to better fundraising success and, frankly, better relationships. This is why websites like Match.com are so successful: The more you know about someone before you meet, the better the interaction is for the both of you when you do. It is the same for high-dollar fundraising—and all levels of fundraising.
Modern Political Campaigns: How Professionalism, Technology, and Speed Have Revolutionized Elections is distributed by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers and is available here.