Democratic fundraisers are monitoring online conversations and searching for the issues that will resonate with their small-dollar donor base that was revved up to give during the Trump administration.
In the near term, fundraisers expect a significant drop-off because the data points from 2020 no longer apply. Yes, the election is over. But with Trump out of the White House and currently off his main social channels, the focal point of a lot of online rallying is gone, too.
“We have spent four years being very reactionary,” Meghan McAnespie, digital strategy and training manager at Sapphire Strategies, said during a December post-election event hosted by C&E. “We really had this very clear villain and very clear united purpose in moving forward.”
“Really keeping our listed engaged … will prove to be a bit of challenge in the upcoming years,” McAnespie said.
It could lead to some practitioners opting for more aggressive tactics at a time when the ethics debate among fundraisers is still heated. Gabrielle Rizza of progressive digital firm Authentic Campaigns said fundraisers need to take “a look in the mirror while we’re figuring out the new frontier.”
“I do think there’s going to be a shift to authentic, organizing, movement-based language,” she said in an interview with C&E. “Clients right now, candidates, or people thinking about running for office, are looking at their inboxes and there are clear choices between A and B.”
While consultants like Rizza hope their tactics make their firms stand out in a crowded market, they also know their success is closely linked to operators who don’t abide by the same restrictions.
“In a lot of cases we use the same tools as our competitors, same email server, we’re still dependent on each other’s success,” she said. “The internet does not know that campaign is different than this one.”
Rizza’s hope is that practitioners on the left will think of their tactics and how they could impact the progressive movement overall: “What do we owe each other, what do we owe the movement?”
Clarke Humphrey, who was deputy digital director on the Biden campaign, said she also thinks of email fundraising through the lens of the progressive movement as a whole.
“The programs that I run rely heavily on relationship building and treating supporters like people,” she said during a C&E virtual event last month.
Despite the growing use of subject line trickery and aggressive language Ahmed Champion, a digital strategist at Break Something, said his data shows that language just didn’t perform that well in 2020: “You did not want to go trudging into the territory of trying to incite fear among people and panic.”