Anyone who runs political campaigns understands that a solid fundraising program is the engine that drives candidates forward. It keeps the lights on, funds your critical outreach efforts, and serves as an indicator of a campaign’s strength.
A robust fundraising operation is a key factor in determining the viability of candidates, and direct mail remains at the heart of successful fundraising programs.
Let’s take an example from the current cycle: Dr. Ben Carson’s insurgent campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. For political candidates with a long history in politics, access to big donor fundraising comes relatively easy. But if you’re a first-time candidate, especially for the largest office in the country, scaling your fundraising efforts quickly is an enormous challenge.
So for Carson, building a national grassroots effort was necessary. As of this writing the Carson campaign’s fundraising efforts have exceeded all other Republican political campaigns in individual contributions, and the campaign achieved much of this with Direct Mail, a media channel with a long history of reaching voters for donations, communicating campaign platforms, and driving voter turnout on Election Day.
“The Carson campaign just surpassed one million contributions with an average gift of $50.00,” according to Mike Murray, President and CEO of the direct marketing agency TMA Direct, which advises the Carson campaign on direct mail." That’s $50 million coming in thanks to individual donors who believe in Carson’s message and vision, said Murray who leads the grassroots fundraising effort for the Carson campaign.
While often times online communications can easily be swept away and deleted, the Carson campaign has found success with Direct Mail by relying on its ability to serve as a more intimate form of communication. Mailers have allowed potential donors and supporters to take a deeper dive into Carson’s story and interact with him on a more personal level.
“Mail has been a major channel for fundraising but there is also a branding benefit occurring; even though some mail recipients may not be donating, these people are learning more about our candidate and his story,” said Murray. “Maybe that leads them to give through another channel or, at a minimum, it puts additional information into the hands of potential voters.”
Murray admits that the mail program has been successful due to many efforts but that creative, timing, and data selects have been crucial to that success.
“We put a lot of effort into standing out in the mailbox,” said creative lead Kip Lady, Vice President Direct Mail Production at TMA Direct. “The campaign has provided us with creative flexibility which has helped garner compelling response rates.”
"Thanks to our direct mail efforts, we were able to secure many of the names in our house file, which has seen response rates reach over 42 percent," said Murray. "Mail will continue to play an important role for us as it remains a viable channel of communication and outreach. And so far, we haven't seen anything to tell us differently."