Trump Impeachment a Boon for Digital Fundraisers on Both Sides

Originally Published on Campaigns and Elections

By Sean J. Miller

Digital consultants have been gifted an early present in the form of President Trump’s impeachment .

The historic event, at the forefront of the news cycle, gives fundraising efforts for groups and campaigns a strong sense of urgency, consultants told C&E.

Supporters, donors and potential donors are are highly aware, engaged, and emotional — making the next few days and weeks — if the Senate trial goes ahead  — the perfect time for candidates and groups to capitalize on that and ask their audiences to take action by joining a list or donating. 

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign claimed it had raised $5 million on impeachment day. And Democratic groups quickly went into overdrive, too. 

While lawmakers who worked through the Clinton impeachment have a roadmap for their processes, digital fundraisers are breaking new ground. Large-scale digital fundraising efforts were non-existant during the last presidential impeachment.

Now, nearly every campaign and group, regardless of affiliation, is trying to raise money off Trump’s impeachment. In this environment, there’s temptation to expand a client’s audience as wide as possible for these appeals. But some consultants warned against renting or buying lists — even with donors primed to give.

“Building a custom audience of supporters is a more successful long-term strategy than trying to make an outside list work for your purposes,” said Lindsay Jacobs, a GOP fundraising consultant who heads Majority Money.

“Renting or purchasing has an upfront cost without the data to demonstrate the likelihood that those individuals will give to you. If you want to reach beyond your own audience, revenue sharing agreements are a great low-risk way to reach new prospects and gain new supporters.”=

Jacobs also warned against relying simply on email fundraising. “An omni-channel approach is important,” she told C&E. “The more places people see your message, the more times the hear it, the more likely they are to give.

“Facebook is great for lead acquisition and getting your message in front of your target audience. Email marketing is where we convert those prospects into donors. It’s a one-two punch.”  

Donors and prospects are currently seeing their inboxes fill up with fundraising appeals, but GOP digital consultant Eric Wilson said he’s encouraging clients to keep sending, as long as donors keep giving. “If you’re not trying to fundraise off of impeachment, whether D or R, you’re doing it wrong,” he said.

One caveat here: if it breaks with your program’s established sending pattern, be cautious about a sudden email blitz.        

“Email providers are looking for consistency in sending so going from 100,000 a day to 1 million seems fishy to them and can cause issues for senders,” said Brett Schenker, a Democratic email consultant. “There’s [also] negative responses from suddenly changing your cadence. So as much as you’ll want to send more, it might not be smart to do so.” 

On the Republican side, there’s plenty of list rental happening amid the impeachment process.

“I would be shocked if every available list in America wasn’t already rented this week — with many of them sending several times a day,” said Ian Patrick Hines, a GOP digital consultant.  

“But the good news for fundraisers is that there are plenty of big moments still to come,” he said. “Time your rentals to big national moments, and make specific asks tied to nationalized narratives.”

On the Democratic side, which doesn’t have the robust list-rental ecosystem that exists on the right, digital consultant Cheryl Hori cautioned that activating an outside list can take a day or two from actually getting the list, developing and approving the copy and then sending wide — a long delay in a fast-moving news cycle.

“By then, inboxes would have been flooded with impeachment emails and your rental might get buried,” Hori said, noting that the next 48 hours will be crucial.  

“Right now, time is of the essence for campaigns looking to capitalize on the impeachment — rapid response emails will be rewarded and those who wait risk being lost in inbox slog.”