Originally published by Campaigns & Elections on April 29, 2020
Coronavirus has disrupted almost every aspect of our society and our economy, and these ripples are being acutely felt in the world of political fundraising. In some cases, fundraising receptions have become video calls and rallies have become live streams. But for most campaigns and groups, email remains the primary touchpoint they have with their supporters and donors.
So how should you adapt your email program in the current conditions? Here are some ways to keep your program active:
Up your mix of non-fundraising appeals.
One way to navigate this is by diversifying the kinds of emails you’re sending. This is an emotional moment for many. People are seeking comfort, clear and reliable information, and a venue to get involved and make a difference. Send emails that speak to what people need in this moment.
Be creative: advocacy emails urging supporters to call their Congress members, heartfelt emails just checking in, emails with information and resources, petitions, lighthearted content, requests for feedback and opportunities to speak out, even emails asking supporters to contribute to partner organizations on the front line of the coronavirus crisis. Send entire emails dedicated to saying “thank you.” Some campaigns are giving supporters the option to temporarily opt-out of fundraising emails.
These types of cultivation emails are a vital part of your email program. They let your organization’s voice shine through, and help build lasting relationships with your supporters. By crafting a balance in the emails you send, you can embody your organization’s values while strengthening your email program.
Find new CTAs.
At the end of the day, campaigns still cost money, and organizations don’t have unlimited cash on hand. After considering the context and how to thoughtfully engage your supporters, think about what moves people to action. If your organization has a direct link to the coronavirus response, highlight the real-world effect of your supporters’ donations.
Draw on the relationships you’ve cultivated — remind supporters how you’ve connected with them in the past and what you’re doing to help. Highlight your values, your mission, and why they matter. And if your organization doesn’t have a direct tie-in to coronavirus efforts, be sensitive to the unprecedented times we’re in and make your content match what your audience might want or need from you.
Now more than ever, a clear theory of change is important. There are many urgent causes in need of support; your job is to show your supporters how your candidate or organization can make the biggest impact with their dollars, right now.
Don’t be crass.
Above all, you should take a thoughtful approach to your email program and your relationships with supporters over the next few months. That means avoiding tone-deaf emails. Consider these examples, such as asking donors to include contributions in their wills, or fundraising aggressively despite holding millions of cash on hand in an uncontested race. Those are guaranteed ways for recipients to hit unsubscribe.
Think about the big picture.
We’re now looking at a Depression Era unemployment rate of 23 percent. People across the country are anxious about their health, their bills, and their loved ones. Every day, several thousand more Americans are staring down the emotionally draining prospects of endured hardship. Any email, fundraising or otherwise, that doesn’t at least take this into consideration runs the serious risk of alienating its audience.
Grassroots donations have become the lifeblood of campaigns, but the reality is that many of your grassroots donors have a lot on their plate right now. The most important thing we can do is consider the big picture. Campaign fundraising is important because it helps elect candidates who can make tangible, positive changes in people’s lives.
This moment demands that we live our values. There are urgent crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic: food insecurity, homelessness, unsafe working conditions and economic injustice, to name a few.
How can you use your platform to make a difference? Ultimately, raising funds for your campaign is only one important part of the work.