Candidates often approach online fundraising as if it’s a long-hidden fountain of youth that would allow them to access an unlimited stream of grassroots funding with little effort on their part. Consultants have often had the unenviable task of explaining to candidates that simply posting a link on social media and sending fundraising emails are unlikely to replace necessary fundraising tasks like call time.
That conventional wisdom was based on the truism that fundraising on social media isn’t effective in all but a select number of particularly engaging races. And that’s largely true: top raisers on social media continue to be candidates who have otherwise created a dedicated base of grassroots support, are running against particularly disliked, well-known candidates, or are signal-boosted by figures with large followings (or a combination of the above).
At A+G, our team is constantly mulling through data — gleaning what we can from it so that we improve our online programs across all of our clients. One of these data points that has become a pattern lately is the efficacy of asking for money on social media. We’re not talking about direct-to-donate paid ads. We’re talking about organic tweets that contain a tangible and direct ask for money. While this isn’t a replacement for call time or email fundraising, it can be another effective tactic in the fundraising arsenal of campaigns.
Curious what we mean? Here are a few examples:
What do these posts have in common? Well, to start, they’re all specific with their asks. They ask for a follow, for money, or both — and they tell you why. Jon Ossoff’s tweet is very quantitative — the goal is achievable and easy to track. These tweets are perfect for threading updates a few hours later. Nina Turner’s tweet compels you to give money because she’s 100% people-powered and not accepting a penny from PACs.
Second, they take advantage of a moment. In the case of Tim Ryan that moment was a viral House Floor speech where he claimed that the GOP “ain’t living in reality”. We actually used this moment to unveil a new shirt option n his online store, designed by our creative team at A+G.
Why is this type of fundraising working now?
First, a hyper-polarized online environment means Twitter activists are behaving differently. They’re more willing to open their wallets and become donors. Young activists who’ve been on the platform for years are increasingly becoming part of the donor class.
Second, candidates asking for money are very active and accessible on their channels. People feel like they can reply to and engage with content and get attention from campaigns — and they’re right. Candidates themselves are posting content, and even if they’re not staffers, are constantly reviewing DMs and replies as part of their due diligence. This work results in higher engagement in the long run and thus more trust. More trust means a higher willingness to give.
Third, and finally, campaigns are getting crafty about creating amplification groups and investing in an influencer strategy. That means these tweets are immediately sent to a core group of supporters for amplification to ensure early engagement for higher engagement in the long run. We know that social algorithms favor early engagement, and we believe this is driving the trend of organic fundraising being more successful.
What you might expect for a fundraising haul online is very much dependent on your name recognition and your following. If nobody knows you or follows you — this strategy will prove to be difficult. It’s a strategy that works in concert with other activities like investing in paid outreach programs that boost name recognition, an email program, and earned media efforts. The ultimate metric of success is dollars raised. We encourage you to think about online donation asks in concert with your email program and then invest in an impactful digital program that guarantees it’s not falling on deaf ears.