My partner and I have been bombarded in the last few weeks by the Obama fundraising team with countless solicitations. There have been phone calls, emails and even snail-mail appeals. There is even one interesting email enticing us to donate in order to get entered into a raffle for a chance to have dinner with the President. Ohhh, let the fundraising fun begin!
After closing the “Dinner with Barack” email, I randomly decided to look at the Wikipedia page for “fundraising“. Interestingly enough, the only picture on that page was of U.S. President Barack Obama.
These two unrelated things in my life got me thinking. “Is Barack Obama not just the Commander-in-Chief but also the nation’s Fundraiser-in-Chief?” Here are some of the thoughts floating around in my head as I contemplate this question:
- Team Obama raised approximately three-quarters of a billion dollars in 2007-08 and experts are predicting they will top the $1 billion mark in 2011-12. I don’t know of anyone who has done that in any sector.
- Team Obama raised their money from approximately 4 million donors, many of which were individuals.
- Many fundraising experts who looked closely at the numbers said the Obama people did very well with getting small donors to contribute to their first political campaign and then did an even better with getting small multiple gifts from those same donor.
While I’ve come to learn the hard way that political fundraising is very different from doing so for a non-profit organization, I still believe the upcoming Presidential campaign fundraising efforts (all of them and not just Team Obama) are worth watching because there will likely be some interesting take-away lessons for social service non-profit organizations.
Team Obama did much to move the needle with regards to making political fundraising more “donor-centered” and less “transactional” compared to previous campaigns, and they seemed to do so using a blended approach of traditional fundraising (e.g. events, mail, phone, face-to-face) and e-philanthropy (e.g. email, website, social media, text, etc). I personally came to these conclusion because of the countless “update emails with videos” I received in 2008. It was obviously an attempt at stewardship and a way of demonstrating ROI to individual donors. It must have also been successfully because of the number of small donors who made multiple contributions.
In addition to non-profit resource development professionals getting an opportunity to observe up-close-and-personal donor-centered techniques being applied, I think it will also be interesting to watch how 2008 Obama donors behave in 2012. There were lots of promises made in 2008. As non-profit organizations have learned (mostly the hard way), when we over-promise and under-deliver, donors tend to be a little more reluctant to renew their contribution.
Finally, I’m also interested in watching how “transparency” in political fundraising continues to evolve in 2012. Have you ever checked out The Huffington Post’s “Fundrace” resource? Unfortunately, I have done so and found myself sucked into countless hours of looking up friends, family and donors to see who was donating what and to whom. Interestingly, I found my personal contributions to be under-reported. I wonder if that was a problem that resulted from having to reconcile contributions made via so many different avenues (e.g. website vs. snail-mail vs phone).
So, I think the jury is out on whether Barack Obama is our country’s Fundraising-in-Chief and the proof will be in the 2012 numbers. What do you think?
Were there any best practices or lessons learned that your non-profit used after the 2008 campaign? Are you watching anything in particular from a fundraising standpoint as we head into 2012?
Here is to your health!Erik Anderson Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC firstname.lastname@example.org http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847 http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=1021153653 http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847