February 3, 2023
Political campaigns need money to function, let alone win. And when it comes to raising money for campaigns, one could use a myriad of tactics, and entire industries have been built in the name of campaign finance.
But this post will focus on just one fundraising strategy that campaigns of any size can use at any time – grassroots political fundraising. Regardless of the size of your campaign or where we are in the election cycle, small donor outreach and grassroots fundraising are the foundation of any winning effort.
If you want to learn about grassroots fundraising best practices and how to use particular grassroots fundraising tools, you are in the right place. Small donor fundraising is critical to any successful campaign. To develop your grassroots fundraising campaigns, you must consider community fundraising, door-to-door fundraising, and peer-to-peer fundraising.
If you want to launch a direct mail or event fundraising campaign and improve your grassroots donor engagement goals, this article is for you.
Fundraising is pretty straightforward. Your campaign needs money to function, and you obtain that money via fundraising. Fundraising can take many forms, including those who donate and what they contribute.
You can target high-net-worth individuals, corporations, and PACs (political action committees). These groups are typically good for large one-time donations and capital investments in the campaign. Or you can establish relationships with individuals who can afford to donate recurring gifts and in-kind contributions.
Most campaigns rely on a combination of all these fundraising avenues and will accept cash however they can get it. Whether peer-to-peer fundraising, direct mail fundraising, individual small donor, or community outreach, campaigns will count on whatever brings money. It’s that simple.
And of the many fundraising tactics, grassroots fundraising has proven the most versatile and reliable if executed properly. A campaign built on grassroots fundraising has a steady stream of money coming in and isn’t beholden to any single donor. The campaign is people powered and propelled by community support and enthusiasm.
Grassroots fundraising is raising funds for a cause, campaign, or organization by mobilizing groups of people and individuals. Grassroots fundraising focuses on small and recurring donations from multiple individuals.
The goal of grassroots fundraising is to build a strong base of individuals in your fundraising process and empower small donors. Successful grassroots campaigns use online and offline tactics such as digital fundraising, community events, and door-to-door canvassing. Most often, grassroots fundraising is used by political campaigns, nonprofits and member organizations.
Grassroots fundraising is a combination of micro and macro fundraising. Micro means that single individuals will be the main funding source and macro in terms of needing to scale up and sustain grassroots donor engagement tactics throughout a campaign. Small and recurring donations certainly add up, but grassroots fundraising can only support a campaign if achieved at the macro level.
How do we contact and motivate many individuals to solicit small donations? That is the question at the crux of grassroots fundraising. And lucky for us, there is no one answer.
There are multiple ways a campaign can get a message out to numerous community members as part of our grassroots mobilization efforts. We can broadcast campaign messages and solicit donations via direct mail, calls, texts, and emails. We can further personalize small donor fundraising efforts with door-to-door canvassing, peer-to-peer fundraising, event fundraising, and community outreach.
A successful grassroots fundraising campaign comes down to this simple formula. Effective small donor outreach tactics (micro) + large-scale application, repetition of winning strategies, and recurring gifts (macro).
There are a couple of main benefits of grassroots campaigns that focus on small donations:
However, grassroots fundraising comes with some challenges as well:
Short answer: as many as it takes to reach your goals. The question isn’t “how many” but rather “what can be executed and what should be prioritized when working with finite time and resources.”
Remember, grassroots fundraising aims to secure small donations from as many individuals as possible, making this largely a numbers game. Get your message out to as many people as possible quickly and often.
Sure, that’s how it works in theory. But you will need more time and resources to explore every possible grassroots fundraising tactic and tool. It’s best to consider your goals and try to match what we know about different grassroots fundraising strategies to your target audience and desired outcomes.
The two major questions to answer are:
For example, a campaign focused on local issues with a small potential donor audience would call on door-to-door fundraising as their major grassroots fundraising tactic.
One-on-one personal conversations with individuals are great when dealing with issues close to home in tight-knit communities.
Compare that, for example, to a national campaign addressing broad issues and targeting a massive potential donor audience. The door-to-door approach would be limiting and unproductive. Large-scale broadcasting tools like digital media, emails, calls, and texts are great for grassroots fundraising campaigns dealing with broad topics that must reach many people.
That’s simple: is it bringing in money? And if so, can it be scaled and replicated? The goal of grassroots fundraising is to raise funds.
So the first benchmark any grassroots fundraising campaign needs to clear is profitability. Is the money coming in greater than the cost (of time and money) to execute the campaign? If not, kill it and move on to another strategy.
If the campaign is profitable, you want to look at ways to replicate that success. If we’re talking about a successful door-to-door fundraising campaign, the next step would be to expand the walking perimeters and recruit more volunteers to knock on doors. Or if you’ve struck gold with a digital media grassroots fundraising campaign, time to double down and reinvest in what the analytics show to be the winning formula.
Here are some simple ideas for popular and effective grassroots mobilization campaigns to get you started.
Starting with this list and experimenting with different methods is vital to identify the best-performing tactics early on.
Your grassroots fundraising playbook doesn’t need to be complex. The theory behind grassroots campaigns is quite simple; your next task is implementing it. Now that you know how critical grassroots fundraising is to win an election, you can apply these lessons to your next political campaign.
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