Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NY Times on Obama Fundraising Edge

It is the small online donors:
On Wednesday, the Obama campaign will report to the Federal Election Commission that it collected $36 million in January — $4 million more than campaign officials had previously estimated — an unprecedented feat for a single month in American politics that was powered overwhelmingly by small online donations. That dwarfed the $13.5 million in January that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is expected to report Wednesday and the $12 million Senator John McCain’s campaign said he brought in for the month.

The details of Mr. Obama’s January fund-raising illustrate just how much his campaign has been able to chart a new path for the presidential race. He brought in $28 million online, with 90 percent of those transactions coming from people who donated $100 or less, and 40 percent from donors who gave $25 or less, suggesting that these contributors could be tapped for more. (Donors are limited to giving $2,300 per candidate during the primary season.) More than 200,000 of the campaign’s nearly 300,000 donors in January were first-time givers to Mr. Obama.
Prof. Rick Hasen said that the key statistic is the $100 or less number. In reality, the key statistics is last sentence. If accurate, that 200,000 people will be asked to give again, even if is is $25. Related, how many of the remaining 100,000 givers were "repeative small donors" meaning they had given less than $100 before?

As I have said before, the small donor is the key to winning an election. Big donors see their contribution more as an "investment." Small donors are believers. They generally don't have the money to make a lot of contributions, but when they do, you can bet bank on that person voting for the candidate they give to and they are usually more committed, see for example, this quote.
The campaign’s online donors have also come to form the backbone of its vaunted grass-roots operation across the country, with information about new donors quickly transmitted to organizers on the ground to enlist for phone banks and other volunteer efforts.
Small donors have an advantage not only in surefire support, but in the "repeat business" and "contact cloud" category as well.
In Birmingham, Ala., Matthew Lane, 38, logged into his e-mail and received that message. Although he earns less than $20,000 a year as a storyteller in public libraries and as a freelance writer, he decided to give $25 on top of a few small contributions he had made dating to March 2007.

“The campaign has been so incredibly grass-roots, it does sort of feel like you are making a difference,” Mr. Lane said, “even in giving in small increments like that.”
Maximum dollar donors can only go so far and even if they agree to help raise money for you, their effectiveness only goes so far. But a big small donor base is much more effective in the fundraising busiess because not only can the donor give a little bit more later, the contact "cloud" is much larger. A person who contributed $25 or $50 knows more people who can give that amount than a $2,300 contributor knows people who can contribute $2,300. The small donor also has fewer personal qualms about mentioning contributions to their friends and their sales pitch is more sincere since they believe it and aren't just trying to sell it.

I think looking back, the Obama fundraising operation will not only be marveled at in its efficiency, but will be modeled after in the future. It is impressive.

1 comment:

Bill Betzen said...

I purchased 500 of the Obama "America's First Family" buttons from (35 cents each) and am now giving them to anyone who says they will go to and make a minimum $5 donation. See details of this fundraising idea at We are slowly making history.