Digital strategy, Community engagement, Fundraising, Strategic planning

Making the Most of Grassroots Enthusiasm: Four Priorities for Q2 and Beyond

Kati Card, Senior Vice President, MissionWired

“Biden campaign posts best grassroots fundraising month to date in March” The Hill headline reads. “Senate Dems pad cash leads in key races” Politico tells us. “ActBlue donations surge in Q1” says Punchbowl News.

It’s clear: Democratic and progressive grassroots fundraising is picking up again, with big gains reported in Q1. MissionWired partners saw a major bump in giving in March within the three-day period around Super Tuesday and with the turn toward the general election, followed by President Biden’s fiery State of the Union address. And since, Democrats in marquee, battleground races across the country announced strong Q1 numbers in April, many of them significantly outraising their GOP opponents.

Now that grassroots enthusiasm feels like it’s trending in the right (not literally the right!) direction, how can we capitalize on this uptick in momentum in Q2; position ourselves to be able to take advantage of the big, energizing moments to come in Q3 and Q4; and make sure campaigns have the resources they need to win?

Let’s start with some of why we saw higher response rates in March. Sure, it was an EOQ month in an on-year, when we’d expect to see higher results, generally. But folks began tuning in more to electoral politics when the landscape became more clear right after Super Tuesday crystallized Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee – and in response to the State of the Union address just two days later, which gave a clear picture of two vastly different visions and ideals for our country.

Of course, there’s no “easy” button. But here are four key takeaways that are top-of-mind for me from both Q1 learnings as well as the work that needs to be prioritized in Q2, as we work with our partners to help best position them to maximize potential for the moments to come in Q3 and then in the final weeks pushing toward Election Day:

1. Prioritize SMS investment – these channels are already starting to rival or surpass email in revenue raised.

What’s notable here is that we’re seeing more revenue raised in SMS in Q1 than we saw in Q1 of 2022, which means grassroots supporter engagement over SMS channels is becoming increasingly critical in actually reaching your supporters with your message – and, importantly, motivating them to take the action you need. One competitive Senate race saw SMS fundraising drive 30% of their Q1 digital revenue, compared to 24% from email. And a nationwide political committee saw 41% of their Q1 digital revenue come from SMS channels, compared to 23% from email.

With the momentum and success rate in converting SMS donors really taking hold in these channels, it’s paramount to prioritize SMS investment and work to grow your short code (broadcast) SMS list as early as possible. Of course, ROI works a little differently for SMS channels than it does for email, because each text sent involves a cost – and likewise with peer-to-peer list rentals – but with a tailored approach to acquisition and appeals, you can maximize efficiency.

When it comes to SMS fundraising, the distinction between longcode and shortcode text is distinct. Both these types of texting are important to be using.

Longcode texting allows you to reach huge audiences of potential supporters quickly. You can serve audiences with donation asks, or – better yet – give them an opportunity to opt into your shortcode program, where you can text them in the future on a cheaper cost per text basis.

Since supporters who opt in to your shortcode (aka “broadcast”) program tend to be among your most engaged supporters, you’re likely to quickly get your money back on the investment you made in making that original contact via longcode texting.

The SMS strategists on our team like to call your shortcode audience “superfans.” These are the folks who really had to raise their hand – potentially multiple times, from multiple asks, through multiple flows – to hear from your campaign.

If you’re not already, now is the time to optimize every touchpoint of your digital program with an opt-in box for your SMS shortcode “superfans” program – from ads, to donation pages, to survey flows, to your website – so that you’re doing everything you can to build up the largest and best audience to hear from your campaign via SMS and take action.

With SMS presenting one of your best opportunities to connect with your most engaged audience (and the highest long-term value of any kind of acquisition), it’s worth investing the time and money now to grow the asset that is your shortcode list.

2. Get ready for the potential bigger moments we know are coming down the pike.

Democratic grassroots supporters will be tuning in to key moments through June and July, including a landmark SCOTUS ruling on reproductive health care, the second anniversary of Roe being overturned and the Republican National Convention – to name a few. In moments like these, it’s important to make sure your campaign is prepared to make the most of these opportunities where the news cycle, across mediums, will reinforce the same issues that we know motivate grassroots donors.

3. Work to really foster strong relationships with surrogates and validators.

When it gets to feeling like every one of your strategies is top priority, another important question to answer is: What are the high-value initiatives or programs that require a long runway but can also have a huge return?

Surrogates! Now is the time to build relationships with the political surrogates, celebrities, and validators you can work to get into your campaign’s fold. Folks whose voices grassroots supporters recognize, have a deep affinity for – and importantly, trust when speaking to the viability and importance of your candidate or what their race means to the overall electoral map. Folks who can really further validate your value proposition and raise you more money through signed content or even an organic tweet or Instagram story post to their personal accounts. Working to build these relationships (and your campaign expending some political capital in doing so) is something that takes time, but the goal is to help ensure you’re not scrambling to make the connection when your need for them is immediate in a rapid response moment for your campaign, for example, or when response rates tick up in a bigger moment we know could be coming. Surrogates to your campaign can be especially helpful, too, in slower moments!

4. Don’t de-prioritize testing, even as the day-to-day gets busier, volume increases and everything feels like it is a priority.

With content volume and momentum picking up in Q2, our teams are leaning on this helpful reminder: This is still the time when we want to find out what works best with your audience and what messaging and tactics have the most potential to convert prospects to donors, drive revenue, and increase engagement.

Q1 fundraising for Democrats was encouraging: Supporters are stepping up and getting involved, helping to ensure our campaigns have the resources they need to defeat Donald Trump and anti-choice extremist GOP candidates up and down the ballot. The best thing we can do to leverage this energy and continue to drive growth is to be forward-thinking and ready to tell our candidates’ stories in key moments, through the channels where supporters are engaging most.

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