Political Campaign Fundraising: Donor Relationships - National Democratic Training Committee

Donors play an integral role to any campaign. Political campaign fundraising provides the fuel needed to get your campaign’s message out to voters.

As such, donors deserve to be treated with respect—just like every other member of your team.

Once someone makes a contribution to your campaign, they’ve invested (literally) in your success. It’s the job of political campaign fundraising staff to cultivate that relationship and keep that person invested, in the hope of earning further financial support.

This blog will go in-depth into three often-overlooked but critical strategies to engaging and re-soliciting donors: escalating a donor up the ladder of engagement, creating donor-centric communications, and following the data. Together, these strategies will help you build strong relationships with your donors. Doing so allows your campaign can keep them engaged in the campaign—financially and otherwise.

If you want to learn more about how to run an effective political campaign fundraising program on a campaign, check out our Staff Academy and on-demand fundraising courses for campaign staff.

The Ladder of Engagement

The key to keeping your donors involved with your campaign is through the ladder of engagement. This slowly escalates a supporter from a $3 donor to potentially hosting a $5,000 political campaign fundraising event for your campaign, scaling up their contributions and commitment to the campaign over time.

For example, if someone contributes $100 to your campaign online, the next month you might send them an invitation to an event with $100 and $200 ticket levels. Adding a personal touch, your candidate could call the donor to follow up and ask them to buy the $200 Sponsor-level ticket.

After your candidate talks to the donor at the even, they realize they’ve recently joined the Board of a sizable local company. The candidate can then follow up to make ask them to host an event targeting that company’s leaders.

The point of the ladder of engagement is to create relationships that you scale up over time. You do this by communicating with your donors in ways that show you value their support. Truly engaging donors in two-way conversations about the campaign will increase the chances that they make even larger contributions. But this is only possible through meaningful relationship building!

Donor-Centric Communications

Whenever you’re speaking with current or potential donors, you want to speak with them at a personal level. You want to avoid creating transactional relationships where it’s all about you and how much money you can get out of your supporters.

It’s essential you build authentic relationships, showing donors how much your team values their support. The email director of Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, Tom Fallsgaff, had this to say about the importance of donors:

“The subscribers on your email list are not nameless, faceless ATMs. They are real human beings who — they just care about this campaign. They care about the election. They want to be part of it.”

To create relationships that are more meaningful for both you and your donors, you’ll want to be more donor-centric in your communications. Think about what they want from the campaign, and what motivates them to support and give.

Your campaign is about the community your team wants to create. Learn about the changes your donors want to see, and how your candidate’s election will help build that. This builds a two-way, authentic relationship where donors see the real value your campaign adds.

How to Be Donor-Centric

First off, during call time when your candidate is in a two-way dialogue with the donor, your candidate should update the donor on all the recent success your campaign has had—thanks to the donor’s past contributions—before making the ask for another donation. This builds credibility and it shows that the donor’s contributions are being used wisely.

Do you want to learn more about call time? Our Online Academy has great courses that will teach you everything you need to know to run an effective call time program. Register here.

You can also email your donors a poll that would allow your campaign to better understand your donor’s interests. This will also allow your donors to feel heard. Your team can then use this information to target messages toward the issues your supporters care about the most.

Additionally, in your donor communications, tell them how their contributions have benefitted or would benefit the campaign.

For example, update donors on how their donations allowed your team to buy campaign literature that canvassers used to persuade new supporters (and include a photo!). People love hearing about how their help is making a real difference!

Another tip on building meaningful relationships—and raising more money in the end—is to not always make an ask for money! Mix in sending your supporters emails, mailers or calling just to give them an update on all the great work that your campaign is doing. Adding these messages to your communications every once in a while can really help build strong relationships with your donors. And keep them answering the phone and opening your emails.

Follow the Data

At NDTC, we believe in data-driven campaigns. In our Online Academy, we teach political campaign fundraising staff how to use data to shape their communication with donors.

Your supporters will be the biggest help in choosing the direction of fundraising communications. You want to pay attention to what drives your donors to act and what doesn’t.

Start with the contributions your donors have made to other politicians. This will inform how much you ask them for. You don’t want to ask too much from people who aren’t able to make large contributions. But, you also don’t want to under ask people who can commit to larger amounts. For example, you wouldn’t want to immediately ask $250 from someone who has only ever contributed $10 to another campaign. But you also wouldn’t max out your ask at $25 from someone who has given $200 in the past because they demonstrated that they have more capacity to donate larger amounts.

If you know someone has a long history of giving to Planned Parenthood, your candidate can tailor the conversation to focus on their strong record on reproductive rights.

Having a fundraising communication plan that is centered around your donors will create meaningful relationships with your donors. This will then lead to more contributions. These contributions will play a vital role in allowing your team to get your message out and to galvanize support in your community.

How Can I Be Political Campaign Fundraising Staff?

If you’ve always dreamed of working in a political campaign fundraising role, we have the tools to help you do it.

Our Staff Academy program is designed to train and connect potential fundraisers with campaign jobs.

Our Online Academy offers a full curriculum for current and future campaign fundraising staff, available online 24/7.

The best part? They’re completely free.

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