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The $5 Billion Race: Will Election Fundraising Get In Your Way?

2016 is expected to be a record-breaking presidential race with spending potentially reaching $5 billion. That may be an outrageous figure, but it pales in comparison to the $360 billion in philanthropy given to nonprofits each year.

While Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders have made some strides in bringing campaign fundraising to the masses, according to the New York Times, nearly half of the money given to the presidential campaign comes from just 400 families.

Nonprofits attract a much broader audience. Nearly three-quarters of Americans give to charity, while only one or two percent give to political campaigns.

So, really, election fundraising really doesn’t represent that much competition for you.

In some cases, however, it bears paying attention to what’s happening on the political fundraising front and making some adjustments.  Consider:

Can you be a rabble rouser?

If your cause is politically charged, use it to your advantage!  This could be the perfect time to get your donor base riled up to stand behind you more firmly than ever before.

Are you in a swing state?

If the election in your state is going to be contentious, you can expect a little more competition for dollars, but probably only from your middle and major donors. Which brings me to my next point….

Do you have donors giving in the $1,000 – $5,000 range?

If you have a fairly small donor pool and you’re relying on mid-level donors, an election year can present some problems.

Folks who give at this level are the ones whose gifts are large enough to make a dent in your results.  And, they’re oftentimes the ones who truly have to decide – either I’m giving to my nonprofit causes or I’m giving to the election.

Our suggestion is that you get to them early in the year (like NOW) instead of waiting to ask for a gift at the same time that political fundraising heats up. The more personal you can make your ask to these middle donors, the better. Why not have a spring personal solicitation campaign?

For more on middle donors, see Leslie’s recent blog.

Are you planning a fall direct mail campaign?

It’s best not compete with the political fundraising melee that will happen at the end of October and the frantic nature of those early November days.  Quite simply, you don’t want to get lost in the fray.  Mail a little earlier this year, if you have to.  Then wait until later in November to follow-up.

Here’s what we don’t think you need to worry about: online fundraising. 

Obama really changed the face of Internet fundraising in 2008.  Some folks worry that their email donors will be siphoned off by the massive political campaign effort underway.

Keep in mind that most online donations – 70 percent – are made in December.

Thankfully people tend to have short memories.  They should be over their election joy – or disgust – by the time your year-end online fundraising ramps up!

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