A Roundup of Political Fundraising Tactics

Marketers and fundraisers still are talking about all of the new ways that the Obama campaign used online channels to net new, young constituents. While e-mail and Web 2.0 methods are valid avenues to pursue, direct mail remains an integral channel, with response rates that are much higher than those of e-mail.

Looking back through the 2008 election mail, any marketer can learn from the old and new direct mail tactics that raked in millions of dollars for candidates of both parties.

Something New
One new tactic in campaign mail last year was a brochure enclosed in many of the Obama for America acquisition mailings, featuring lengthy excerpts from the candidate’s speeches on varied topics. The “In His Own Words” insert was a good way to add pizazz to an otherwise standard #10 letter appeal, especially for a candidate known for his rhetorical command. The brochures also show images of Obama interacting with his constituency (Archive code #608-710235-0708). It is easy to imagine this method enhancing a plain letter package in another sector, with an added buckslip featuring a photograph and comments from a company CEO or customer service representative.

Another fresh approach in the political fundraising direct mailstream from the Obama for America organization was an effort sent in September, most likely to previous donors, with two letters: one from Barack Obama and a second from Joe Biden. Both candidates names appear on the upper left-hand corner of the outer, and upon opening the mailing, the Biden letter is folded on top of the Obama letter, with both letterheads showing their names. Each letter has its own voice and makes a call to action to donate using the enclosed reply, which has a picture of the two candidates together (Archive code #608-710235-0810D).

A Picture’s Worth … Another Donation?
John McCain 2008 used one of the best-tested methods in political fundraising mail—sending a 9˝ x 12˝ outer marked “Do Not Bend Photo Enclosed,” with a glossy, signed 8½˝ x 11˝ photograph of the candidate and his wife as a thank-you to a recent donor. Sent in March, the mailing also includes a thank-you letter and a “Photo Receipt Confirmation,” which allowed the donor to give again and even request another photograph if hers was delivered damaged (Archive code# 608-709966-0803A). This format suggests to other fundraisers and marketers that every customer touch, even a thank-you, should still include a call to action.

The Obama for America campaign used a similar approach in July 2007, sending a smaller photograph as a freemium in an acquisition mailing. The 4˝ x 7˝ photograph features Obama at a podium announcing his run for the presidency. It is signed and features a quote from his remarks that day. However, on the letter and reply form, the mailing makes a foolish mistake, as there is no mention of the photograph to stoke donor reciprocity (Archive code #608-710235-0704B).

Electoral Map Inserts

Efforts featuring electoral maps popped up in the mail last year, a nod to the plethora of interactive electoral and polling maps available online and shown on many network news updates. One strong effort sent in June by the John McCain 2008 organization arrived in a clear polybag, with a letter showing through the front addressed side and an electoral map showing through the back. The letter says, “As you can see from the enclosed Electoral Map, there are 23 states that are up-for-grabs,” and continues to ask for support. The polybag outer is a great choice, giving the prospect a glimpse at the letter or map even before opening the package (Archive code #608-709966-0806B).

An Obama for America effort sent in October targeted an in-home
date of 14 days prior to the election, with the copy, “[Britt Brouse], everything comes down to the next 14 days,” showing through a front window. The outer is bright purple, and inside there’s a “Countdown to November 4th” full-color insert, showing an electoral map and tallying the polls in every toss-up state. There’s also a handwritten sticky note attached to the map with a URL and telephone number for instant donations. Sent so close to Election Day, the theme of this mailing was urgency, and even the BRE is stamped with a red “RUSH” (Archive code #608-710235-0810A).

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, February 2009)

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