When a national political campaign launches, it’s usually the headline grabbers – the presidential candidates, the winner of the popular vote, etc. – who get the most media coverage and, therefore, the most financial support from political action committees (PACs) and political parties. But what about the rest of us? What about the candidates who didn’t make it on to the main stage?
Email marketing is a fantastic way to get the word out about your campaign and to build a list of supporters who, hopefully, will one day make a difference when it comes to voting for you. Whether you’re running for a local school board or a Senate seat or even if you’re just looking to get the votes of one person, email marketing can help.
Here’s a how-to guide for using email to fundraise for your political campaign.
Set Up Regular Email Communications
Make sure that you have a regular schedule for sending out emails. Even if your campaign is just for show, it’s still good to have regular emails going out to your list of supporters. This helps people remember to check their emails for new messages and helps keep them engaged in your cause.
Having a regular stream of email communications is also helpful for establishing consistency with your potential donors. The more your potential donors know about your campaign, the more they’ll trust you. Establishing consistency is especially important when trying to convince a potential donor that you’re a legitimate candidate and not just some hyperexponent.org spammer trying to trick them into signing up for your list.
Use Subject Lines That Hook Your Readers
Every email message needs a subject line. When crafting your subject lines, make sure that they’re both concise and compelling. Choose a subject line that will make your email stand out among the hundreds of other messages your donors will receive. Remember: it’s the email content that will determine whether your potential donor opens up your email or deletes it without reading it.
If you’re following the 80/20 rule (discussed below), you should be aiming to get 80% of your responses from email marketing. Since email marketing is one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways of getting the word out, it’s a must-have for every political campaign.
Choose An Appropriate Time To Email Your Donors
Even if you’ve got a steady stream of supporters, your email list won’t amount to much if you send out your emails at inappropriate times. Since people aren’t always browsing Facebook or Twitter during their work hours, you need to make sure that your emails reach your audience when they’re most likely to act on your message.
If possible, send out emails on a weekly basis. Doing so provides several advantages. First, you’ll keep your supporters engaged in your campaign. Second, you’ll remind people that you’re still actively pursuing donations even though it may be months or years since your last campaign update. Third, you’ll establish credibility by showing that you consistently put out quality emails even when you’re under a time constraint.
Use Personalized Content
The power of personalized content was made evident to me when I worked for an email marketing company. We would get requests from political candidates and foundations who wanted to email their supporters with periodic updates on their activities. The majority of the time, these candidates would provide the email address of someone else on their staff for the purpose of sending the email.
The issue was that these candidates didn’t have a clear idea of what would constitute a good email to send out to their supporters. As a result, most of the time these emails failed to capture the attention of anyone beyond the sender’s own staff. In contrast, candidates who took the time to formulate a personalized email strategy would see marked increases in response rates and eventually raise more money than their counterparts who just used stock messages.
Segment Your Email List
Building a segmented email list is the key to effective email marketing. As mentioned above, email marketing is a fantastic tool for fundraising, especially for local and statewide candidates and initiatives who are just starting out. Consider the following segmented list of potential donors who have opted in to receive emails from you:
People who have expressed interest in your campaign
People who have expressed interest in school board elections
People who have attended fundraisers or events
People with an interest in human rights issues
People who have made a donation to a cause you support
People who have been exposed to digital marketing through social media
People who live in a specific geographic region
People who have expressed an interest in immigration or refugee causes
In addition to a school board race, this list would be relevant to a national committee trying to get the vote of every American. It would be a good list to target for a Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) email campaign leading up to an election.
I can’t stress this enough: make sure that your emails aren’t being relayed through a cloud service (such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Vertical Response). Ideally, you’ll want to use a dedicated IP addressed to your campaign (which can be provided by your web host) to send your emails from. This prevents your emails from being blocked by Gmail or another similar service since they’ll see that your IP is matching the one associated with your domain name (if you’re using a registered one).
Ensure that your servers are configured to prevent email loops. This involves checking the MX record (the DNS entry that maps to your email server) for duplicates and checking the SMTP server for open relays. If you’re not sure how to do so, contact your web host or domain registrar.
Finally, make sure to sign your emails with a legitimate and recognizable name. You don’t want to appear like some random person trying to trick people into donating to your cause. Verify that the email address you’re using is associated with a real person and that you can actually receive emails using that address.
With these simple steps, you’ll be able to use email marketing to raise funds for your political campaign. From there, it’s up to you to do the rest!