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In an Election Like No Other, What Can We Learn from the Past?

The only thing people across the political spectrum agree on is this will be an election like no other. While true, it’s important to remember EVERY election is unique, making cumulative data to support actions fundraisers should take during any given election year difficult to attain.

Which is why I interviewed or reviewed reports from a group of industry executives with collectively more than 200 years of fundraising experience. If you transfer that historically into election years, it takes you back to the last time a sitting president ran unopposed in 1820, James Monroe. He was reelected during a time known as the “Era of Good Feelings.” 

Don’t expect anything close to that.

But here’s what the experts say you should expect and do:

  • Don’t go silent. Charitable giving among politically active donors INCREASES during election years. You could see a bump in your donations. 
  • Plan early. Print and mail shops are exponentially busier. Reserve your spot early and expect longer delivery times due to the sheer volume in the mail stream.
  • Jump on the issues. If you’re organization works on issues being debated, have digital and rapid response plans in place to show how donations to your organization can benefit causes voters and donors care about.
  • Focus on loyalty. Your most loyal supporters — sustainer, multi, mid-level, and major donors — plan their giving. Now’s the time to cultivate, thank, and show them the impact of their donations. 
  • Remember, you’re here to stay. Remind donors how important their ongoing support is because your organization, and the needs you meet will be around long after election day.
  • Stand out. This is a time to stand out in the mail and reinforce what makes your organization unique. Maybe plan smaller formats that work. Different color carriers. Anything, but the high glossy political flats flooding mailboxes. 
  • Plan around political events. Political ad spending could near $10 billion dollars. The noise will be deafening. Get your ad buys in early. And unless you’re involved in issues at stake, plan your in-home dates and digital sends to avoid colliding with known events like debates, primaries and election day. 


Good luck!



Guest Author