What Nonprofits Can Learn about Fundraising Strategy from Political Campaigns

nonprofit strategy

It’s election season. I seriously love this time of year.

During this time between conventions and the November elections I find myself glued to the debates and all things-media. I stay up late, flipping between 24-hour news stations to devour the spin on often-entertaining (and sometimes plain ridiculous) news about the latest political emails, and tweets – all just “noise” that sidetracks us from what matters most.

While watching the campaigns can become exhausting in an ever more publicized election cycle, they definitely provide educational opportunities for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers alike.

As we watch the primaries, runoffs and debates, we can observe how different political campaigns (some successful, some not so much) fundraise and experiment with various strategies and tactics.


Common Ground

As someone who has spent a great deal of time raising money in both the political and nonprofit worlds, I can attest that each sector has its own set of ups and downs.

However, here are a few areas I believe share common ground. For those in the nonprofit world, I suggest you start paying closer attention to these aspects from the political space:

  1. The digital arena. Check out the Presidential and Senatorial campaign websites this election cycle. They are interactive, contain multiple calls to action and encourage repeat visits by frequently changing content.
  2. Data mining. Today’s political campaigns are relentless when it comes to asking for personal information. They do this so they can create micro-targeting strategies that aim at both swing and independent voters leaning to (or away from) their issue, or candidate and message accordingly. Nonprofits should not be shy about collecting data on donors. Many organizations participate in co-ops, such as Apogee, Donorbase and Abacus, which all give nonprofits the ability to leverage giving behaviors to other nonprofits. Believe me, these co-ops really do work.
  3. Location, location, location. Nonprofits should strive to make their case for support at the most local, or “chapter” level, possible. After all, the majority of donors want to see their money in action right in the towns or communities in which they live.


The Bottom Line

No matter what type of fundraising you do – political or nonprofit – it’s all about relationships and understanding what your donors want from you in exchange for their support.

Sure, many politicians take risks that nonprofits can rarely afford. However, their huge successes – and their epic fails – are the perfect chance to see what really works (and what does not).

Remember, giving is giving, and nonprofits working to raise money – no matter how different the cause – can learn big lessons from each other.

So keep tuning in to all of the “noise” these next few weeks....


On average, new IPM clients see a 34.8% increase in direct mail fundraising acquisition response rates within the first year of working with us. Want to learn more?

Contact IPM