3 Online Fundraising Lessons from Obama & Romney Campaigns | npENGAGE

3 Online Fundraising Lessons from the Obama and Romney Campaigns

By on Oct 4, 2012


Democrats and Republicans

In 2008, Barack Obama used one of the most successful online fundraising and marketing campaigns in history to win the presidency, registering 1.5 million volunteers and raising $600 million from 3 million people online.

With another presidential election looming in November, what can nonprofits learn from the Obama and Romney  campaigns and leverage in their own fundraising efforts? Here are a few:

Make Email Signup a Priority on your Website

For months now, the Obama and Romney campaigns have made email signup the priority on their websites. First-time visitors are asked to sign up for email before anything else. Return visitors are again prompted to subscribe. Why? Because email addresses are critical for effective online fundraising.



The campaigns know that an email address gives them the perhaps the best chance to stay in touch with a voter. More importantly, they know email is top source of online fundraising.*

The question for nonprofits is how much of a priority is email signup on your website? Instead of asking visitors to find your email signup page, make it easy to subscribe directly from your home page, like Amnesty International and Greenpeace.

Why else are email addresses so important to the Obama and Romney campaigns?  It’s likely because…

Email Drives Multi-Channel Engagement

The Obama campaign team immediately engages subscribers by driving multi-channel activity in the confirmation email. Volunteer using a mobile app. Join their Dashboard. Do some online fundraising.


The Dashboards of the campaigns further drive multi-channel engagement – events, social, grassroots fundraising, phone calls, even gamification elements. From one email signup, the campaigns have the opportunity to engage subscribers on 6-7 different channels.


So while someone may not be able to give, they might contribute in other ways like making phone calls or creating a fundraising page. The question for nonprofits is once a constituent takes one action, are they invited to get further involved in 3-4 additional ways?

Rethink Incentives

Bumper stickers. Car magnets. Dinner with President Obama. Lunch with Paul Ryan. Meet President Clinton. Ride on Mitt Romney’s plane.

Creative fundraising deadlines. And those were just emails from the past month.Sure, incentives may not fit every campaign you do. But could they be an overlooked part of your online fundraising strategy? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Have you brainstormed low-cost incentives?
  • Have you ever tested including incentives?
  • Are you utilizing gaming elements like deadlines and thermometers in your campaigns?

What noteworthy online fundraising strategies or tactics you seen from either presidential campaign? Please share below!

*According to the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmark Study, 35% of online donations come from email.


Mike Snusz brings 18 years of fundraising experience to his role as a Senior Team Lead on Blackbaud’s Professional Services team. He leads a team of digital consultants and works with nonprofits to improve their digital fundraising, monthly giving, email marketing and peer-to-peer fundraising programs. Prior to Blackbaud, Mike managed the turnaround of the Ride For Roswell from 2003 to 2005 in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. When he’s not contemplating fundraising, Mike enjoys hide and seek, tag, and dance parties with his two kids.

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