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Fundraising Lessons from Barack Obama

Over $600 million dollars, with a record breaking $150 Million raised in September — in the midst of a steeply declining stock market and widespread economic worries. What is the Obama campaign doing right and what can your non-profit learn from this success?

Small donations can really add-up – Consider this quote from a recent LA Times Blog post:

“The Wall Street crisis appears to have had little effect on Obama’s small-time donors. He expanded his fundraising base by 632,000 individuals in September to a record total of 3.1 million — most of whom gave in small amounts. Roughly half of the $605 million Obama has raised has come from small donors, and nearly all of them give over the Internet.”

Reduced response levels from direct mail and the allure of major gifts can cause nonprofits to focus less effort on small donors, but ignoring smaller donations is a mistake. The Internet can provide a remarkably efficient and effective tool for collecting large sums in small amounts.

But what is bringing all these donors to the Obama website to give?

Great content

There is lots of real information for visitors to learn about the candidate’s positions on important issues, but even more importantly many calls to action to get involved, not just by making a donation, but volunteering, sign-up for email, etc. Giving people a reason to visit your website and multiple options for becoming involved is certainly lesson #1.

Effective email list building

Its pretty hard to go anywhere on the Obama website without providing your email address and the campaign has collected millions of them and used them very effectively to solicit financial and organizational support.

Leveraging supporters for personalized donation requests

The Obama campaign has not only mastered the use of social networking tools like Facebook, MySpace, etc., but they’ve provided supporters with simple tools to solicit friends and family to get involved and make an online donation or sign up for a mailing list. These personalized donation requests have been another critical piece to the growth of Obama’s email list and online fundraising success.

Creative use of technology

If you think personalization only applies to soliciting donations, read this wonderful post about someones experience after making an online donation to Obama.

Compelling message

Certainly a critical aspect of the Obama campaigns successful use of technology wouldn’t be possible without his strong and motivational message. Fundraising success always requires communication that inspires people to action and Barak Obama has proven himself a true master of this. Although you and I may not have Obama’s gift for communication, we can still apply this lesson (Inspiration = Motivation) when crafting email donor solicitations and website messaging.

Doing it well takes time and energy

– The Obama campaigns online fundraising success didn’t just happen, they have clearly spent lots of time and money developing and refining their website, emails, and messaging. Undoubtedly each of their successful efforts was proceeded by numerous less successful ones with their ultimate success the result of continuous testing and refinement.

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