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Topics: Expert Advice, Fundraising, First-Time Candidates

Expert Advice: Direct Mail Fundraising

Fundraising for Republican Candidates and Campaigns

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” according to Jesse Unruh, the former speaker of the California Assembly. Short of being independently wealthy, the ability to raise money effectively is crucial to running a successful campaign.

If you are a candidate, fundraising demonstrates both the ability to finance a competitive campaign as well as providing a measurable demonstration of support for you or your cause.

For many prospective candidates, calling friends and family to ask for contributions is how they start their campaigns. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that at the federal level, the FEC considers you to become a candidate when you have raised $5,000. (See FEC guidance for candidates and committees.)

As part of PG’s Expert Advice series, we are taking a look at fundraising with a particular focus on helping first-time candidates for office. Campaigns can still take steps to maximize their fundraising opportunities this year, but candidates looking to run for office in the next two years can start making fundraising plans now.

Expert Advice on Direct Mail Fundraising

Republican Fundraising

If you are new to campaign fundraising, you may not know that several fundraising agencies and professionals have specific niches. With our specialty in GOP digital fundraising, Prosper Group regularly works with other top Republican fundraisers.

Before we get started, here is a brief overview of some typical fundraising specializations.

Direct Mail Fundraising

Direct mail fundraisers specialize in donor prospecting via mail. The fundraising solicitations generally include some mix of the candidate’s contacts with known likely donors.

Today’s expert Jamie Hogan and his firm HSP Direct specialize in direct mail fundraising.

Digital Fundraising

Digital fundraisers help campaigns to acquire new donors and raise money from individuals online and on their smartphones. Included in the digital fundraiser’s arsenal are online ads, texting (P2P and SMS), email, and social media.

The Prosper Group is a top digital fundraising firm for Republicans. In April, the AAPC recognized PG with Pollie Awards for Republican Overall Fundraising Campaign and Best Use of Email for Fundraising.

Telephone Fundraising

Fundraising niche focused on connecting with voters via telephone. Similar to digital and direct mail fundraising, you can use telephony for fundraising for prospecting and other solicitations.

Campaign HQ, which we featured in the Expert Advice: Telephone Townhalls post, has years of experience in telephone fundraising.

PG Guest Expert Jamie Hogan

Expert: Jamie Hogan of HSP Direct

Our guest contributor and fundraising expert for today is Jamie Hogan. Jamie is co-founder and CEO of HSP Direct, a national direct mail fundraising company founded in 2001 that works with dozens of U.S. House and Senate candidates. HSP will mail over 100 million pieces of mail in 2020. A couple of their notable challengers this cycle are John James (MI), Ashley Hinson (IA), and Young Kim (CA). Each of these candidates are on-pace or even outraising their Democrat incumbent opponents.

Jamie, on behalf of the entire Prosper Group team, thank you for sharing your expertise with our readers.

Expert Advice: Direct Mail Fundraising

One of the first actions your campaign should take is to identify your fundraising team – and that includes direct mail fundraising. Start your direct mail fundraising program early… but not too early. In Virginia, our state races are in the off-year 2021. I’d generally recommend starting your direct mail program after Election Day 2020 because there is no focus on the state races and local races and the Presidential Election will take all of the oxygen away from your fundraising. There are exceptions to this rule however: if your Democrat Governor is caught in Blackface or a Klan outfit; or if your Democrat Governor is sending contagious COVID patients into nursing homes; or just the normal Democrat Governors or Mayors stealing money. You get the picture. If you have a great angle, or a great enemy, go ahead and start your mail program asap.

Ideally, you should be in the mail 10-12 months before Election Day. That way you’d have time to test your messaging and build your donor file. A direct mail donor who makes their first contribution to you in January is worth 20 times more than a donor who gives in September. If you have the resources to invest, you should be spending money building your direct mail donor file during the first 3-6 months. If you start early, your goal should be 80 percent ROI or higher for your first prospect test mailing. If you are within 100 days of your election, you need to be netting money on prospecting.

"A direct mail donor who makes their first contribution to you in January is worth 20 times more than a donor who gives in September."
- Jamie Hogan of @hspdirect

CLICK TO TWEET


Once you’ve built a “house-file” of donors, you should mail them monthly “house” mailings. These letters should generate between $3 and $5 net-per-letter mailed. In other words, a 2,000 piece house mailing should net between $6,000 and $10,000. When you are 90 days out – you should increase the frequency of house mailing to twice or even three times a month. Typically, 75% of your net income will come in that last 90 days before the Election.

Another thing to consider is to make sure that you are mailing qualified prospects. You can lose a lot of money mailing a strong fundraising letter to a list of people who are unlikely to give. If you’re working with an experienced political fundraising firm – especially a firm that has executed successful direct mail fundraising campaigns in your state or district – they’ll probably have a good idea of who to mail. If not, you can either reach out to a mailing list brokerage firm or one of the data co-operatives that have experience in sourcing political donors like Wiland, DonorBureau or Apogee. Most of your likely direct mail donors will be aged 50+, have made political contributions in the past and have responded to other direct mail fundraising appeals.

My final piece of advice is that even though we are late in the cycle, it’s not too late for you to net some money from a mail program. Mail your existing donors that you’ve received from other fundraising channels every two or three weeks between now and Election Day. You can also try a targeted mailing to your higher dollar donors that’s hand signed and includes a hand-written personal note. People want to support your race and they’re looking for ways to help you. Give them a chance by placing a letter in their mailbox.

Jamie Hogan of HSP Direct Jamie Hogan
CEO & Partner
HSP Direct
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Feedback

Send @ProsperGroup a message and let me know what you think. Also, send me questions you have or suggestions for future editions of Expert Advice.

About The Prosper Group

The Prosper Group is an internationally-recognized, award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Indianapolis, specializing in online media, strategy, and fundraising for Republican political candidates, advocacy organizations, associations, and non-profits. The Prosper Group's best-in-industry work has been recognized for awards dozens of times by prestigious organizations such as the American Association of Political Consultants and Campaigns & Elections.

The firm has worked in tandem with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congressman Will Hurd, the National Association of Manufacturers, Fox News, and many other candidates and organizations.

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