Earlier this week, I introduced the concept of a Grassroots Fundraising Rate. It’s a metric to assess the online fundraising performance of a campaign and compare it to other, similar campaigns.
I encourage you to read that post to understand my reasoning why it’s the best metric available, but to refresh your memory, it’s the dollar amount raised from unitemized individual contributions divided by the total dollar amount of all individual contributions.
For the purposes of this analysis, I analyzed the 2019 second quarter fundraising reports for 32 competitive Republican incumbent House campaigns and 32 competitive Democrat incumbent House campaigns.
Republicans have a significant deficit ~$10 million when it comes to individual contributions compared to Democrats. Proportionally this is a roughly 250% advantage to the Democrats.
The overall fundraising deficit isn’t quite as bleak because the Republican candidates enjoy strong support from the business community in the form of PAC contributions, but this sort of institutional money doesn’t have the same capacity for growth that individual – especially grassroots – contributions do.
When we compare the two groups just on grassroots donations, you’ll see the gap grow even more – a 300% advantage to the Democrats in Q2:
On average, the Republican House members in this group raised just $16,669 from grassroots donors in Q2 of 2019. That’s roughly $50,000 less than the comparable, average Democrat
If we compare the median Grassroots Fundraising Rate of the two groups, it’s clear the Republicans not only have a deficit in terms of dollars, but overall online fundraising performance. The competitive GOP candidates had a median Grassroots Fundraising Rate of just 8.3% compared to the Democrats’ 14.3%.
Since online fundraising is a function of email list size, I also used Facebook’s ad transparency tool to see which candidates engaged in paid list building activities during the same period of time. 70% of the Democrats analyzed ran list building campaigns, to just half of Republicans.
But it’s not all bad news for Republicans. Those GOP campaigns that did engage in list building activities in Q2 more than doubled their Grassroots Fundraising Rate over those that did not.
If Republicans want to get serious about closing the online fundraising gap between Democrats, they need to get list building efforts underway now, in 2019, so they’ll be able to recoup the investment in 2020. That will take a shift in mindset from the outdated strategy of building a campaign “war chest,” which is no longer the most effective way to win a campaign.