The Great 2012 Political Fundraising Debate

Four years ago, the presidential election cycle saw an explosion of new channels entering the fray. Then Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s campaign found tremendous success engaging voters and donors online, while the traditional workhorses continued to bring in large sums of money for Democrats and Republicans alike.

As the 2012 presidential election cycle heats up, it’s clear that political fundraisers must operate in a multichannel environment. And with projections predicting that Americans will spend and raise more money in 2012 than they have in any other presidential fundraising cycle before, the conversation has shifted.

“Technology has changed our industry so much in the past four years that it’s not really about just Republicans versus Democrats anymore,” says Kim Cubine, president of direct-marketing firm Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey. “It’s about the channels — how Democrats and Republicans are preparing and planning to do direct marketing for the 2012 presidential election.”

On Nov. 3, Cubine moderated a panel discussion presented by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington titled “The Great Debate: Channel Wars — Red vs. Blue, Old vs. New,” on how the political parties plan to communicate with activists and solicit donors for 2012. Joining Cubine were Adam Conner, associate for privacy and global public policy at Facebook; Kim Postulart, director of marketing at the Democratic National Committee; Jim Rowley, direct of marketing at the Republican National Committee; Michael Sabat, vice president of business development and account management at mobile marketing company Mobile Commons; and Eric Wilson, director of congressional clients and digital advertising at full-service interactive agency Engage.

Here, Cubine shares some of the takeaways offered by the panelists for political fundraisers and other nonprofit organizations alike.

The influx of donors

The reason the 2012 presidential cycle is expected to bring in a record amount of dollars is twofold, Cubine says. For starters, baby boomers are moving into the prime giving age as the elder boomers approach retirement age. Thus, there is an expanded donor base of higher-net-worth givers, not to mention the enormity of attention surrounding presidential candidates that draws in more younger donors than your typical campaign.

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