Raise More Money Using Strategic Targeting


There are countless articles and blog posts about effective email marketing. I know. I have read most of them. This post is specifically about getting better results (Raising more money) from your campaign's existing email list by using NationBuilder filters for Strategic Targeting.

The essence of Strategic Targeting is delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. I recently posted an article Don't Just Collect an Email. Start a Relationship which talks about how to collect email addresses so that they can be used strategically to develop and deepen relationships. This article is a continuation of that theme.

Most of us have seen political email fundraising done wrong. If you've ever donated to a political campaign you've probably gotten an email asking:

  • "Please donate by midnight tomorrow" when you donated yesterday at 8:30 AM;
  • "Can you Chip In $5?" when your last donation was for $500;
  • "Join my GOLD Leadership Team with a donation of $1000 or more" when the most you have ever donated to the campaign was $20 or my "favorite";
  • "Friend, Can you please support my campaign?" when I have already signed up to donate monthly.

What is wrong with all those asks? They tell the recipient that either you don't know or don't care about them and how they have supported your campaign. Don't ask someone to do something they have already done. Don't insult someone who has made a major investment in your campaign. Don't ask someone to do something they probably can't do.

So how do you avoid "doing it wrong" and actually do it right? Use the information in your NationBuilder database and filtering to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time.

First, before you send a blast fundraising email to your list, filter it by who has donated and who has not. Donors versus non-donors are different asks. They are all supporters but they are on different rungs of the engagement ladder.

Second, filter your donor list by when they last donated. Based on our experience we find it beneficial not to send a donation ask to someone who has donated in the last 30 days.

Third, filter your list by how much they have donated in the past and fourth, personalize the ask. There are a couple of ways this can be accomplished.

NationBuilder supports the use of Liquid Variables in the WYSIWYG editor for blast emails. This means you can adjust the message each recipient sees based on how much they have in the past. 

{% if recipient.donations_amount_in_cents >= 10000 %}Donate $100 today.
{% elsif recipient.donations_amount_in_cents >= 5000 %}Donate $50 today.
{% elsif recipient.donations_amount_in_cents >= 2000 %}Donate $25 today.
{% else %}Donate $10 today.
{% endif %}

NOTE: NationBuilder is experiencing a bug right now where “<“ and “>” characters are broken by the WYSIWYG, so rather than dropping them into the editor, you would actually need to place liquid utilizing those characters in the Template editor for them to render correctly.

If you are not familiar with Liquid, translated to English the top line above tells the email "If the person receiving the email has donated $100 or more, display Donate $100 today." If that is not true but the person has donated $50 or more, display Donate $50 today." and so on. In the first case what will display in the email is:

Donate $100 today.

FYI, that text is entirely editable. It could just as easily read "Your continued support is vital to our campaign. Can I count on you to donate $100 today?"

As I mentioned at the outset, our goal is to deliver the right message to the right person. We also want to try to increase the amount that people donate. We also want to make it easy for people to do so. We edited the donation ask text to "Will you donate $100, $150 or even $250 today?" Using the WYSIWIG editor we hyperlinked the text to distinct donation pages. We did so for a couple of different reasons.

First, we wanted the donation amounts available on the page to match those of the donation ask. Second, it allows us to tailor the intro on the page to the message of the email and third, we can edit the Donation Settings so that donation can be assigned to a specific tracking code and the donor can be sent to a specific page and assigned a specific tag. This information can then be used for further targeting in the future. 

{% if recipient.donations_amount_in_cents >= 10000 %}<a href="https://[YOUR NATION SLUG].nationbuilder.com/100250" target="_blank">Will you donate $100, $150 or even $250 today?</a><br />

{% elsif recipient.donations_amount_in_cents >= 5000 %}<a href="https://[YOUR NATION SLUG].nationbuilder.com/5099" target="_blank">Will you donate $50, $75 or even $100 today?</a><br />

{% elsif recipient.donations_amount_in_cents >= 2500 %}<a href="https://[YOUR NATION SLUG].nationbuilder.com/2550" target="_blank">Will you donate $25, $35 or even $50 today?</a><br />

{% else %}Donate $10 today.<br />{% endif %}

So the top line from the above code would display:

Will you donate $100, $150 or even $250 today? 

If you aren't comfortable with using Liquid you can use People>Filters to create different recipient lists.

We use Donation History to determine the most recent donation date and amount, ie:

Most recent donation is on or before [Date].

Most recent donation amount is between [Dollar Amount] and [Dollar Amount].

Then save the filter as for example 9305to25 and use that filter when choosing your email recipients.

Again, personalize the ask. As an example, if you have determined that someone donated $25 two months ago, the ask should be...

Thank you for recent donation. I am asking you to contribute another $25, $35 or even $50 today because...

The other advantage of using filtering rather than Liquid Variables is that it allows you to use different subject lines in your email.

Does it make a difference?

According to MailChimp the average open and click through rate for political emails is 22.79% and 2.33% respectively. When we sent unfiltered, blast emails to our political client's lists our results were similar to those results. More importantly, our Abandon Rate was roughly 80%. That means that only about 20% of people who clicked through to the donation page actually donated.

Here is a specific example. At the end of September we sent an end-of-quarter fundraising appeal to roughly 1200 past donors. Our open rate was 24.28%, the click-through rate was 2.28% and of those who clicked to the donate page 29.62% actually donated. 70.38% clicked through but abandoned before donating.

Last week we sent another fundraising appeal email to basically the same list but this time we broke the list into five segments based on donation amounts. Our open rates ranged from 24.76 to 55.56%, the click-through rate ranged from 2.44% to 22.22% and of the people who clicked through to a donate page, nearly 58% completed a donation. Furthermore the average donation amount increased by 11.72%. 


Former House Speaker Tip O'Neill famously said "All politics is local." Of course that was roughly 80 years ago. With the advent of social media, email and the ability to target individual voters the modern equivalent is better said "All politics is personal." One of the big advantages of NationBuilder is that all the data about your supporters and how they have interacted with your campaign is in one place and can be incorporated into how you engage with them.

Using liquid variables and filtering campaigns are able to personalize that engagement and increase your ability to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. The results we have seen to date suggest those personalized and targeted messages are having a positive effect for our client's campaigns.

Qualifier: The lists we are sending to are between 1,000 and 5,000 people and our filtered lists can be as small as 50 recipients so they are actually too small to be statistically valid. 

Brad Marston is Co-Founder and Partner of FourTier Strategies, LLC a full-service political consulting firm. He is a NationBuilder certified Expert and Architect.

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