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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4 Reasons You Should Consider NationBuilder


The 2016 election cycle is already upon us. Candidates are making decisions on digital matters that include websites, voter and volunteer data management systems and donation platforms. The savviest among them will be taking the time to determine how to best utilize and leverage the avalanche of data that is going to come cascading into their campaigns in the weeks and months ahead. For these initiatives, FourTier Strategies recommends NationBuilder.

The key reason we recommend it to our clients is because NationBuilder best supports four premises that we believe are vital to the success of a campaign.

1.    There is no field strategy, digital strategy and communications strategy. There is only strategy.

2.    Information in a silo is almost always underutilized.

3.    Most campaigns should avoid “big data” and focus on perfecting their use of “small data.”

4.    Websites should be user-centric.


There is really nothing a campaign wants to do offline that it doesn’t also want to do online (e.g. increase name recognition, identify voters, find volunteers and raise money). Tweets, Facebook posts, emails or text blasts, literature drops, direct mail pieces and press releases are all communications. A pledge to vote page, a phone call and a door-to-door canvass all fall into the voter identification bucket. Imagine how much more efficient and powerful all of these efforts will be if they are all coordinated and tracked from one place! That can all happen within NationBuilder.


Dashboard_(1).jpgAs I mentioned above, a successful campaign is going to collect a massive amount of data. You can either be crushed under its weight or use its force to power your campaign to victory. Any single data point is virtually worthless, but dozens or hundreds taken together can be incredibly useful.

One of the most powerful NationBuilder features, for example, is the MATCH function. Whether you collect a potential supporter’s email address through your website or the GOP Data Trust API, NationBuilder will automatically attempt to match it to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Klout profile. Why is this so powerful? If you use a WordPress site, Constant Contact for email and have a Facebook page, you have a lot of information but no easy way to use them in a coordinated fashion.

Let’s say you post on Facebook about 2nd Amendment rights and the post gets 1,000 “likes.” NationBuilder allows you to tag everyone who liked the post in the database. The PEOPLE SEARCH then empowers you to create a list or filter of those people that haven’t donated. Now, within NationBuilder, you can send a fundraising email to the selected list that could look something like this:


Subject: Help me protect your Right to Bear Arms 

I believe our Second Amendment rights help us protect our First Amendment rights...and I think most people in our district do too. I need your help to ensure that local and federal officials NEVER infringe upon those rights.

Will you please help protect your rights by DONATING today?


Brad Marston


Within NationBuilder, you can tag people who opened the email but didn’t click to donate. You can resend the email with a different subject line to people who didn’t open the first communication. You can send the email to Twitter followers with a Klout score of 50+ or with 1000+ followers and ask them to tweet a link to a related post.

You are going to have higher open rates and higher click through rates because you are able to send a targeted email to people who have just told you that they care about a particular issue. You can only do that because all the information you need is in one place and not in silos.



Unless you are running for President or perhaps statewide in a large state, you’re probably not going to have the resources to hire data scientists to do predictive modeling. Still, even with a congressional race your campaign is going to be dealing with millions of data points. Yes, millions. You can either get crushed by an avalanche of data or you can use its force to move your campaign forward.

In addition to syncing with the Data Trust API, NationBuilder will upload the latest voter file with voting history for your campaign whether it is a city, state legislative district, congressional district or the entire state. This information will be key to determining your targeting strategy. Walk maps, call and email lists can be created and assigned to volunteers with the tools inside NationBuilder based on hundreds of search criteria.

What is equally important is how well your campaign manages the data captured with each interaction with a potential voter, volunteer and/or donor. As an example, if someone has pledged to vote, signed up to volunteer, host a yard sign or donated they probably don’t need to receive that slick direct mail piece. Every dollar saved on Voter ID can be spent on GOTV. NationBuilder allows your campaign to control access to your database through Permission Sets so even volunteers can update the data they collect when contacting potential voters, once again, saving staff time and money.

Two very powerful features of NationBuilder are the Dashboard and, more specifically, the Follow Up feature. Virtually every interaction and activity of the campaign is tracked and viewable within your NationBuilder dashboard. Moreover, any time a user takes an action on your site they can be assigned a “Point Person” and tagged for a follow up within a specific time frame. Campaign Directors can instantly see if staff and volunteers are keeping up with their obligations and moving your campaign forward.


One of the more powerful aspects of NationBuilder is the ability to design a site that is “user-centric” or “user-aware.” Because the website and database are fully integrated once a visitor signs up on the website via email, Facebook or Twitter the website can be programmed to display different information to that user based on information about them in the database.

The simplest example is an email sign up. Once someone signs up, instead of using that screen space to ask them to do what they have already done, use it to ask them to do something that moves them up the ladder of engagement. It could be something as simple as replacing the email sign up with “Thanks Brad! Help us spread the word!” and include some social sharing buttons.


A slightly more complicated example is instead of Sign Up for Email Updates that user will now see a “Welcome Back” message with a specific call to action (e.g. “Thanks for signing up. We could use your help as a volunteer!”) and a button linked to the volunteer sign up page. If they do volunteer, that message could be replaced with “Thanks for volunteering! Please help build the campaign by recruiting friends and family!” with a button linking to a Spread the Word page.

This is all possible because of how NationBuilder organizes the information in the database. A user-centric website will help you develop a closer connection with your supporters, volunteers and voters by delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. That’s the point of a political campaign isn’t it? 

Now a user-centric website is not something that comes out of the box with NationBuilder. You’re going to either have a coder on staff or hire a NationBuilder Certified Architect; but, based on how it can improve the performance of your campaign, we believe it’s well worth it.

This post just scratches the surface of all the features NationBuilder offers at surprisingly affordable pricing which only increases if your campaign grows. There are nearly 30 NationBuilder native page types from Activity Streams to Voter Registration and everything in between. 

In 2014, organizations using NationBuilder added over 47 million supporters, recruited 894,000 volunteers and raised over $241 million for their campaigns and causes. Clearly NationBuilder works. We make it work better for you.

Certified Experts have the demonstrated skills and knowledge to make sure you get the absolute best performance for your campaign. Certified Architects can design a beautiful, responsive website. FourTier Strategies can do both.

There are hundreds of Certified Experts and Architects, but we are one of four firms in the country that are both dual certified and only work with Republican/Conservative campaigns and organizations. You can join the 60+ clients who have trusted both our abilities and our commitment to your values. Contact us today to arrange a complimentary consultation.

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10 Questions To Ask About Your Digital Campaign


Building a website and creating social media accounts is not a “Digital Campaign”. In fact, these efforts can be counterproductive if you don’t recognize that they are part of a much bigger initiative. Simply put, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms should be viewed as a means to an end. They are online tools designed to help you implement your overall campaign strategy. The questions you really have to ask include: “How do I turn a site visitor into a supporter, a tweet into a door knocker or a Facebook update into a phone caller? Most importantly for a political campaign “How do I leverage all of my online calls to action to win votes on election day?”

It’s actually a bit misleading, and outdated, to refer to Digital Strategy as anyway separate from overall campaign strategy. Campaigns need to learn about and utilize available tools and digital teams need to work closely and cooperatively with the rest of the campaign team.

Here are ten key questions to ask about your digital campaign strategy.

  1. Is your digital campaign delivering the right message to the right voter at the right time?
  2. Is it fun and easy for your existing supporters to recruit their friends to become volunteers, donors and campaign ambassadors? Are they recognized and rewarded for doing so?
  3. Is your campaign able to measure the level of engagement of your online supporters?
  4. Is your campaign able to match its email list to your online supporters?
  5. Is your campaign able to monitor what supporters are talking about online?
  6. Are you using your email list to inform and maximize your social media efforts?
  7. Does your campaign have an online “rapid response” team?
  8. Does your campaign A/B test its online presence and message?
  9. Can information collected from voter interactions be added to your voter database in real time?
  10. Has your campaign purchased consumer data and added it to your voter database for the purpose of improving your modeling and micro-targeting?

Regardless of what digital campaign tools your campaign possesses, is there a culture of commitment to use them daily to advance the campaign’s goals through Election Day?

An effective Digital Strategy will enhance communication, coordination and conversion. When we say “communication” we mean both internal and external. Time is perhaps the most precious commodity to a campaign, so wasting it by wading through endless email streams or working on documents that are two versions out of date can be fatal. Press releases, email, social media, blogs, online advertising and all other forms of campaign communication need to be focused, branded and monitored for effectiveness.

A political campaign is a collection of hundreds of moving parts traveling over ever-changing terrain in an often hostile environment. Coordination is key to successfully navigating your way to victory. You need to ensure that your campaign staff and volunteers are on the same page...even if they’re not in the same state.

Ultimately a campaign is about conversion; converting undecideds to supporters,. converting supporters to donors, volunteers and “brand ambassadors” and converting potential voters into actual votes on Election Day. Unfortunately you can't optimize conversion unless you are also optimizing communication and coordination. Doing this successfully requires research, planning, execution, meticulous monitoring and the ability to adjust strategies as conditions change.

Brad Marston is Partner and Co-Founder of FourTier Strategies, LLC and a NationBuilder Certified Expert and Architect.

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