How to Target Small Donors Effectively

Person holding credit card at computer: how to target small donors effectively

It’s fair to say that one is not going to get very far in politics without an understanding that effective fundraising is essential. You cannot achieve big things in politics without adequate fundraising—whether it is winning an election campaign, getting a ballot measure approved, or advocating for an important issue. And if you’ve been keeping up, you know that in recent years, fundraising has changed dramatically. Driven largely by the internet and social media, there has been a revolution of small donors. In this article, you will find a comprehensive guide to the key things to know about how to effectively target small donors.

At Aristotle, we help our clients target and engage potential donors. Through our PAC services and data matching and analysis, we help you get to know your advocates. Political donor and charitable contributions are just one of the aspects included in our demographic appending. To learn more, check out our free Virtual Fundraiser webinar or contact us today for a free consultation.


What Is a Small Donor?

In political fundraising, a small donor technically does not have a clear definition. There is no one specific dollar amount whereby a person becomes a “large” donor instead of a “small donor.” That being said, there is a general consensus that anyone who cannot reasonably be expected to reach the maximum allowable contribution during an election cycle — $2,900 per election (2021-2022) — is reasonably thought of as a small donor. A small donor may provide $5, $50, or $100. The money raised by small donors can add up and make a tremendous difference.

The Small Donor Revolution in United States Politics

It is becoming easier than ever for ordinary people to donate to political campaigns and political causes. Small donors are revolutionizing political fundraising. According to data provided by Open Secrets, significantly more money was raised from small donors in the 2020 federal election cycle than ever before.

For reference, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) raised more than $106 million for his reelection campaign. Nearly half of the total funds came from small donors. Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) was the highest raising Democratic senator at just over $99 million. He also raised 47 percent of his total funds from small donors.

Campaigns that do not know how to effectively utilize small donors are not just leaving money on the table, they are losing access to some of the most highly engaged and highly motivated voters and volunteers. All campaigns and political advocacy groups must have a well-crafted strategy in place to identify and target small donors.

Five Tips for Targeting Small Donors

Relying on the contributions of small donors poses some challenges. By definition, the contribution made by any specific small donor has a small impact. A missed $5 contribution is not going to make a campaign break. Of course, the power of small donors is in their numbers. Small donations can add up to make a game-changing difference. Many campaigns have built successful small donor operations—from local campaigns to presidential campaigns. Indeed, both President Barack Obama in 2008 and President Donald Trump in 2016 were able to harness the power of small donors. Here are five tips that campaigns and political groups can use to target small donors:

1. Know Your Target Audience

As a starting point, it is useful to have a comprehensive understanding of your target audience. Who are the people who are likely to give small donations to your campaign or organization? Why are they likely to give donations and what matters to them? By understanding your target audience, you will be in the best position to identify small donors.

2. Evaluate Donor Potential

Evaluating donor potential is a key strategy. The single best predictor of whether or not a person will donate to a political cause is not how much money they have. Instead, it is the history of political contributions—or lack thereof. Knowing donor potential is crucial for identifying and targeting small donors.

3. Use the Best Political Data

Campaigns that are not data-driven are likely to fall behind. The most accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date political data can be used to identify and target small donors. Aristotle is a leader in political data and helps campaigns and organizations utilize and implement the best information.

4. Use Personal Messages and Give Personal Recognition

One reason why small donors shy away from contributing? They feel like they are not going to make an impact. For this reason, campaigns must use personalized messaging and give personalized recognition. Small donors are important. They feel that their contribution makes a difference.

5. Consider a Recurring Donation Strategy

Small donors are often giving what they can afford. It is not uncommon for small donors to make multiple contributions throughout a campaign. Developing a recurring donation strategy can be a highly effective way to engage small donors. In doing so, campaigns must be well-organized. You do not want to go back to the same small donor day after day. It can feel like they are being asked to do too much. That being said, coming back to a small donor multiple times during a campaign is often a good strategy for keeping them involved in the process.

Aristotle’s Donor Insight Helps Campaigns Target Donors of All Sizes

Aristotle Donor Insight helps campaigns get more out of their donor base. By combining your existing data with our comprehensive data, you can look into the proverbial crystal ball and find out exactly:

  • Who to target;
  • How to reach small donors; and
  • What to ask for as a contribution.

One of the biggest errors in political fundraising is leaving money on the table. We have the data analytics that you can rely on to identify, connect with, and engage your small donor base. You can get started today. A comprehensive donor analysis with Aristotle is free and there is no obligation.

Aristotle Sets the Gold Standard in Campaign Management

At Aristotle, we are committed to setting the gold standard in expertise and customer service. Working with election campaigns, political action committees (PACs), and grassroots advocacy organizations, our team has led the way for nearly four decades. If you have any questions about how to effectively target small donors – or donors of any size – we are here to help. Contact us today to get started!

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