Democrats See Big Gains In Online Fundraising1999 was a watershed year for Democratic political fundraising on the Internet. The two Democratic presidential candidates combined to raise more than $2 million in Internet-generated contributions.
Through last week, Vice President Al Gore, whose Web site (www.algore2000.com) was launched last April, has collected $800,000 online, while former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, whose site (www.billbradley.com) has been up all of 1999, has raised $1.3 million online.
While online contributions still comprise a fraction of each campaign's total fundraising yield, these year-end reports are significant because they show such a tremendous growth in online giving from previous campaigns.
"This is a big breakthrough," said Dick Bell, a Washington DC-based Internet political specialist, who directed the Democratic National Committee's Web operations.
In 1996, Bell said, the DNC raised only $60,000 online during the entire campaign cycle. Bell believes the biggest factor driving the current growth in online fundraising is the changed attitude toward making credit-card purchases online.
"Amazon.com and other commercial Web sites have paved the way for fundraisers," Bell said, "People just don't have the same fears of donating online that they had in the past."
Spokespeople for the Gore and Bradley campaigns both said donations have risen because of the ease and speed of making credit card contributions online.
"People will see the vice president on TV, come to our site and make a contribution," said Ben Green, director of the Gore campaign's Web operations. Both the Gore and Bradley sites said the biggest spikes in their online giving over the past year were linked to strong media coverage of their candidate.
Bradley spokeswoman Sara Howard said the Bradley Web site received one of its biggest waves of contributions shortly after the candidate appeared on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last summer.
Equally important to the growth in fundraising for the two campaign Web sites is their increasing use of traditional direct marketing fundraising strategies.
Both campaigns are aggressively building their database of online fundraising prospects through direct mail and the Web. All response forms on Gore and Bradley direct mail solicitations now ask respondents to include their e-mail addresses, which are then entered into campaign databases. The Gore Web site has collected more than 100,000 e-mail addresses in its nine months online, while Bradley's site now has an e-mail list of 40,000.
"We complement all our traditional fundraising with an Internet component," said Green. Without providing specifics, Green said the campaign has been "extremely successful" in its resolicitation of contributors via e-mail.
Green also said the campaign has had great success with demographically and geographically targeted e-mail solicitations. For example, before a Dec. 15th fund-raiser in Nashville, TN Gore supporters in zip codes surrounding Nashville were e-mailed
invitations. These e-mail recipients accounted for more than 250 of the tickets sold at the event, Green said.
The Gore campaign also expects to have success fundraising on the Internet by targeting issue-oriented audiences. Right now, the Campaign is building two issue-based lists - "Environmental Voters for Gore" and "Women Voters for Gore." Both of these issue-oriented campaigns, include a viral marketing component. For example, an appeal on
the Gore Web site to environmentally-minded voters urges interested activists to e-mail 10 potential activists with information about Gore's environmental record.