DNC Pledges Soar After Presidential Scandal

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The only negative responses the Democratic National Committee received the last few weeks when they called donors for pledges were aimed at the Republicans.


According to Faith Brown, director of marketing for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), fundraising has been terrific. "Year to date we are ahead of our projection in both direct marketing and telemarketing by 80 percent," she said.


The DNC, who uses the teleservices agency SHARE for most of its fundraising, have experienced a surprising increase in low-donor pledges following news of the presidential scandal involving Monica Lewinsky. Given that this period of mid-term elections typically is slow, the $25 average pledge rate was a welcome boost. Average pledge rates rose to more than $30 after the State of the Union message, a healthy high compared to other years.


Not that the party couldn't use it. It faces $9 million in debt just as it is trying to push its agenda through Congress and as candidates are preparing for mid-term congressional elections. Also shadowing the DNC is the campaign finance scandal, which continues to attract daily media coverage.


On the night before the State of the Union Message, however, it didn't seem to matter. The party's phone banks took pledges for $39,750. On Tuesday, the day of President Clinton's State of the Union, the phone calls took in pledges of $57,000, a record for a single night. This is compared to an average night's pledges of $20,000 to $25,000.


"Outside of the beltway, people don't care [about the allegations] -- they want to know about things that affect their lives," said Brown. "The State of the Union gave a great report of the economy, a message of hope."


Kate Berseth, senior VP of client development for SHARE, also said the support has been overwhelming.


"We pulled back a little bit in solicitations after the scandal broke, but found out later that we needn't have," she said.


Pledges are solicited from SHARE's six calling centers located in Somerville, MA; Hadley, MA; Washington, D.C; and San Francisco. The call centers are based in these higher-cost regions because it is easier to attract the type of representatives SHARE desires, according to Berseth.


"We hire only educated political activists who care about the issues," she said.


At any one time during the program, they may have 25 callers in each center working on the outbound campaign for the DNC. The number can vary however.


The 1.3 million DNC members list is divided by the dollar amount of donations received. Members are placed on the high- or low-donor list according to whether they pledge more than or less than $100. Renewals activate DNC membership for the year. Appeals are rolled out on a monthly basis, targeted to those who have not donated since the preceding year. Prospecting, which is not done by SHARE, is generally rolled out at the end of each year.


The low-donor renewal campaign began at the start of January and was completed by the second week of February. The high-donor renewal campaign began in February and is slated to be completed this month. The first appeal campaign started the first week of February.


These programs are strictly outbound telemarketing campaigns, with follow-up taking the form of a mailed pledge packet, which is mailed the next day. Two reminders are sent in two-week intervals.


The script is general, according to Berseth. The representatives describe the DNC as an umbrella organization that raises funding for democratic elections. They explain that the donations do not go to one specific candidate, but rather to candidates running at all levels.


This year, as the 1998 mid-term congressional elections approach, the message to donors is the importance of early money to the campaign.


"We point out that 10,000 votes would have made that difference in the previous congressional campaign when we were defeated by the Republicans," said Brown.
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