Email Fundraising and the Fine Art of Shaming

There are a lot of factors that go into why Democrats seem to be better at email fundraising than Republicans.

Personalities matter – it’s easier to fundraise for a rockstar (Obama) than a perceived run of the mill candidate (Romney).

Audience matters – Republicans just think and give differently than Democrats.

Issues matter – emotionally driven politics that appeal to a lowest common denominator see better success than something you have to think about to really grasp and care about (also why Democrats have cooler bumperstickers).

But the biggest issue is really the same battle that Republicans and Democrats have been fighting in inboxes, on the airwaves, in mailboxes, door to door, and face to face:


There is a right way and a wrong way to deliver any message. “It’s a boy!” is infinitely more positive than “It’s not a girl!” “My mom works as a mortician” is infinitely more positive than “My mom’s in a morgue.”

“Join us” is infinitely more positive than “Don’t abandon us.”

Today we got a great example of this. The RNC sent out an email to a huge list that split tested between a couple headlines:

Jason, did you abandon the RNC?

Have you given up on Republicans?

Out the gate this email creates a visceral reaction that, sure, will get a few people to open it, but already turns off a vast majority of the audience it’s seeking to appeal to.

The other problem is it uses language that’s already something the Republican brand is suffering from. Far too often you hear from Tea Party-ists, libertarians, social conservatives, moderates, and others that “I did’t abandon the Republican Party, the Republican Party abandoned me.” This is language everyone involved in messaging in the Republican Party is familiar with – and to ignore it is a huge mistake. This email invites a negative response before it’s even opened.

The guts don’t get much better. Let’s take it in parts:

Did you abandon the Republican Party?

No matter what the subject line was, they still hit you with the “abandon” rhetoric. You start on a negative, pushing away the reader and asking them “why aren’t you my friend anymore?” Just as it’s inappropriate for you to nag someone for refusing to respond to your texts after a second date, you really shouldn’t do the same when asking for money.

Chairman Priebus has written to you already this year asking you to contribute to the RNC and renew your membership. But we haven’t received your financial support yet this year.

“You’re ignoring us. I mean, the CHAIRMAN wrote you and you still didn’t give.”

The RNC is implying that you got their email, read their email, then tossed it in the trash. Not that you maybe missed it. Or that it went into your spam folder. Or that your kid accidentally deleted it when playing with your iPhone. They’re jilted.

Your past support has shown us that you believe in the Republican Party and the conservative principles we stand for. That’s why we still believe you haven’t given up on the Republican Party yet.

Here’s a big issue with the email: the RNC is implying that if you haven’t given them a dime, then clearly you don’t believe in the Republican Party and conservative principles. Sure, you may volunteer locally, be a dues paying member of your local unit, bleed for a Senate campaign or have maxed out on every Congressional race in your state. But that’s a springtime Republican. You need to be an all-of-the-time Republican by giving RIGHT NOW.

So we are giving you one more chance to renew your membership with the Republican National Committee.

One more chance. And if you miss this chance, don’t worry. They’re going to send you an email time and time again asking for more money because, c’mon, they need your money.

Right now you are handing the advantage over to Democrats. That’s exactly what President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid want you to do. With committed Republicans like you sitting out in 2014, the Democrats are able to continue their liberal rampage on conservative principles.

Again, the RNC are the gatekeepers of all things Republican. You’re lame if you don’t give them your hard-earned money.

Also, it’s an odd appeal to people who believe in individual responsibility. They’re saying it’s your individual responsibility to give, but using a negative means of doing so. If YOU don’t take responsibility, it’s YOUR fault, YOU lost this, YOU suck.

Personally, I always buy my hot dogs from the vendor who insults me the most.

2014 is our last chance to step in, step up, and take back the Senate to regain Republican control in Washington. Don’t turn your back on the Republican Party now.

Two issues: 2014 is not the last election ever. And Republicans still won’t have the White House, so total control is still out of reach.

Renew your membership with the Republican National Committee now and support our fight to defeat liberal Democrats.

Membership. What does membership get you? A cool hat? A new rag to wash your car with t-shirt? A lapel pin?

No. You get to call yourself a Republican. Isn’t that awesome?


Tony Parker
RNC Treasurer

Honestly, when I first saw the “from” field, I wondered why the San Antonio Spurs point guard was insulting my degree of Republican-ness.

Now, the RNC has gotten heat on this and responded by saying, “hey, Democrats do this all the time!”

“We are always searching for the most effective digital techniques to engage our grassroots and ensure we have the funds necessary to win the midterm elections,” said RNC spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski. “The Democrats have used this tactic regularly – the DCCC did a 48 hour thing like this a couple weeks ago.”

Sure, the DCCC and others have done something “like this” frequently. Shaming people into contributing works – you want to make them feel like they’re missing the boat and don’t want to be the odd man out when all the cool kids contribute.

But it’s HOW they said it that matters. For example:


We don’t mean to nag, but President Obama, Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi have all asked for your help and we are still lagging dangerously behind.

This is the final notice of your member status before the fundraising deadline.

Name: Jason “The Awesome” Kenney
Supporter record: 8675309
Suggested Support: $5.00

We need a HUGE day today to respond to the unprecedented attacks we’re facing from the Kochs. And since we can only count donations that come in before midnight towards the goal, now is the time to act. Jason, this could make or break us right here.

We need 12,371 more donations by tonight’s midnight fundraising deadline to close the gap. Will you chip in whatever you can now?

MIDNIGHT DEADLINE: All Gifts Triple-Matched!

If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:






Or click here to donate another amount.


DCCC Membership

First, it’s short and sweet.

Second, it really talks up the membership aspect, complete with a fake number and a specific ask in order to be a member.

Third, it doesn’t way “THE WORLD WILL END” if you don’t give nor do they question your commitment to the cause. They simply say that it’ll be harder to win. And you want to win, right?

Fourth, they give you a goal you feel that can be achieved. It’s a numbers game. People like numbers and they like games. You can be part of the exclusive national audience of 12,371 who help get them over their goal by midnight tonight.

And this is where we see why Democrats are better than Republicans at email fundraising: The RNC email is a caricature of the DCCC email. Someone at the RNC read the DCCC email and walked away with the impression that it was berating, threatening, and demeaning, so they wrote exactly that and sent it out because, hey, it worked for them!

But what worked for the Democrats wasn’t done over night. It was built, it was tested, it was monitored, it was tweaked, it was softened, it failed, it succeeded, and it worked. Democrats have figured out the art of shaming with a gentle touch while the RNC is trying to do it with a club.

The broad brush concepts behind what the Democrats do well are straight forward:

1) Keep it brief – Short and sweet, get to the point.

2) Make people feel like part of something – We need you to join a number of people just like you!

3) Keep it cheap – Easier to get someone to part with their daily Starbucks than a credit card payment.

Consider the following:

I know you’ve been getting a lot of these but I wanted to make sure you knew that now’s your last chance to help us before tonight’s deadline. We’re so close to our goal but we could still use your help.

$5 will go a long way to fight back against the attacks that are coming every day.

We need 1,253 more donors to meet our goal by midnight tonight. Won’t you help tonight?

Some links to click to specific amounts because people like that stuff.

This stuff works. It’s how Democrats do it. It’s how E.W. Jackson was able to show more individual contributions than any other non-incumbent Lieutenant Governor candidate in Virginia’s history (end self horn tooting).

It’s just a start. I could write a book about list segmentation, data mining, targeting messaging based on interests, past open rates, donor history, etc (If the RNC sent this to existing donors, heaven help them…)

But if we can’t get the messaging right, the data’s going to be worthless.

Thankfully, these kind of emails out of the RNC and other Republicans are rare. The core Republican message can resonate and is something that can be packaged to new voters. But we don’t need to berate the choir to get them to sing in key.

“Collectible” Digital Fiction

Hi, blog. Long time no speak.

Every once in a while there’s something that comes on my radar meaning one thing but gets the brain-meats working in another direction. Some are simple issues of punctuation (or, rather, my missing the punctuation), which leads to something like Herman Dune’s “You Could Be A Model, Goodbye” reading more like “You Could Be A Model Goodbye” which has an entirely different meaning and could be the great basis for a short story or a song.

NSFW – A bad word or two.

Robin Sloan has a post over on Snarkmarket that has led to another brainstorm, only this is more delivery than content based – the booster pack:

Most fiction is recombinatory. That’s not a bad thing! I mean, my novel is recombinatory. You can have a lot of fun with recombination. You deal yourself a hand from the deck of culture and try to make sense of the juxtapositions. I think I just described the process behind all comic books ever. The results can be rich and compelling—all the more so because they’re supported by ideas and images with deep roots.

But! We can’t only recombine. It can’t just be remakes and reboots and remixes forever. Every so often, we need new stuff, too.

Have you ever played one of those collectible card games? Bought a pack of cards, ripped it open, added them to your deck? Annihilation is a foil-wrapped booster pack for weird fiction, loaded with truly original images. Truly original entities.

Which sounds like an awesome book and something I’ll have to pick up.

But, brainstorm – what if one could purchase a “booster pack” that delivered random stories in an ebook format?



Create a library of, say, a hundred stories of 3,000-5,000 words each. For a price of around $2.99, seven of those stories are randomly selected and dropped into either a zip of files or a single ebook file. Like those seven? Buy another pack. Sure, you might get some duplicates, but then you can feel better about sharing them with friends (because they’ll be DRM free, of course). And at $2.99 you’re still getting a handful of new stories.

Or you can just buy individual stories at $0.99 a piece, but, hey, why not get more bang for your buck?

Some stories could be designated as “rare” or only available in the packs, so if you want that great super rare Stephen King story (because he’d totally participate in something like this, right, Mr. King?), you’ll have to keep getting collections until you get so damn frustrated with it that you’re broke, I’m rich, and maybe Mr. King and I take pity on you and give you the story anyway.

The complication, aside from building a library of a hundred or more stories, is developing a system of delivery that can create the booster packs at random and provide them in assorted formats. Then there’s the whole royalty thing for authors.

But as an idea, I’m curious if anyone else thinks it has merit. Let me know your thoughts.

Using Blogsy for the first time

So my wife was awesome enough to get me an iPad Mini for my birthday today and one of the first things I wanted to use it for was blogging. J's Notes has just been looking so lonely lately and with the re-launch of The Jeffersoniad I really needed to dust off the ol' blogging chops and do more writing.

So to help with that I researched a few apps and decided to make the investment in Blogsy. At first blush e interface is nice. It looks like it'll work well with WordPress, especially the bells and whistles The Jeffersoniad has built in. Some limitations when it comes to custom fields, but maybe I'm asking too much from an iPad in that regard.

So please bear with me as I get back into the swing of things and take a moment to check out the newly redesigned The Jeffersoniad for some great content from some of Virginia's best bloggers.


The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance Launces New Website

The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance Launces New Website
Site to curate leading right-of-center political thought from Virginia bloggers

Richmond, Va – March 4, 2013 - The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance is pleased to announce the launch of its new website, The Jeffersoniad. The new website, launching Monday, March 4, 2013, will serve as a hub for The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance and curate the leading political thought and posts of its member sites.

Starting in 2007 as a small group of like-minded bloggers, The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance has grown to include nearly forty members from twenty-one websites across Virginia. The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance members serve to drive conversations among the grassroots and represent the voice of Virginia right-of-center activists.

“Our new website will highlight the best and the brightest that the Virginia blogosphere has to offer,” said Jason Kenney, a founding member of The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance. “By showcasing thought leadership from Alliance members, The Jeffersoniad will help raise the level of discourse among political activists in the Commonwealth.”


The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance Launces New Website by TheJeffersoniad

Facebook Users In Richmond (2012 Edition)

I’m a numbers nerd (shocking revelation, I know). Every now and then it’s interesting to look into the numbers of something like Facebook to see how it’s growing locally, especially when considering it’s place as a social platform for campaigns and non-profits and as an area to invest time and dollars.

So how does Facebook look this year compared to last?

Honestly, about the same.

In April, 2012, Virginia Facebookers stood at 3,899,660 strong. This year they’re at 3,971,440, a growth of only 71,780 or 1.8%. Now, nearly 72k more faces is nothing to sneeze at, but Facebook plateauing is to be expected, especially since nearly half of Virginia’s population of 8,185,000 are now on the platform.

What is interesting is that of those 71,780 new faces, most are actually in the Richmond area (well, Facebook’s definition of the Richmond area).

In April, 2012, 350,900 Facebookers called Richmond home. Today that number stands at 389,740, a nearly 11% jump for the area and almost 39,000 new members. Looking at the demographic breakdown, most of these new members, nearly 25,000, are in the 35+ age range, so Facebook is still growing with the older audiences, just at a much slower clip.

So here’s a breakdown:

2/2009 4/2012 2/2013
Total Facebook Users In Virginia: 1,794,480 3,899,660 3,971,440
Facebook Users In Richmond: 193,240 350,900 389,740
13-17 - 18,620 21,940 18,980
18-25 - 76,820 97,080 102,420
26-35 - 50,580 91,580 103,100
36+ - 43,320 140,260 165,260
Male - 77,690 156,640 173,820
Female - 108,520 190,480 212,060
In High School - 18,780 8,300 6,840
In College - 31,960 19,940 20,860
  • VCU -
17,300 8,220 (11,360) 8,540 (11,520)
  • University of Richmond -
2,640 1,480 (2,420) 1,560 (2,300)
  • Virginia Union -
80 620 (1,140) 560 (1,040)
  • Virginia State -
360 320 (3,640) 400 (3,500)
College Grad - 22,800 134,520 159,940
Relationship Status
Single - 50,800 77,220 86,620
In A Relationship - 33,500 45,060 47,380
Engaged - 6,140 10,000 10,400
Married - 52,300 97,840 110,720

College numbers in brackets are total numbers for US residents who are marked “In College” at those schools but may not necessarily have Richmond listed as home.

All of these numbers were pulled using Facebook’s ad manager so feel free to jump in and fiddle with the stats yourself to see what data you can pull out.

Social Media Spending in the Presidential Election

One graphic really says it all:

10-1. Barack Obama didn’t just lap Mitt Romney in online spending, he clobbered him.

$47 million compared to $4.7 million.

But, hey, that’s gotta be an improvement over 2008, right? It sure is!

In 2008 Barack Obama spent $16 million on online advertising.

John McCain: $3.6 million.

So, hey, Mitt Romney increased the GOP nominee’s spending by almost 30%! Yay! Compared to Obama’s jump of nearly 300%.

Now, when PBS Newshour throws around the 2012 numbers they may or may not be just talking about online advertising (I wonder about their numbers because they cite the Obama’s $16 million in 2008 number that is really only representative of his online ads). So who knows how much the failed Project ORCA cost.

But even if we’re just talking about advertising and not actual network building to create a means to spread your narrative and define your candidate instead of letting them spend all Summer calling you a corporate bully, we’re still talking about a very valuable tool in terms of messaging on a platform where more and more voters are seeking information.

A new Pew study shows that the Internet has finally passed Newspapers as a voter’s news source with 47% citing the Internet in 2012 compared to 31% in 2008 and a mere 21% in 2004. This trend is not going to plateau any time soon as more and more people older voters acclimate themselves to social media and younger voters come of age and seek engagement.

26% of voters had their political opinions influenced by social media. 1-in-4 voters were educated and influenced by a tweet or status update or infographic or video or whatever they engaged with on their platforms of choice.

You have got to be where your audience is. And as more and more of your audience moves online you have got to be there to meet and greet them.

PBS Newshour’s Daily Download’s segment on Presidential Social Media usage is a good broad brush analysis of this year’s campaigns and well worth 6 minutes of your time.

Watch Obama Spent 10 Times as Much on Social Media as Romney on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.


SMCRVA: What’s up with blogs?

July’s SMCRVA featured a discussion on how brands can leverage local influencers and also included a taping about what’s up with blogs featuring Ross Catrow of RVANews, Alex Iwashyna of Late Enough, Kate Hall of Richmond Mom, Jennifer Lemons of and yours truly. It’s a great clip showing the variety of voices in blogging and thoughts on where it’s been and where it’s going.

It’s also a great way to celebrate J’s Notes 11th Birthday a day late.

Affordable Housing Awareness Week April 23rd – 28th

This week marks Affordable Housing Awareness Week. Over the next week, 15 local non-profit housing organizations are working together to address safe and affordable housing in Richmond, not only in bringing awareness to the issue but to encourage area professionals to get involved with groups that support these causes.

One of the events this week is a blogger luncheon hosted by H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities Made Equal) and featuring a panel of some well known area bloggers (and me). The panel will discuss how housing is connected to jobs, transportation, education and entrepreneurship. The event is open to the public but RSVPs are required to attend. If you’re in the area, please join us Tuesday at noon in downtown Richmond.

If you can’t attend, you can still help. While the panel will address many issues and angles that impact housing, you can offer your thoughts on a couple questions and I’ll work to incorporate them into the discussion. All thoughts are welcome as this is a topic relevant not just to Richmond or only one side of the political spectrum. The more voices we can include in the conversation, the more we’ll have to work with to help find solutions.

1) How can we help the market be more responsive to housing needs?

2) Housing, jobs and transportation are very inter-related. What do we need to look at in terms of aligning these three?

From The Archives 4/16

As I rebuild J’s Notes I’m picking up pieces of the old site and putting them back on here. It’s going to be a long process (11+ years of material, some years busier than others) but it’s kinda nice to go back and see what I used to talk about. It’ll probably get weirder the further back I go, but there are a few gems in here.

In 2009 it seems I had a lot to say about newspapers and the mainstream media (as one might call it)

The Washington Post is Afraid of Change (3/1/09)

Newspapers: Adapt Or Die (3/2/09)

Fair Use, Fair Game (4/13/09)

The Buzz Bin: Newspapers Are Like Department Stores (5/8/09)

Sensationalist Headlines and Chicken/Egg Arguments (9/21/09)

June 4, 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests which got me to go off with my limited knowledge of Chinese history.

In the wake of the BP oil spill in June, 2010 I went off on how the gamification of social media isn’t exactly the best public relations push in all cases.

And a post written in August, 2007 that for some reason never got posted until July, 2010 still rings somewhat true when talking about where the Right of Center political movement stands online, though we’ve certainly come a long way through the years.

Then there was my whole bit about how James O’Keefe was doing it wrong when he tried to “punk” a CNN anchor on a boat.

More to come as I rebuild.

Facebook Users In Richmond UPDATED

In the process of rebuilding J’s Notes I’m digging through the past and figuring out what brilliant thoughts remain brilliant and what thoughts are best left in the past.

One post that made the cut is a February, 2009 bit that gave a breakdown of Facebook users in Richmond. While it wasn’t so long ago, it wasn’t until April of that year that Facebook would break 200 million active users. By September, 2011 that number would quadruple to over 800 million active users.

So three years later, how does Richmond measure up?

Using the Facebook Ads Creator you can get an interesting snapshot about Facebook users in your area. It’s not an exact science and comparing numbers from today to three years ago is a bit misleading due to the growth of Facebook leading to an increase in the number of cities in Facebook’s database (for example: in Feb 2009 you couldn’t say you were from Fredericksburg, VA – you had to choose either Richmond or Washington, maybe a NOVA locality) and other factors at play. But it’s still a fun exercise with numbers.

2/2009 4/2012
Total Facebook Users In Virginia: 1,794,480 3,899,660
Facebook Users In Richmond: 193,240 350,900
13-17 - 18,620 21,940
18-25 - 76,820 97,080
26-35 - 50,580 91,580
36+ - 43,320 140,260
Male - 77,690 156,640
Female - 108,520 190,480
In High School - 18,780 8,300
In College - 31,960 19,940
  • VCU -
17,300 8,220 (11,360)
  • University of Richmond -
2,640 1,480 (2,420)
  • Virginia Union -
80 620 (1,140)
  • Virginia State -
360 320 (3,640)
College Grad - 22,800 134,520
Relationship Status
Single - 50,800 77,220
In A Relationship - 33,500 45,060
Engaged - 6,140 10,000
Married - 52,300 97,840

For Colleges, the numbers in the brackets are all Facebook users in the US who are listed as currently attending.

So what can we see here? Well, for starters, Richmond Facebook users are absolutely following the overall trend of having gotten older over the years. Facebook’s growth with the over 35 users certainly can’t be overstated and was clearly visible nationally mere months after I ran the February, 2009 numbers.

Gender numbers appear to be the combination of growth and a change in what information Facebook requires of users.

The shrinking college numbers could just be a shift in how Facebook is used. In 2/09 Facebook was still primarily a college playground and identifying yourself with your school at the time you were there was an integral part of the experience. As it has grown and become more public, keeping tabs on exactly when you are enrolled in what school is less important. Simply list the college in your profile, leave the graduation date for later.

Relationship status appears to just be natural growth: as the audience is larger and older, more relationships and marriages.

If you wanted you could keep breaking these numbers down and find out exactly how many people with particular interests were in the area. Anyone who’s tried to do targeted advertising on Facebook has already played with this. But anyone wanting to just see some numbers because they’re a total nerd like myself might have some fun with this as well.