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.

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.


He’s On A Boat (Or How James O’Keefe Didn’t Do It Right)

So it seems James O’Keefe got busted trying to “punk” CNN by attempting to seduce anchor Abbie Boudreau with some sort of elaborate ruse involving fruit, sex toys, and a boat.


He’s on a boat!

Oh, where to begin on the absurdity. The plan itself is just full of issues left and right, reading like a Mary Sue CNN fanfic where everything will go so exactly to plan and the liberal media empire will crumble at their might.

But at its core O’Keefe’s largest issue isn’t the need for a bigger boat but the characters involved.


Exhibit A: James O’Keefe


Exhibit B: Way out of Exhibit A’s league

The idea that, one, the liberal media was sending attractive reporters after him to seduce him is hilarious. And well played, CNN. But that the tables might be turned, well, c’mon, really?

Besides, the idea is so crazy that there’s absolutely no way Bourdreau or CNN could possibly fall for this. I mean, we’re talking about the kid that pretended to be a pimp and brought down ACORN in the process. Been there, done that, were there t-shirts?

It was juvenile.

It was disgusting.

It wasn’t nearly as good as my idea.

You see, about a year back I presented Bearing Drift Head Poo Bah Jim Hoeft with a BRILLIANT idea to not only expose the liberal media as a bunch of hacks but also get so much attention for Bearing Drift and myself that it’d just be crazy delicious all up in here!

CNN Caper

Getting CNN to report on a fake story and then spoof them the same day


Jason, Jim, Brian

Technical people needed:
Photographer, stenographer, Thomas Kincaid, Kitty Kelly

Written by:
Jason S. Kenney Esq.

The idea was pretty straight forward.

Bearing Drift would invite CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau to a secluded getaway to have a one-on-one meeting with me. The idea would be that we’d discuss matters of the day and I’d be pretending to be crazy and right wing and she’d use her powers of Liberal Bias to spin me into some sort of right wing monster and utterly destroy me and Bearing Drift with it.

Well, once Ms. Boudreau arrived, a dastardly villain would smash through the window and kidnap her!


Psst… It’s really Jim!

This evil villain would spout off socialist and communist rhetoric and pretty much make himself out to be a left wing nut (it’s a set-up, you see…) as he tied Ms. Boudreau up and left her lying on train tracks where the 4 o’clock Roanoke Express was always on time!

Knowing how these things usually ended up, evil villain would have his henchman watch over our helpless captive to ensure the full evil plan came to effect. Really it would be Brian Kirwin making sure she didn’t get away so the best part of the plan could happen.

You see, cause right as the train was sounding in the distance I’d show up with a broadsword and no shirt and do battle with evil villain henchman. Through the genius placement of my sword between Brian’s torso and arm and timely pressure on ketchup packets, the henchman would appear to be slain and I would rescue Ms. Boudreau before the train arrived. I’d be her hero and she’d fall madly in love with me.

Saving the day would then lead to an amazing CNN story about this heroic hero who also happened to be a Republican! Lefty heads would just explode! My awesomeness would change minds because anything Jason Kenney is associated with would automatically be more awesome than the alternative. People would flock to the Republican Party. The GOP would have a 434 seat majority in Congress come November. Rocky Road would sell out everywhere!


More awesome than other ice creams

CNN would suddenly realize the error of being part of the evil liberal media empire and rebrand itself. Anderson Cooper would even become the president of my fan club.


Answer: Very.

I’d be invited to appear on Rush, Beck, Hannity and even Maddow would want to talk to me to bask in my greatness. People would ask about the day and what happened after and I’d talk about how Ms. Boudreau and I are happily married and expecting twins.


Jason Jr. and Jason Jr. II

World peace would be achieved in our lifetime and everyone would life happily ever after.

Unfortunately Jim nixed it.


Never gonna happen now. Thanks, Jim…

So the liberal media continues to exist and I will not be a hero of the right. Yet. But I’m not done with absurd ideas. I’ve got bunches of them. Now I just need a boat to do them on.

I wonder if James will lend me his…

Promoting The Right Online And The Negative Value Of My Thoughts

NOTE: I have no idea why this post is suddenly current. It was originally drafted in August, 2007. Why it’s here now, I dunno. But as it’s out there, no point in pulling it down. But do keep in mind all thoughts are in the context of 2007. Then again, how much has really changed in almost three years?

James Durbin at TechRepublican laments on the lack of any real organizationlike MoveOn or DailyKos on the conservative side of the web:

The sad thing is it wouldn’t take that much to build a solid organization. There are probably 5,000 blogs nationwide that could be organized into a conservative community and propped up with a Conservative Advertisers Network where politicians could buy geo-targeted ads and in-text ad links. For say, $500,000 total, we could work with one of the existing communities and grow it into a conservative powerhouse.

Any conservative George Soros out there want to pitch in some cheddar? Think of it this way – you’ll make more in a business-friendly environment then you will under a socialist one. I’m willing to give the set of plans to the right people, if anyone is interested.

And right there we see the problem with many people trying to play catch-up on the political side of Web 2.0.

It’s all about the money.

But it shouldn’t be. As I say in the comments:

Are we really just a bunch of mercenaries willing to go out of our way to advance the Conservative cause on the internet only if it pays well? Creating the “next big thing” or even utilizing what’s already there for the cause doesn’t take a lot of money, it simply takes time and a willingness to make it happen. Yet too many people are thinking in terms of dollars and seeing this as a money making opportunity. We’ve got to get past that if we can even hope to begin to compete on the web. Once you build something, once you have a model that works, then you can ask people to invest in it.

The reader generated value of my comment? -1 points. So is the comment of Brian Edwards who uses a comment to hype GOPHub which is an actual effort to create a Digg for right of center blog content.

So a comment that talks about what is being done (and without a half a million dollar investment) and another that points out that money should not be the issue aren’t worth noting. They’re worth less than that. Good to know.

The problem is that the right is trying to create the “next big thing” right away. And while that might not come cheap, it’s a flawed approach at the issue. MoveOn had some big backing, sure, but DailyKos, ActBlue, these sites started as activist driven, grassroots organizations that have grown through the years. If DailyKos and ActBlue have made their organizers money, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t their intention and has become a delightful perk. It’s also ignoring the existance of sites like RedState which act as hubs of conservative thought without large financial backing.

Let’s look locally. Virginia Political Blogs and Richmond Sunlight are two projects from Waldo Jaquith that show what one can do if they simply have the desire and the time. While money might have been nice, Waldo didn’t need a big chunk of cash to provide a great political service. Either of these projects could have been made to target one political side or another if Waldo were so inclined, and at the same low cost and great service.

So the question becomes, are folks on the right really seeking the next big thing that will drive conservative activism or the next big thing that will make money?

Ultimately it comes down to the line that still holds true: if you build it they will come. You can’t just ask for a chunk of change upfront and promise to deliver some amazing product that will be the answer to everyone’s prayers. You have to have a product that’s already doing something, a working model that shows potential that only needs a little boost to dominate. GOPHub is a good service in its infancy. If it just had a bit more backing, not just financially but among the blogs, it could go a long way to act as a clearing house for the national conservative blogosphere. That they have a working model shows that it can be capable of and that’s a better thing to look to than so far empty promises and hype that smacks more of panhandling than actual substance.