How Can Political Fundraising Be Easy?

Home » The Blog » How Can Political Fundraising Be Easy?

How Can Political Fundraising Be Easy?

Posted on

How can fundraising be easy? The simple answer is to make sure you are fundraising around an event. Is it really that simple? Yes and no.

Japan earthquake and tsunami, March 11th.The boffins at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich conducted an interesting study and statistical analysis of fundraising data before and after the 2004 South-Eastern Asia tsunami disaster. What they uncovered is that we humans are pretty darn predictable and we all follow universal behaviors regardless of our country of origin when it comes to making donations. So what did the folks in Zurich conclude?

  1. Time dictates the number and amounts of donations. There is a “logistic growth equation” based on when a disaster takes place.
  2.  “Herding behavior” plays and importan role on how individual donors affect each other.
  3. The donation volume pattern matches SIR infectious disease transmission models.

Fundraising is viralAll this adds up to the fact that in terms of charitable giving, people give in the the same way they catch a contagious disease… ewwww.

Let me rephrase that. Donation trends move through a population in the same quantitative maner as a virus  moves through a population. You have a population of Susceptible (prospective donors), Infected (donors), and Recovered (people who have given… or died from the disease). The giving pattern moves through the population in a very predictable maner, just like FriendFace, or social herding, driven by the media or social networks.

The figure below is from the ETH study and shows the spike in donations after the tsunami.


So what does that mean for us fundraisers? One of the most interesting take-aways is that we may be able to accurately predict the pattern and volume of donations based on the size of potential donor populations and the amount of mass media promotion for a specific event or disaster. If you are a quant, here is the original study with equations.

The second is that to fundraise, you must have a trigger event. This is easy in politics. You have election day, You have primaries. You have a constant stream of rallys and press events. Take each one of these events and use them to infect prospective donors.

If you are a simple nonprofit looking for operational funding, then your path is harder. You must artificially create events to infect your prospects. This is why there are something-A-Thons, winter banquets, college reunions and girl scout cookies. You must create an event and expect your donation flow to match the path of the graph above. Once the donation flow starts slowing down, it is time to start working on your next event. For any fundraising effort to succeed, the critical path includes:

  1. Fundraisers have to base fundraising on eventsA trigger event ,
  2. A platform to drive interaction (to infect supporters). This could be mail, traditional media, new media, social media, or old school cocktail party/over the fence chatter.
  3. An easy method for a infected prospect to make a gift such as a online donation page or phone number to call.

Good luck fundraisers and it is time to start thinking like a epidemiologist.


A version of this post was also published on the Campaigns & Elections Campaign Insider blog.