No matter what side of the aisle your political views are on, we can all agree that this year’s election has been full of shocking surprises as well as excitement. The 2008 Presidential campaign marked a profound change to the way that political campaigns were run. It was all about the emergence of Web 2.0, email marketing, and analytics.
In 2008, the Obama campaign ushered in a new, fresh way of communicating to audiences-especially those that had never voted before.
While much has changed (see what we did there?) since 2008, the politics of campaigning remain the same. However, the platforms to run a strong campaign in continue to evolve.
Here are 10 things your non-profit can learn from the 2016 Presidential Campaign.
1.) Free press is good press.
Just like presidential candidates, many organizations spend a ton of money on paid media. This year’s election has proven that earned media is out there. For free. Just see the below screen capture. While we wouldn’t suggest being as controversial as some candidates have been in this election, we do encourage making appropriately-trained spokespersons available to the media. In addition, comment on blogs or social media to encourage more attention to your work. Campaigns and candidates make news when they propose change, make a statement, and call for action.
2.) Get a text buddy.
While many non-profits have begun to implement texting programs, they seem to be limited to fundraising or a response to a specific event (for ex: The Red Cross’ CTA to donate blood or money after the horrific tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub). One thing that we’ve seen that we love is the way that some of the presidential candidates have been using text to carry on a ‘conversation’ with a supporter. By texting with ‘Jess’– subscribers are able to see candid photos, see exclusive YouTube videos, share clever quotes and stories with friends, and of course- give money too.
3.) Strong UX means everything.
One of the things I love best about political campaigns is to check out the candidate’s online donation form. An online donation typically happens as an immediate response to an appeal someone receives via email that they see through a commercial or today—in a text message they receive. As mobile technology has improved, more people have become comfortable donating money online. Because giving is generally an immediate reaction to an appeal, it is imperative that your donation page is optimized for a prompt transaction with clear calls to action, minimal distractions and a simple form that only requires you to enter as little information as possible. As a reminder, here are some best practices that we recommend.
4.) Tell a good story.
Did you see Michelle Obama’s speech to kick off the 2016 Democratic Convention? That amazing speech. Again, no matter what your political affiliation, everyone can agree that the story she shared was compelling, passionate, and most importantly, genuine. Authenticity of a candidate is what can determine who current and prospect voters will fix in the circle for on their election ballot. Take time to craft out meaningful stories to truly express who you are as an organization, and why your mission matters. That being said – your stories should not just be about your organization. Tell the stories of those you serve and those that help you serve. Having and displaying empathy will resonate with your target audience and improve your brand image.
5.) More than just a tweet.
There are some candidates out there that just can’t seem to get enough of Twitter. They post day and night. Retweet without hesitation. They ask for congratulations when they think they predicted a tragedy that has occurred. But there is one way that candidates are using Twitter that should be considered by your non-profit. Twitter and CBS formed a partnership to stream CBSN’s live coverage from the Republican and Democratic National Conventions on Twitter. So far, the audiences have been HUUUUGE (see what we did there?). Consider live streaming of your organization’s gala, walk, or other ceremonies that are of interest to your constituents. And, don’t forget to release your late-breaking news through Twitter. Remember when everyone would scramble to ESPN to read the Breaking News ticker? Well, no one does that anymore. They can read their favorite sports journalists’ Twitter feed to get the latest news on LeBron James, or on the next player to be released or traded in the NFL.
6.) Got a platform?
One of the biggest complaints of one of the top candidates in the 2016 presidential election cycle has been a lot of talk with no substance. Your non-profit cannot underestimate the power of substance through content. A non-profit’s messaging should be robust, thoughtful content that clearly differentiates your mission from others. It should educate those interested in learning more about your work, and why your current and prospective members should support your efforts. The more polished content you can distribute through your blog, frequent but strategic posts on social media, or effective newsletters; the more opportunities you give current and potential supporters to engage with your cause.
7.) Join Us. OK. How?
We often see non-profits offer call to actions such as Join Us. Typically, this means joining an email list. Political campaigns take this a step further by offering prospective and current supporters myriad options for truly joining their campaign efforts. This is done by providing options to volunteer on election day, to sign a pledge, to attend a local event, rally, or fundraiser, or- to just stay connected through social media. Make sure that your non-profit clearly outlines all of the ways your audience can truly join you and your mission.
8.) Tag. You’re it.
A clever tagline makes campaigns memorable. When considering a tagline for your non-profit, make sure that the concept works with your organization’s key messaging. Consistency is key. If the tagline doesn’t relate to your overall mission, scrap it. Or, make sure that it is truly geared to a specific campaign or fundraising effort, and not your organization as a whole. A clever tagline should evoke emotion as well as action. Think verbs. Not only nouns: Explore, Empower, Save.
9.) Small dollars add up to big ones.
We call this the Bernie Sanders effect. By now, you’re probably well aware that the average donation given to the Bernie Sanders campaign online was $27.00. Back to our point about taglines for just a minute…The Bernie Sanders campaign was all built on the concept of paid for by Bernie, not the billionaires. As someone who positioned himself as not one of the typical, wealthy politicians, not someone funded by super PACs, or corporations—the small dollar ask worked and was authentic to his stance. This effort created a profound message to small donors that earned Sanders tremendous loyalty and audience engagement. Non profits, take note.
10.) Analytics Matter.
During our work with the USO, we had the amazing honor of working with Dan Siroker. If you don’t know him, he was the analytics guru behind the Obama 2008 convention. A Google alum, Dan’s data found that a picture of Obama’s family with a button that said “Learn More” had a 40% higher chance of increasing the number of sign ups than buttons reading “sign up” or “join us now.” And for all of you data wonks, be sure to check this out!
Don’t overeducate. Like politics, people seek out organizations because of their already held passions or beliefs. And while education is key for allowing individuals to learn about your cause, it takes motivation to get them to act in response to their passion. A truly powerful campaign reduces barriers against taking tangible action, and increases the incentive to take action. People expect a non-profit to need help. Give them a way to provide it.