Does this bring in money or votes? Newsletter 26

Hi everyone! We’re Olivia Hill (DNC Leadership Circle Donor Manager) and Christen Sparago (DNC Sustaining Donor Manager). Day to day we both serve as resources for grassroots donors, and when we’re not on the phone, texting or emailing with them, we’re thinking about how to reach them. Donor cultivation is the name of the game for us, but we can’t have a 1:1 relationship with each of the 60,000+ donors between our two programs. Our donor cultivation events provide an extremely powerful opportunity for us to share our priorities with them and communicate our gratitude, answer their questions, and keep them engaged.

Here’s how we do it!

Feature:

In the last half of the 2020 cycle, we moved our town halls from the robodialer to the internet. In the past, these “telephone town halls” were held quarterly, over the phone, and through the transition into working from home we decided to test out how Zoom-friendly our donor base was. After just one event, we were hooked! We partnered with a production team and scaled these virtual town halls up and up and up to serve our donors events that have proved themselves well worth the time, resources, and effort. 

As we leaned into this new format, we had two main goals: say a sincere ‘thank you’ to our donors AND remind them of our off-year investment needs. Kicking these off in the run up to the 2020 general election capitalized on our donors’ election-year enthusiasm, utilized the election-year resources, and started making the case for building years - this was an especially important point for us to make to the millions of new donors to the DNC in 2020.

Our most recent town hall featuring DNC Political and Organizing Chief of Staff Lila Jaafar, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, Rep. Jennifer Wexton, and DNC Civic Engagement and Voter Protection Director Reyna Walters-Morgan.

And reader, we succeeded. By the end of the cycle, we had been able to reach over 5,200 donors through eight town halls. Anecdotally, we’ve heard from dozens of donors that they’ve attended several town halls and sincerely appreciate the time “in the room” with members of our team. Our average watch time has nearly tripled since our telephone town dall days, signaling that not only do folks enjoy the livestream format, but they are also increasingly engaged with the topics and speakers we highlight during the events.

Although these events were meant to be cultivation touchpoints and therefore did not have a specific focus on fundraising, we also managed to raise $10,000! (Some attendees even posted in the event chat to let us know that they maxed out to candidates who were speaking on the call!)

Launching a virtual event series

With so many virtual events cropping up in the COVID era, we decided to take advantage of our donors being increasingly familiar with Zoom, and brought our formerly quarterly Telephone Town Hall online and with video for the first time in DNC history. Our goal for this first call was to give monthly and mid-level donors a sincere thank you from our team, and an opportunity to hear from Party leaders how we scaled up from off years to the 2020 general election.

Our first-ever Virtual Grassroots Town Hall was in March 2020, and featured then-DNC Chair Tom Perez with 300+ monthly and mid-level donors on a Zoom webinar. 

This Zoom webinar town hall was a dramatic improvement from the telephone town halls we’d done previously, with relatively low lift from staff and speakers. Donors enjoyed getting to see Tom while he spoke, and submitted feedback like this after the event:

"It was very informative. Tom Perez gave a smart and clear talk about the vision of the Party and the work that needs to be done. We should do more Zoom meetings to inform us of the strategies taking place all over the country to support candidates running on all levels! Thank you!"

So, we took it up another notch:

The feedback from this first Virtual Town Hall was overwhelmingly positive, and with buy-in from senior staff and some extra resources, we were able to kick things up another notch. We had an opportunity to partner with Weymouth-Watson on the production side, which gave our events a professional livestream feel. 

Our very own Digital Organizing Director, Meg DiMartino, with two of our OrgCorps2020 organizers and Team DNC staffers, Sam Aleman (left) and Mia Ogorchock (right).

We brought on some headlining principals, like Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Jon Ossoff, Rep. Grace Meng, Secretary Julián Castro, and MANY more.

We also started using Mobilize America to collect RSVPs and automatically receive attendee feedback after the event, and our email team created a beautiful invitation series using Movable Ink to get our list excited:

Our secondary goal was to repeatedly make the case for off-year giving so that we can continue to build the infrastructure that got us to the victories we’ve had these past four years. 

Because these events were received so well by our donors in 2020, we have continued them on a monthly basis in 2021. We have even seen our best attendance and engagement already at the start of 2021: our first town hall of the year more than tripled our previous record for attendance, and we received more than double the highest number of donations during the call (with no fundraising ask!). 

This bump could be a result of a less saturated virtual events calendar post election, or the result of months of conditioning donors that we need them to stay engaged in off years. Either way, we’re glad they’re still tuning in!

🧵Thread we think you should read (and retweet) 🧵

Closing:

Thanks for sticking around to learn about how we ramped up these events heading into the election, and kept these folks around for months after! Want to see one of these events for yourself? Watch out for our next Town Hall at democrats.org/townhall

Until next time,
Christen & Olivia

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