Does this bring in money or votes? Newsletter 21
Hey everybody! I’m Esteban Fernandez, the DNC’s Digital Ads Director and resident horsegirl. Last time you heard from me, I talked about our team’s unique structure and how it shaped our approach to digital advertising. Now, I’m here to tell you all about how our integrated approach combined with historical investments in digital helped acquire millions of emails, break online fundraising records, and of course, win the White House. So, saddle up! We have lots to cover.
2 horses - 1 race
Along with scaling the DNC’s ads program, our team faced an even greater challenge: taking the reins of the Biden Victory Fund (BVF) direct response ads program. BVF was a joint fundraising entity between the Biden campaign, the DNC, and 47 state parties designed to build on the DNC’s infrastructure to defeat Donald Trump and elect Democrats nationwide. With just four months until Election Day, we were tasked with building an acquisition program that prioritized immediate ROAS for the campaign while also promoting long-term list growth for the DNC.
Luckily, we weren’t alone in this massive endeavor. We partnered with an all-star lineup of digital experts at Middle Seat to form a hybrid team that blended the benefits of an in-house team with the resources and expertise of a best-in-class agency. Together, we overhauled a small program designed to drive the highest possible ROI out of a small universe of supporters and turned it into an expansive list-building and revenue driving operation.
Since we had a short runway, we immediately made large investments in list rentals, which is one of the smartest things we could’ve done. These ended up driving an ROI of over 850%! However, the bulk of our work revolved around broadly expanding our content across a wider array of audiences on all channels. Between email acquisition and direct donate ads we launched between 7 to 15 new campaigns every single day on topics ranging from recent polling to dogs for Biden and everything in between. Today, I’m proud to share that through these efforts we acquired 3.6 million new supporters and raised over $103 million in lifetime contributions in just over 100 days!
There was also no shortage of excitement on the DNC side of the fence. As we galloped full speed into the general election, we knew our payback window on most acquisition investments was rapidly shrinking. This drove us to pivot from primarily focusing on lifetime value to prioritizing immediate revenue, so we doubled down on our direct donate efforts and invested heavily on Google Search.
Throughout the past year, this platform was consistently one of our largest revenue drivers, so when the news cycle was dominated by the presidential election and donor enthusiasm was skyrocketing, we were able to ride that momentum to scale quickly and efficiently. The results from this shift speak for themselves, and from August to November, we raised approximately 2x more immediate revenue than in all of 2017, 2018, and 2019 combined.
How did we do this?
None of these achievements, or the ultimate success of these programs, would’ve been possible without the incredible support of grassroots donors. Small-dollar donors knew exactly what was at stake under four more years of Donald Trump, and they stepped up with unbridled enthusiasm throughout the year.
The same was true of DNC leadership, who understood the importance of making historic investments in digital to harness that enthusiasm. Just look at this graph!
Our integrated structure and unprecedented investment from leadership allowed the DNC to tap into the right data and know exactly when the right time was to shift from lifetime value to immediate revenue. Likewise, data drove the BVF program’s goals and measure of success. We met with the campaign’s analytics team three times per week, and through this constant communication there was never any ambiguity about where our program stood.
One of the most understated secrets to any program’s success is a healthy team dynamic. This was the first presidential cycle for every member on the DNC’s ads team, so scaling our program while merging with an agency team to build another was no small feat. The DNC and Middle Seat’s partnership resulted in a seamlessly collaborative team that was laser-focused on winning. Watching this team come together and execute their work to the highest standard when the stakes couldn’t be higher will always be one of the highlights of my career. Moral of the story: experience and expertise matter, but trust, respect, and collaboration matter just as much!
Another plug to hire some of the amazing folks from the BFP digital team!
🧵Thread we think you should read (and retweet) 🧵
Thanks for riding with me on this edition of “Does this bring money or votes?”
If you’d like to learn more about all of the digital work that happened this cycle, the DNC Mobilization team is hosting a post election debrief on December 10th from 12-4pm ET. Join us and hear all about the strategies that brought in money or votes and helped deliver a historic win for Democrats this year straight from the horse’s mouth.