Topics: Expert Advice, Small-Dollar Fundraising, Fundraising, House File

Off-Year Fundraising: Taking Away the Democrats' Edge

Six Great Tips for GOP Off-Year Fundraising

Republican candidates and Republican elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels need to continuously invest in their online fundraising throughout the election cycle.

We have six (6) expert tips on what you can be doing right now to build your small-dollar fundraising.

What Does a Digital Director Do?
What should I be doing in the Off-Year?

But, before we get to the 6 tips, let's take a quick look back at some of the key fundamentals of Republican small-dollar fundraising.

Table of Contents

Republican Small-Dollar Fundraising

In the early days of online fundraising, the Democrats consistently outperformed Republicans at securing small-dollar donations – this is NOT a reason to hit the panic button but a reason to be more focused and redouble your efforts.

Republican digital leaders, including The Prosper Group, are constantly innovating both techniques and impactful messaging to advance small-dollar fundraising capabilities. The goal is to raise even more money for right-of-center leaders, not just to equal but to exceed Democrats.

Big Wins for GOP Online Fundraising

For the first time in 2021, Republicans have surpassed Democrats in digital fundraising.

In the first quarter of 2021 (Q1), the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) outraised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) by $1.7 million in online fundraising, according to data reported on by the Washington Examiner.

In Q2, the NRCC reported online contributions of $14.1 million. The Washington Examiner's David Drucker notes, "Online contributions to the National Republican Congressional Committee spiked more than 400% in two years, erasing the critical, grassroots fundraising advantage House Democrats have enjoyed for several years, just as the 2022 battle for Congress heats up."

A good example is Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) a Prosper Group client, who has been consistently shattering fundraising records in 2021. In the second quarter of 2021 (Q2), Team Elise raised $1.5 million and another $500,000 for GOP candidates, with almost $400,000 going to Republican women.

Congresswoman Stefanik uses many of the 6 tips listed below to guide her fundraising.

The Advantage of WinRed

There is no doubt the launch of WinRed in June 2019 – the GOP's answer to the Democrats' ActBlue grassroots fundraising platform – propelled much better results for Republican campaigns and committees in the 2020 election cycle and already in 2021.

In Q2 of 2021, WinRed processed $131 million with $51.5 million from first-time donors.

Small-dollar fundraising is now a core staple for Republicans AND is here to stay. Any candidates who forego online fundraising are missing opportunities to attract donors and much needed attention.

"Off-Year" Small-Dollar Fundraising for Republicans: No More Off Years

Traditionally, all types of fundraising generally slows down in the "off-year" of an election cycle. But, in reality, there's no true off-year for competitive modern-day political campaigns.

The temptation to let fundraising fall off your priority list for a quarter, or even a month, means too many missing opportunities to attract donors and lost donations – losses from not attracting new donors and from your supporters donating less frequently.

During the "off-year," several critical fundraising activities for Republican candidates, campaigns, and committees require attention.

Tips for Off-Year Fundraising Online

We asked Amie Eichman, Fundraising Specialist, at The Prosper Group, for her expert advice on nurturing online fundraising during the off-year.

Digital Expert: Amie Eichman

Amie Eichman

Amie's Six Tips for Off-Year Fundraising Online

  1. Don't wait to start your fundraising program, START YESTERDAY. In the off-year, a campaign's primary goal should be building and strengthening its house file – this will be the foundation of small-dollar grassroots fundraising throughout the cycle.
    Successful small-dollar fundraising requires a long-term effort and strategy. Campaigns that don't invest in their house files will end up relying on unpredictable spikes in returns driven by outside forces like new polls and significant news events.
  2. Run acquisition ads targeting known and past donors. Targeting people with a high propensity to donate in acquisition campaigns adds QUALITY contacts to the campaign's house file. Campaigns then have the opportunity to persuade these likely donors into investing over time. ALWAYS look for the quality of a potential donor over quantity.
  3. Keep testing email list rentals for building your house file. List rentals are a great way to get your message in front of potential supporters who are KNOWN email donors. With an audience of donors, the job of your email copy is to recruit them to join your cause and then nurture them for financial support.
  4. Consider investing in text messaging (SMS/MMS) fundraising efforts. Texts,especially during end-of-month and end-of-quarter drives, are VERY EFFECTIVE. Text messages are a great way to effectively reach supporters and add communication touchpoints during the off-year when people may be less engaged with political emails. Open rates for text messages reach 95% on average, compared to less than 25% for email.
  5. Mix in non-fundraising content in your digital fundraising efforts. This may seem counterintuitive, but you want to send fewer direct fundraising solicitations during the off-year so that you can engage these subscribers and keep them consuming your content. These messages strengthen the relationship with your supporters and improve performance on fundraising emails. Communication about what you believe in and are working on motivates supporters to keep investing in your campaign efforts.
  6. Test "new/future" messages and themes in the off-year. The off-year is a great time to hone in on what your audience of subscribers responds to and what motivates your house file to make donations. It's essential to rely on data, and not just political instinct, to lean into topics that will fire up your base.


Amie emphasizes one Important Factor: Be realistic with off-year fundraising expectations. Despite the rise of digital fundraising, there are pitfalls and there are differences to other "digital marketing" campaigns. Small-dollar fundraising programs don't raise the same sums in an off-year as in an election year. Remember that the off-year is a time to INVEST IN YOUR SUCCESS DOWN THE ROAD. Making small-dollar fundraising investments during the off-year prepares campaigns to achieve maximum fundraising impact as elections near.

Be Realistic about Short Term Metrics & Results

A typical online fundraising campaign achieves "net positive" revenue during the first six to nine months after first launching a small-dollar program. Before this, programs are investing resources in expanding donor leads and converting them into repeat donors.

This process, like any recipe, requires time to bake. Achieving desired results requires a consistent effort to build a robust program and reap the benefits when they matter most.

If you have additional questions on launching or sustaining a successful off-year small-dollar fundraising, our experts at The Prosper Group have the answers you need.

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The Prosper Group is an internationally recognized, award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Indianapolis. The firm specializes in online media, strategy, and fundraising for Republican political candidates, advocacy organizations, associations, and non-profits. The Prosper Group's best-in-industry work has been recognized for awards dozens of times by prestigious organizations such as the American Association of Political Consultants and Campaigns & Elections.

The firm has worked in tandem with Trump for President 2016, Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congressman John Katko, the National Association of Manufacturers, Fox News, and many other candidates and organizations.

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