Flexing Our Email Fundraising Muscle on Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Working with two Wisconsin State Senate candidates, The Prosper Group launched an email fundraising campaign that grossed $300,000+ over a short three month period in the summer of 2011.

The results were shocking as we faced challenges that seemed insurmountable:

  • The candidates had no name ID
  • On its face, a state legislative race in Wisconsin has no impact nationally
  • Summer online fundraising is typically slow
  • Our “theory of change” (how a donor's money helps the candidate and benefits the donor at the same time) argument had to be perfect

To overcome these challenges, we turned to a couple of tried and true techniques.

Open rates: We A|B tested our subject lines, and we often used the popular Digg/Reddit style numbers and counts subject lines (ex. Three Reasons Why the Wisconsin Recall Election Matters).

Click through rates: Every email contained a custom designed email graphic and multiple hyperlinked calls to action within the text, including post scripts. To set clear expectations, donation goals were established in many of the emails.  

Authenticity: The campaigns continuously fed us updates from the ground. The timely information provided compelling news and imagery in our emails.

In the end, our biggest ally was the media coverage of the union protests and the recall elections they spawned.

As Morton Blackwell and the Leadership Institute have preached – “moral outrage,” is the most powerful motivating factor in politics. Our email campaigns connected the outrage conservatives felt and gave them an outlet to directly oppose the union protestors (theory of change).

Below are two examples of successful email campaigns for Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke and challenger Jonathan Steitz.

Subject Line: “Obama’s Volunteers have Arrived in Wisconsin”
From: Dan Kapanke
Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Subject: “Payback in Wisconsin”
From: Jonathan Steitz
Date: Saturday, August 13, 2011

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