3 Presidential Email Marketing Lessons from Romney and Obama

This year’s presidential election hasn’t made fundraising any easier for nonprofit development directors. Your mission is important, of course, and your loyal donors want to help. But financially supporting the candidate of their choice is equally significant (and, this month at least, more pressing) for most donors.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are cramping your fundraising officer’s style. The good news is that while both presidential candidates borrow your donors’ funds and attention, your nonprofit can take a lesson for two from their email marketing campaigns.

Personal Politics

Politics are inherently intimate. Talking about the candidate you’re voting for next week is a quick way to end a friendship or at least start a fight. Email is personal too, but in a good way. When a supporter joins your email list, respect that they’re inviting your nonprofit to communicate with them directly and individually.

If they were really friends of your organization, you wouldn’t address them as such in your email communications. They have a name—use it.

Content for Constituents

Your nonprofit’s email messages should be distinct from other forms of communication. Most of Romney and Obama’s email messages appeal for financial support. But perhaps your organization’s fundraising appeals are made offline. If so, use email for a different purpose, like volunteer recruitment.

Creating different copy and fulfilling different goals through email will give value to the emails you send. If your emails match other messages (like Facebook posts or direct mail appeals) donors will consider your communications clutter. They’ll make a habit of deleting your emails as soon as they recognize your address. Why bother reading your emails when you’ve already mailed the same message?

Emotional Electorate

Your supporters’ inboxes are teeming with emails, some more important than others. Naturally, they’ll pay more attention to messages from friends and family because they have emotional attachments to them. But your nonprofit can make emotional appeals through email, too. Just be sure to focus on positive emotions.

Obama’s marketing team recently came under fire for using negative emotions—fear and guilt—when asking for a donation. Don’t make the same mistake. Make your nonprofit’s fundraising appeals bright and light.

Regardless of which presidential candidate gets your vote, both campaigns have delivered impressive email appeals your nonprofit can emulate. Make sure your organization is on the winning side of the fundraising race this year. Spend extra time on personalized, emotion-driven emails with valuable content.

Where does your nonprofit draw inspiration for its email marketing?


Jill Havlat

October 31, 2012

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