If the wooly hat fits – raising money by email

Fundraising matters.  In the system we have in the UK, where the law permits large amounts to be spent on elections, minimal state funding of candidates and no restriction on how much donors can give, you have to raise funds to have a chance to compete and win on polling day.

Email fundraising is a type of fundraising that can really work for Liberal Democrats if it is done right.

When I stood for the European Parliament in the South East in 2014 we ran an email fundraising campaign that raised a significant six-digit figure (an amount more than twice the entire campaign spend at the previous election).  Without the support of our email donors we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did with the Freepost Election Address (implementing a masterful idea from Peter Carroll).  We wouldn’t have reached as many voters with our main message that as MEPs, Catherine and mine’s top priority, if we were elected, would be policy that defended and created good jobs for people in our region.

Without the email part of our fundraising campaign we would not have achieved the re-election of Catherine Bearder and would have no Liberal Democrat MEPs.

Our fundraising emails were primarily written and designed by me, Dan Purchese and Becky Carr.  The three of us challenged each other to write emails personalised to the extent that sometimes we managed to make each other think it is was an email just to us personally rather than to all of our supporters

Our brilliant campaign Agent, Darren Briddock, reported that the most common donation amount was just £25.  Lots of small amounts can add up to a lot.  The most successful emails:

  1. Explained exactly what we needed it for.
  2. Explained why it was urgently needed now.

If you have a campaign that is doing important things with a sense of urgency the messages start to write themselves.  One of our most successful appeals for donations was from Dan explaining that we were finalising the next day how many copies of the Freepost we could afford to print (which we were genuinely were).  Every pound meant a specified number of additional families could hear our message about jobs. People clicked the donate button like never before and they delivered Catherine’s re-election by doing so.

The message I want to get across is that every candidate’s campaign, big or small, can do this.

Some people will say, “I hate getting emails asking for money.”  That’s fine and you should definitely make it easy for people to unsubscribe from your supporters’ list.  But some people hate getting leaflets.  Some people hate a knock at the door or a phone call.  But all of these things work for many other people.

I am not saying our campaign in 2014 was necessarily the best email fundraising campaign.  If you want to see what excellent looks like, I strongly suggest you give your email address to one of our sister parties, the Liberal Party of Canada and get on their mailing list.

The Canadian Liberals email me almost daily.  I had 7 emails from them between Thursday morning and Friday lunchtime last week (building up to an urgent deadline).

The  emails have pictures and words.  They are emotionally compelling.  They often come from the Party Leader Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie, other MPs or members of party HQ staff.  They are very effective and some almost have me reaching for my credit card – before I remember I am not a Canadian and they won’t accept my donation.

Some of the emails talk about what the party is doing in government and ask to survey me on what I think the next priorities should be, or, for example, what part of the budget I like best.  Some of them tell me what the Opposition Conservatives are doing – especially how much money the Tories have raised in the last period.  They always tell me that my money is needed to help the party continue to win and change Canada and to prevent the Tories stopping that.  There is always a sense of urgency, with clocks and count downs often appearing.

Quite often they ask me to vote for something – and not just policy.  They have asked me to pick my favorite of several designs for mugs, t-shirts or recently, wooly hats with the party colours and logo.  You get to vote which you like best.  Then there is a further email telling you which design one.  Then a further email saying they’ve been made and I can have one for a certain donation.

Did I look at this hat and think about donating to get one:

You bet I thought about it.  Then I remembered they can’t accept my donation because I don’t live there – which brings me to the most important rule of any fundraising campaign.  Know what the rules are and stick to them completely.

One other thing you will notice is that in Canada party political donations by individuals are tax deductible (like charity donations are here).  This is designed to encourage small donations by ordinary people rather that reliance on big donations by the very rich.  This was recommended for the UK by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1999 but was one of few recommendations of that Committee not enacted by Labour (it was strongly opposed by certain trade unions who feared it would dilute the influence of their donations within Labour).

If you can’t get a Canadian Liberal wooly hat, may you find something else to keep your head as warm this Christmas and may your fundraising campaigns in 2017 be a great success.



* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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One Comment

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Dec '16 - 4:45pm

    A very helpful article with less impact because of the awful sounding overdone marketing of the , of all people , Canadian Liberals ! Trudeau needs to decide whether he is a Liberal socialist or corporatist !

    He banned anyone from even standing as a Liberal party candidate if they did not support Canadian unlimited term abortion , the only such laxed abortion law to be found in any country .

    He praised Castro in quite laughable ways , were it not for that the matter is not funny .

    Yet his party sends several e mails a day for money ?!

    Maybe to compensate for the Liberals like me who if in Canada would feel at times like leaving his party , but with no where to go !

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