Building ProAct's donor list...

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Fri Aug 17 2001 - 14:57:42 MDT

I'm not sure about how much others here have been involved in
fundraising and mass marketing campaigns, so I thought I'd post info
I've gleaned from my own experiences, not working for fund raising
groups, but for the companies that they subcontract their work to.

It's All In The Donor List

The most important asset to any organization that exists as a result of
fund raising is the donor list. This list can have two main
characteristics: institutional or individual.

An institutional donor list is a list of groups, institutions,
corporations, etc that share, in whole or in part, the agenda of the
fund raising organization and donate funds to support this agenda. While
the advantage of such a list is that it's generally easier to build such
a list, and to raise more money from fewer sources in this manner, it
causes the fund raising organization to become a rather narrow 'special
interest'. If the names on the list are predominately for-profit
corporations, then you are an 'industry group' whose agenda is always
suspect (i.e. The Tobacco Institute, for example).

How do you build such a list? Simple: contact industry and interest
groups and rent their membership lists, doing name pulls based on
various demographics they have on the members. Do a mailing to their
member corporations and organizations, soliciting their membership in
your group and/or support for your groups planned activities. Once
you've developed an initial list of members/donors, try the hold-outs
after your group has actually accomplished some objective, to prove
you're to be taken seriously.

An individual donor list is a list of individuals, real people, who
share your groups' agenda, in whole or in part. While it is more
expensive, generally, to build such a list, depending more on such
donors allows the group to present itself as a 'broad based, grassroots'
movement that is working 'in the public interest'. You build such a list
by renting lists from other like-minded groups, from magazines which are
of a sort your market research indicates that people sympathetic to your
cause subscribe to. In our case, these would be science and technology
magazines, engineering and scientific organizations. You want them to
pull only names of individuals who make a certain amount of money each
year (for fundraising lists only), or who have donated x dollars to
other groups, unless you are simply interested in building membership.
If you are looking to build an organization of grassroots volunteers, to
stage rallies and protests, you want to target students, in high school
and college.

Once you've rented a number of lists for a number of sources, you send
these lists to a list processor (like Datamann) who will remove
duplicate names (and keep records of how many and which were duplicates,
since people who subscribe to many magazines tend to have more
disposable income), then they'll correct any bad addresses, and sort the
list for postal rate optimization.

Another thing you can do is to also rent names from sources who do NOT
support your agenda, but which may have members/subscribers that overlap
your other lists, and use these to deselect some people on your
candidate lists. For example, someone who subscribes to Genetic
Engineering Monthly AND the PETA Cute And Fuzzy Newsletter is not likely
to be entirely sympathetic and therefore not a good candidate. Do this
after your dedupe step above.

This process develops your intitial list of candidate donors for your
intitial mailings. Those that reply to your initial mailings become your
real individual donor list.

By repeating this process on an annual basis, and using raised funds to
pay for ever larger list rentals to cover more of the population, you
can grow an organization up from nothing in a rather quick amount of
time. Having an individual donor list is more reliable in the long term
as well, than an institutional list. Institutions are far more demanding
of real action, and far more capricious about directing their money
toward those that provide real results. For instance, a large percentage
of businesses in America who do political donations don't care what
party they donate to, they just donate to the incumbent if they are
getting their way, and to challengers if the incumbents have a habit of
kneecapping them.

Food For Thought:

While Democrats raised lots of money during the Clinton years, much of
it came in big chunks generated because of presidential glitter rather
than any permanent expansion of the Democrats' donor base. Now, the
first challenge is to raise enough to remain competetive without the
glamour of the presidency.
Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of the DNC, boasts that the national committee
raised #23.5 million in the first six months of the year - a record for
the period following a presidential election. Mor of the money raised
was in small and limited 'hard money' donations that can be used
directly in campaigns than in large and unlimited 'soft money' which
cannot be used directly for candidates.
Worse, McAuliffe has to deal with the fact that the GOP riased twice as
much during the same period, and actually depended less on the big
soft-money donations the Democrats say they want to ban.

The underlying problem for Democrats is that they rely on a donor base
that is smaller and significantly older than the GOP donor base, which
reflects its aging baby boomer core support. The GOP has been doing far
more donor recruitment in the last 20 years than the Democrats have.
McAuliffe is trying to build an improved donor mailing list, "The first
guy I talk to in the morning is my direct-mail guy, and the last guy I
talk to at night is the direct-mail guy."

Chicken And Egg: Activism or Fundraising?

Lets face it: activism is a big money business, and requires lots of
money to run on a nationwide or worldwide basis, no matter how 'grass
roots' it is. Recruiting your footsoldiers from the ranks of the
universities and video game couches of the US is expensive, because you
need to target them with more expensive forms of advertising: TV,
Magazines, and Telemarketing, etc. are all needed to get people to go to
your website, and without these funnelling avenues, it doesn't matter
how cool your website is, as so many dotcoms discovered. You need
spokespersons, which can cost lots of money or not. You need to print
LOTS of promotional material from signs, buttons, and tshirts to flyers
and post cards, and you need to get this material out to regional
offices that help coordinate with local chapters.

Of course, without some means of showing you are serious, its a little
hard to raise funds without pointing to any accomplishments. This is
where your core group (us extropes) need to organize to stage some high
profile events that initiate positive action that ignores opposition
groups. A 'Clone-in', for example, where a group of geneticists and
activists wilfully disobey an unconstitutional anti-cloning law. A 'seed
liberation' demonstration, where we wilfully mix GMO foods with non-GMO
foods, or spread GMO seeds freely in the wild, so that humanity enjoys
their benefits and cannot avoid them. Stage a 'cyborg rights rally', or
build a shrine to the Americans with Disabilities Act (which I think
will be of paramount importance to augmentation in the future).

Once some high profile event or two has been staged, the group can say:
"Look, we are serious, we are organized, and we get exposure and
accomplish results, give us money."

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