Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Conservative Fundraisers Might be Nervous

After having vanquished its foes in the last federal election, the Conservative Party of Canada looms over Ottawa like a political Colossus.

The government is stable; the party strong; its enemies relatively weak.

It’s good news all around – which ironically is bad news for Conservative fundraisers.

After all, nothing hurts political fundraising more than success.

That might sound strange, but it’s true.

To raise money from political donors you need to make an emotional pitch; you need to create a sense of crisis, you need to employ scare tactics.

That means using phrases along the lines of: “Send us as much money as possible and do it right away, or the country is doomed!”

The Conservatives always understood this dynamic.

For the past couple of years they would churn out regular direct mail fundraising appeals designed to strike fear into the heart of their donor base.

And since they led a minority government, they had plenty of effective ammunition because the inherent unstable political situation made it easy to create a sense of urgency.

Donors had to give money “right away” because a federal election was “imminent” or “just around the corner” and the Conservatives had to be prepared.

Plus they had a great enemy to target: the infamous Liberal-Socialist-Separatist Coalition.

The idea that such a Coalition could ever topple the Harper Tories and possibly form a government was enough to give any self-respecting Conservative donor nightmares.

So when the Tories asked for money donors were ready, willing and eager to open up their wallets and fork over the cash.

After all, the “Reckless Coalition” had to be stopped.

This in a nutshell is why the Conservatives were able to create what the media liked to call a “fundraising juggernaut.”

Indeed, last year the Conservatives raised a whopping $17 million in contributions and donations.

In contrast, the Liberals collected slightly more than $7 million.

It’s this massive edge in fundraising which gave the Conservatives an advantage over the other parties, when it came to buying advertising time.

But now the political dynamics are different.

For one thing the Conservatives have a majority and a fixed election date. That means we know the next federal election won’t take place until October 2015.

So the Tories can’t whip up hysteria among their base about an election that “could happen any day.”

But more seriously the threat of the Coalition is now gone. The Bloc has been effectively obliterated, the Liberals are in disarray and the NDP is in the midst of a possibly divisive leadership race.

In short, there is no real political threat on the horizon.

This is why fundraising will be more difficult for the Tories.

Sending out a letter that says something like, “Everything is just fine and dandy, but please send us money” won’t have much impact.

The other danger the Tories face is disillusionment.

There are probably many hard-core Conservative donors who were not happy with the Tory government’s fiscal record of increased spending and deficits.

Yet they were willing to cut the party some slack because it led a minority government.

However, that excuse is now gone.

And if the Tories don’t start providing more conservative style government many donors might stop giving money.

Then add in the uncertain economic times and general donor fatigue, and it all adds up to one thing: the Tory fundraising juggernaut could soon come to a screeching halt.

To make sure that doesn’t happen Conservative fundraisers will need to create both a renewed sense of urgency and a common enemy.

In short, they must figure out how to frighten donors out of their money.

Can they accomplish this?

Absolutely, they can.

In fact, the Tories are lucky because a new enemy has emerged which could keep their base mobilized and giving money.

I am talking about public sector unions.

Recently the Public Service Alliance of Canada announced it was going to wage a major PR offensive to oppose any Conservative efforts to reduce government services in the name of deficit reduction.

Apparently to get its message out, PSAC will use social media, email blitzes and will organize its community from coast to coast.

The Tories should pounce on this news for fundraising purposes.

They could pitch it like this: “The big union bosses are mounting a propaganda campaign to mislead Canadians. We must make sure Canadians know the truth. That’s why we need your most generous donation today… blah…blah….blah.”

The Conservatives could milk that angle for years, or at least until the next “crisis.”


Anonymous said...

In Ontario, Dalton just uses tax dollars to prime and brainwash the electorate. All those windspin ads on TV were paid with tax dollars. None of them have any public service or benefit. Now that the networks have been well fed, it is paypack time and Liberal friendly reporters report only positive messages for McGuinty. Same strategy in the print media.

ChrisInOtt said...

In Ontario, there are far stricter laws governing public advertising.

This has not been a problem for the federal Conservatives, who have been able to engage in a far-reaching beneficial branding exercise.

It will be interesting to see how the CPC engages in its future fear fundraising campaigns.