Given that for the past ten years or so, the Conservative Party has been something of a fundraising juggernaut, I’m hesitant to criticize their methods.
Clearly, whatever they are doing is working.
Yet, a recent Tory fundraising appeal, which somehow made its way into my email inbox, leaves me cold. (Mind you, it’s possible my coldness might be due to the wind chill.)
At any rate, here’s the Conservative missive:
The success of our Party over the last 10 years has been a result of our ability to consistently raise more money than our opposition. And as one of our key supporters you've been a critical part of that success.
Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have made fundraising their top priority, and they are working hard to close the gap.
We cannot let that happen.
Our Party can only win the next election if we keep our fundraising advantage and the 2015 election is right around the corner. If we want to win, we need to get ready now.
That's why we are launching the Seize the Moment campaign to raise $2 million by the end of the year.
This is an ambitious goal for our Party, but I know that you, my fellow members, donors and supporters will stand with us. I am asking you today – will you donate $5 or whatever you can afford today to help us reach our $2 million goal?
Make your $5 gift today and help us Seize the Moment – we're counting on you.
President, Conservative Party of
So what’s wrong with this message?
Plenty, if you ask me. (Which admittedly, nobody did.)
In my mind, a successful fundraising letter has to make some sort of emotional connection with the donor while at the same time creating a sense of urgency.
This appeal does neither.
Instead, the Tories offer what I’d call a bland “structural” pitch, i.e. they are essentially saying give us money because: a) you are a Conservative, and b) we are the Conservative Party.
The only hook beyond that basic message is: “We can’t let the other team out fundraise us”.
That’s not exactly a rallying cry to political activists, who are seldom motivated by cold financial calculations and who don’t necessarily see politics as a fundraising competition.
They donate money because they want to advance an ideological agenda or because they want to defend their values or more bluntly they do it for primal emotional reasons: they are afraid, or angry or hopeful.
Asking them to “Seize the moment” so that the Tory balance sheet looks good might motivate accountants, but it will likely underwhelm a large chunk of the donor base.
Plus there has to be a sense that their support is needed right away, that they can’t put off signing that cheque or making that online donation.
But this Tory pitch is about amassing money in a bank vault for the 2015 election, which is more than a year off and I’m sorry that’s not “right around the corner.”
A better approach for the Tories would have been to say something like this:
As you know the left wing media has been unfairly attacking our party and our leader.
What’s more the Liberal Party has been inundating the TV airwaves with advertisements, promoting their new leader Justin Trudeau.
We need to fight back! We need to get our message out so that Canadians know what’s at stake.
That’s why our party has been running a series of our own TV ads to warn Canadians that Trudeau is “in over his head,” that he lacks the experience and expertise it will take to manage
We think our ads will work but they cost a lot of money.
In fact, the bills are landing on my desk right now.
I am hoping that I can count on your generous financial support so that we can pay for these ads and continue to stand up against those who want bigger government and higher taxes.
Only the Conservatives can provide the good government you deserve and
Please make a donation today.
OK that’s just a rough draft, but you get the idea.
To energize donors you need a little more punch, you need to give them something beyond an abstract far off goal.
All that said, this message will still garner the Tories lots of dough.
But they are also likely leaving a lot of money on the table.