The Wall Street Journal recently chronicled the ascendancy of small gift fundraising in the campaigns of Obama and Clinton.

Everybody knows about the Obama online $$ phenom: about 90% of the $55 million he raised in February came from donors giving $100 or less … the vast preponderance online.

Bur consider Clinton as well: in the last three months of 2007, about 16% of her money came from donors giving $200 or less. But of the $35 million she raised this past February, the average donation was about $100 and 80% came over the internet. And 35% of her money came from donors giving $200 or less. Signs of a campaign moving up the online fundraising learning curve … belatedly. 

All very impressive, not the least because these fundraisng trends shift political clout away from big money contributors and special interest bundlers of contributions.

But as the song asks: "Is that all there is?"

Another online observor comments here that the political campaigns haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to using available online tools to target their educational and persuasion messages to interested netizens.

He points out that no candidates have even purchased search keywords like "the economy," "recession," "healthcare," "taxes" which could be used to intercept curious prospective voters and deliver customized programmatic messages to them.

And all in all, he notes (uncertainly) that only 1% of campaign spending will be spent online.*

Clearly, major national candidates have learned how to suck money in via online fundraising.

But it would appear that we’ll need to wait at least another cycle before we see political campaigns turn to the internet for sophisticated targeting of persuasion messages. Ironic, given that campaigns and campaign consultants are totally familiar with the use of direct mail and telemarketing for this kind of targeting. 

I’ll bet the same pattern is true of nonprofits … go for the online money first (if only to satisfy the powers-that-be to keep spending on e-media), then slowly move on to e-persuasion … where documenting ROI is a trickier proposition. 

Tom

*Probably derived from this 1.6% estimate by the GWU Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet. IPDI also advises campaigns on what mix of tactics they believe appropriate online campaign spending should include.

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