The Republicans finally have an answer to ActBlue, the Democratic fundraising platform that’s super-charged grassroots online fundraising up and down the ballot on the Left. The new Republican toolset is called WinRed, and crucially, it will include one-click donations processing. Why is one-click important? From a piece I wrote earlier this year, when the tool was under development and known as Patriot Pass:
Around half of all emails are now opened on mobile devices, making that last attribute particularly important. Who wants to enter a long credit card number into a tiny screen? With one-click donations, someone can give to one campaign, store their payment info, then donate to any other campaign on ActBlue with a single click. A boon to impulse-giving! And a big positive for the entire Democratic movement.
Assuming that nothing goes catastrophically wrong during implementation, Republicans finally seem to be catching up. In this case, catching up probably means, “raising more money”. As I put it in Campaigns & Elections a couple of months ago, “Given that the Trump campaign raised upwards of $240 million from grassroots donors largely recruited via Facebook in just a few months in 2016, Republicans would seem to be leaving money on the table if they don’t make it as easy as possible for supporters to give down-ballot.”
Republican party officials and the Trump campaign clearly see the tool as a way to translate the president’s grassroots support into donations for state and local candidates:
“The Trump campaign will be the most innovative Presidential campaign in American history, and WinRed is a critical component of our strategy,” said Brad Parscale, campaign manager for the Trump campaign. “Trump supporters are the most enthusiastic in American politics, and with WinRed, we will have the cutting-edge technology needed to translate grassroots enthusiasm into the resources we need to win in 2020.”
So once someone has donated to the Trump campaign via WinRed, and with their data stored in the system, they can give to down-ballot Republicans more easily. As Republicans try to hold the Senate, win back the House and expand their hold on statehouses, we could expect the Trump campaign to direct supporters to give to favored candidates — a single email might yield tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a Republican running for Congress. Not all donors will opt-in, but those who do can contribute with a single click from an email or text message, a potentially providing a robust response to the Democratic small-dollar donors who’ve helped power the Left since at least the first Obama campaign.
Of course, campaigns will actually have to USE the tool for it to make a difference, but with the Trump campaign and the Republican party committees switching over, plenty of candidates will find that it makes sense to move their digital fundraising entirely to WinRed. One possible source of friction? Republican digital consulting shops, some of which have their own payment-processing systems that translate a percentage of each donation into profit. Some may be reluctant to jump on board, as may those campaigns jealous of their donor lists and reluctant to share information with the WinRed community. Processing fees and data ownership could turn out to be serious obstacles unless Republicans address them in advance.
One area where Democrats ARE still ahead, btw? Typography. Check out the ActBlue and WinRed logos and see which one might be stuck in the 1950s. A trivial matter, of course, but it does strike me that ActBlue looks much more like something that belongs in a mobile-first environment. Or the 21st Century. Note: this will matter not one whit to how well the platforms perform in 2020.