Is This Daily Kos Fundraising Email Kosher?

Check out the fundraising email below, which rolled in via the Daily Kos list on Friday. Other than standard template elements, its sole content consisted of:

Subject: Mazel tov!


Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a Democrat and one of the greatest champions of LGBT rights in Congress, has announced his plans to marry his longtime partner, Jim Ready.

Please, sign our card sending congratulations to the happy couple!

Thanks for all you do,
Chris Bowers, Daily Kos

P.S. Please chip in $5 to help support Daily Kos.

This strikes me as either, 1) a total piece of crap, or 2) really bad use of a standardized P.S. line.

First, don’t get me wrong, I send hearty congratulations to Rep. Frank and his lucky husband-to-be! What I think sucks about this message is the way it apparently ties a shameless fundraising ask to a hook completely unrelated to the institution that’s doing the begging. Assuming of course that it was MEANT as a fundraiser — the P.S. could simply be something that DKos staff routinely attach to messages (it’s shown up on at least one other email they sent this month), in which case more later.

But if this was indeed an intentional fundraiser, it’s terrible — first off, what’s the connection between Daily Kos and same-sex marriage in Massachusetts? Last time I checked, that was the result of a court decision, not political advocacy. Organizations write appeals based on particular issues all the time (I cranked one out on Thursday), but they generally talk about something the group WORKs on (i.e., “please donate $5 to help us fight global communist infiltration of our drinking water”). In this case, the DK audience is passionate about same-sex marriage, but sending $5 to support Daily Kos as a website/blogging community is not exactly the most efficient way to advance gay rights as an issue.

Second, the juxtaposition of the congratulatory message and the blunt fundraising is downright jarring. The first 90% of the message builds to such a positive. Mazel Tov! Congratulate the happy couple! Let’s celebrate a liberal champion! And implicitly, in-your-face-rightwingers, hooray for us! Then, let’s squelch the whole thing by asking for five bucks, without even throwing in an explicit link to the original subject.

Why not leave off the fundraising P.S. and just make the message celebratory? That way, after I read it I might have been left with a positive feeling that could have carried over to the next message I received. Then, what if that next message had been a gay-rights-themed fundraiser, sent a couple of days later and only to people who’d “signed the card” above? THAT might have yielded some interesting results, and could have been a step toward building a fundraising base around that particular issue. [Update: Lauren Miller suggests raising money through the thank you page, which someone would land on AFTER they “sign the card.”] Unfortunately, the email they DID send makes me LESS likely to open another Daily Kos messing, because now I’ll be expecting another bait-and-switch.

Of course, this could just be a case of slapping a standard ask at the end of the email as a matter of procedure. In that case, may I recommend re-thinking the practice? Instead, the P.S. could have reinforced the primary ask, or sent people to a page that had more info about same-sex marriage and how to advocate for it, or even asked for donations to an OUTSIDE group that works on the issue. A subtle difference — by asking for help for someone else, you’re seen as acting selfLESSly rather than selfISHly.

Lots of lessons for such a short message! But these are the subtle things that you need to watch when you’re running an email list — every interaction you have with an activist affects his or her desire to act or to donate the next time you ask. Of course, the DK email crew may come back and say that this turned out to be their most successful fundraising message ever, in which case all my theorizing goes out the window. Which would be another valuable lesson in itself!


Written by
Colin Delany
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1 comment
  • It also implies that the marriage is somehow related to the Daily Kos, as if the happy couple had asked guests to donate to Kos in lieu of gifts. Which makes it really deceptive and tacky.