Can Facebook Ads Boost Political Email Fundraising?

Two Dollar Bill

On Monday, the Times’s Derek Willis wrote up a fascinating Facebook experiment in multi-channel fundraising. The goal? To show if Facebook ads could increase donations from a political campaign’s email list. The method:

  1. Have two campaigns (in this case two Democratic Senatorial campaigns) each upload a donor list as a Facebook “custom audience”
  2. Show people on the list Facebook ads asking for donations
  3. Hit the same group of people later with an email fundraising ask
  4. Compare the results with a control group

The findings:

In both cases, the advertising campaign was credited with providing at least a 200 percent return on the cost of the ads. Also, in Mr. Udall’s campaign, people who saw the ads gave $47.87 on average, compared with $42.70 for people who did not see them, according to details provided by Facebook and confirmed with the campaigns.

“I think it was very clear that there was something to this,” said Brian Krebs, digital director for Mr. Udall’s campaign, although he cautioned that other aspects of the campaign’s fund-raising operation could have had an impact as well.

Digital politics professionals have long operated under the assumption that this kind of multi-channel communication enhances our outreach and fundraising. For instance, a direct-mail recipient might not donate immediately but might be primed to give when a campaign or nonprofit email arrives the next day. Likewise, Facebook content might not spark an advocacy action immediately, but a supporter who sees it may be more likely to sign a petition or call a congressmember when a related action alert lands in his or her inbox.

This research would seem to validate that idea. But we’re talking about a single study here, of course, and the Times article notes plenty of potential caveats, including the difficulty of parsing out other variables that might have influenced people’s proclivity to give. I’d love to see the research replicated for other political campaigns and also repeated in an advocacy/charity setting. While we’re at it, let’s also test other examples of multi-channel outreach. Good stuff!

Thanks to Steve Olson from Trilogy Interactive (which participated in at least one of the studies) for sending the article around.


Two-dollar bill image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Written by
Colin Delany
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