Market Focus?Conservative Political Donors (1,620 words)
They abhor Clinton, love family values, think people like Ollie North and Linda Tripp are national heroes, pray for a government the size of a pea and almost certainly wish the 1960s never happened. They are our nation's conservative Republican donors, and they know the best way to exercise their First Amendment rights and actually be heard—by inking up a big check and sending it off to the candidate or political action committee (PAC) that will stand up for the issues closest to their hearts.
If you think that getting a response from this market sounds easier than pinning the tail on the pachyderm, you just might be right.
"The market for these lists is very active," says, George Ainsworth, direct mail associate for Response Unlimited in Waynesboro, VA. He continues, "Interest and orders continue to increase—even political 'off-year' usage is increasing."
"It's a very profitable market," agrees Clarence Lyles, list manager and broker at Name Exchange in Frederick, MD. And, one that apparently doesn't pack up and go home after the spring and early summer rush of a presidential election year. "We've still been busy getting charitable list orders for the Christmas season," says Debbie Checco, marketing manager for Preferred
Communications in Falls Church, VA.
Of course, a good election year never hurts—especially one characterized by an apathetic public and an enormous swing vote.
"We typically see a 25- to 35-percent increase in usage during the election rush," says Checco. So far, this year has been good. One can assume from the skyrocketing campaign finance figures that the direct mail efforts to acquire funds have increased extraordinarily.
Gov. George W. Bush reported more than $87 million in contributions from individuals minus refunds. That was only what was reported to the federal election committee (FEC) through the end of June and doesn't include funds acquired from PACs. At that rate George "dubya" stands to raise nearly triple the funds former Republican hopeful, Bob Dole, acquired in 1996.
And, a significant portion of that is being fed back into direct mail. The reported total disbursements for direct mail expenses top off at just over $7 million total from the beginning of October 1999 through the end of August 2000. Keep in mind, those numbers are only reported expenditures for Bush for President Inc. and don't reflect any monies spent by Bush-Cheney 2000, the Bush-Cheney 2000 Compliance Committee, the Republican National Committee or any other assorted political committees that may have sent mail in support of Bush, in support of his principals or in opposition to Gore and the liberal agenda.
Why They Give
The challenge for political mailers and fund-raisers ultimately comes down to increasing the response to their mail pieces. That means working with their list brokers to effectively dissect the vast and profitable slice of the Republican pie.
"One way to do this," says Rich Leary, vice president/national sales manager for RMI Direct Marketing, "is by researching the audience to learn more about them. One aspect fund-raisers strive to know is 'reason for giving.' With this knowledge, a marketer can tailor their promotions to a specific part of their audience."
"Individual Congressional Campaign Contributors: Wealthy, Conservative and Reform-Minded," a study supported by the Joyce Foundation of Chicago in 1997, investigated reasons for giving as reported by congressional campaign contributors.
The types of donors it names are:
• Ideologues, people motivated by ideology, platform and partisan control of Congress. They are among the most active givers;
• Issue Specialists, donors who focus on issues, causes and gaining influence. They pay close attention to the endorsements of interest groups;
• Personal Contactors, they have a personal relationship with candidates and supporters. Likely to already be on candidates' donor files, they are motivated by the social aspects of politics;
• Localists, donors who are similarly connected with the beneficiaries, but donate for the purpose of bringing tangible benefits to their state or district;
• Materialists, interested in benefits to their specific industry. They are the most likely to give to PACs; and
• Win-oriented donors, those who give, sometimes across party lines, in support of the candidate likely to win. They give many donations to cement the relationship with candidates.
Ideologues and Localists make up nearly 40 percent of the contributors polled with an even spread among other donors. (For more of this study, see www.georgetown.edu/Wilcox/donors.htm.)
Ainsworth says that while information like this is hard to capture, "every good list broker is aware of these kinds of categories, because they indicate whether a particular list should work for a prospective client."
He continues, "An individual may fit more than one category, or move from one to another over time. I would say that regardless of what draws someone in originally, personal contact strengthens a donor's commitment to a cause or candidate."
What They Stand For
Far easier to discern are the particular issues that conservative donors across categories support. So called "single issue" lists—files that contain Second Amendment rights supporters, pro-lifers, people against government waste or in support of prayer in public schools—are easier to target, and easier to capture.
Lists that don't cater directly to Republican causes can also work well for Conservative fund-raisers.
"Our outdoors files immediately reflect Republican ideologies," says Checco, "because hunting means guns and guns mean Second Amendment rights. That may just be because of where I am though."
Leary agrees that it's, "not only the obvious upscale, wealthy people. Older people have been very responsive to conservative causes." Leary has also seen good response to conservative causes from health and veteran files.
What it comes down to is that many of the pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a Republican are true. The ones that are going to give money for the causes they believe in are in general wealthy, older, family oriented and, ironically, likely to own a gun. Gender, how ever, is where things are changing.
Another study supported by the Joyce Foundation called "Women Big Donors Mobilized in Congressional Elections," charts the movement of women into the political finance arena.
From comprising 17 percent of the total donors in 1978 to 23 percent in 1996, women have come into their own as political donors.
Thirty-five percent of women donors in the study aligned themselves with a conservative ideology compared to 58 percent of men. And nearly 60 percent of all women donors get their political information from issue groups—most popular is EMILY's List, a network of donors working to elect pro-choice, Democratic women.
While conservative female donors would seem like something of an anomaly, they do exist, and in fair numbers.
"The gender breakdown usually runs about 60-to-40, men to women," Lyles. "It's just that the higher gifts come from men usually. Women don't tend to give as much unless you're targeting a specific issue ... a more liberal issue."
Leary attributes the rise of female political donors to, "increased exposure of the conservative message (FOX News Channel, radio talk shows, etc.)," but does not agree that they should be targeted differently.
"Gender is irrelevant. A true conservative cares about the issues not the sex of a person. This premise should be used by marketers," Leary suggests.
Though the skew does appear to be to the left, women donors should not be ignored.
Knowing the Game
Yet, as with all lists, mailers have to be certain they are targeting specifically and correctly. One wouldn't want to target a conservative female donor list with a pro-life message, if the women on the list only held conservative views toward economic practices.
Checco says, "There is a huge distinction to be made when someone asks me to go forward with something gun-related as opposed to something concerning Second Amendment rights. We don't want to offend givers to non-profits by selling their names to a fund-raiser like the NRA."
"Unfortunately," tells Ainsworth, "many political candidates want lists, but don't understand how direct marketing works. More than once, a campaign has called me saying, 'We want such-and-such list,' because some other politician recommended it. Or, campaigns call because they need to raise a lot of money in two weeks, and they want to try (for the first time!) direct mail."
Also, lamentably, many political clients overlook the benefits of putting their own list on the rental market. Ainsworth suggests that candidates, "shouldn't look for lists, they should look for list brokers."
"With fund-raisers and publications, it's about getting a high response selected from a small quantity. It's more about fast returns with political donors," says Lyles.
Leary feels that recency is a legitimate concern with conservative fund-raisers, "during inactivity, the names become outdated. Some list owners will exaggerate the recency of their names."
Checco disagrees as to the importance of this. "We run NCOA annually, but the files don't go dead. If there are lists out there related to Reagan, those people will still feel strongly."
Perhaps people's beliefs don't change: True believers will give in support of their convictions. But, is that all our right-winged friends are responding to?
Checco believes that it is the letter signer that inevitably wins the donation. "If it weren't Charlton Heston signing the piece, there wouldn't be a connection."
Ainsworth agrees, "the letter writer/signer usually needs to be a name that the recipient recognizes. If not, getting the package opened is much more of a creative challenge."
Lyles speaks of mailings that take a heavier hand with creative, generally using the Democrats as the whipping boy for all that is wrong with America.
A bit of advice for list managers: Make sure all orders are pre-paid. You never know when a candidate will pull out of the race, or simply lose.