What Impact is Social Media Having on the Presidential Election?

Now that the Republican and Democratic National Conventions are over, we are quickly approaching the finish line to see who will become the President of the United States. How will social media affect the outcome of this (and future) elections and what activities can we expect to see in our Facebook and Twitter feeds?

One way that we can predict future happenings is to see what took place in the past. Reporters Clive Cookson and Ling Ge wrote an interesting article in The Financial Times about an experiment that took place on Election Day in 2010. “On November 2, 2010, the day of US congressional elections, 61m Facebook users in the US saw a non-partisan ‘get out the vote’ statement at the top of their news feed. This ‘social message’ included a clickable ‘I voted’ button, a link to local polling stations, a counter showing how many Facebook users had already reported voting and, most importantly, up to six pictures of the individual’s Facebook friends who had reported voting.

“But 600,000 people were randomly assigned to a second group that saw a modified ‘informational message’ that did not show faces of friends. The third group, also of 600,000, received no election day message at all from Facebook,” explains Cookson and Ge.

The results were impressive: reminding people to vote via Facebook increased participants by over 60,000 votes. The group that was sent the “I voted” message sent another 280,000 voters to the polls.

“Social influence made all the difference in political mobilization,” said lead author James Fowler of UC San Diego. “It’s not the ‘I Voted’ button, or the lapel sticker we’ve all seen, that gets out the vote. It’s the person attached to it.”

SocialMediaMagic.com also agrees that voter numbers are likely to increase with the use of social media. In an article pertaining to the upcoming election, they comment that, “the 2012 candidates might prompt young supporters to record Youtube videos of themselves, their thoughts and why others should participate. These real world testimonials may be the hidden glue in an otherwise wayward social campaign.”

Social Media Magic also brought up the idea that QR codes will start to take a bigger role in campaigning (you know, those little black and white encoded squares that are found in a lot of advertisements. You take a picture of it with your smart phone to learn more about the product). “Seeking a way to interact closely with their voters, candidates might rely on QR codes connected to real world functionality, to send a message and prompt actions. These QR codes can help with a number of candidate problems, namely donations, endorsements and organizational ability.”

QR codes have also been taking a large role in fundraising efforts. It has been suggested that candidates place these codes on signs, banners, t-shirts, and other promotional materials to get the word out. It can also be a way to share exclusive updates, behind-the-scenes insights, or allow a set donation transaction with the click of your phone camera.

Whether you’re a small town politician or a local nonprofit, this upcoming presidential election is changing the way we think of fundraising. The candidates know that the more places they are at, the more voters they can connect with whether that be in person, online, or through a QR code. As they pave the way down this uncharted path of innovative social fundraising, the best thing we can do is watch and learn.

Twitter’s Political Index: The Newest Frontier in Democracy

Gone are the days of soapbox politics, trucks equipped with megaphones, and cardboard signs littering every intersection. Now the best way for a candidate to get their name out and reach voters is through mobile technology. From assessing voter sentiment to online political fundraising, the internet continues to become a staple in the modern day electoral process.

On the cusp of social media trends is the ever-increasing presence of Twitter. With the introduction of Twitter’s Political Index, up to the minute sentiments and public opinions are only a mouse click away. “Twitter teamed with data analysis firm Topsy and polling companies The Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research in order to evaluate and weigh the sentiment of each day’s tweets regarding Barack Obama or Mitt Romney as compared to the 400 million tweets sent on other topics,” explains PCMag.com writer Stephanie Mlot. “Twitter doesn’t intend for the Index to replace traditional polling, but instead reinforce it, providing a better-rounded picture of the general public’s feelings toward the election.”

Adam Sharp, Twitter’s head of government, news, and social innovation commented on Twitter’s blog, “Just as new technologies like radar and satellite joined the thermometer and barometer to give forecasters a more complete picture of the weather, so too can the Index join traditional methods like surveys and focus groups to tell a fuller story of political forecasts.”

But really, how reliable is the information that is being posted concerning voter opinions on this new electoral resource? The first concern that comes to mind is that users of social media are probably in a younger demographic therefore skewing an accurate slice of what the voter demographic looks like. However, pingdom.com reports that the largest age bracket of Twitter users fall into the 35-44 year old category making up 25% of their audience and 64% of Twitter users are over the age of 35. (Just in case you’re interested, 61% of Facebook users are 35 and older.) Another question regarding reliability concerns whether or not the opinions voiced provide an accurate view of a slice of public opinion. Techland.Time.com shares that “the average Twitter user is a female, age 18-24, with a split between people making less than $30,000 and people making $50,000 – $74,999 a year. Most have a college degree or higher and live in an urban setting. The survey asked a random sample of 2,257 adults. Hispanic (18 percent) and African Americans (13 percent) are twice as likely to use Twitter than Whites (5 percent).”

So how does this political index actually work? BuzzFeed staff reporter Matt Buchanan has a great summary: “Topsy pores through every single tweet in real time, determines which ones are about Obama or Romney, and then assigns a sentiment score to each tweet based on its content. That is, whether it’s positive or negative toward Obama or Romney, and just how positive or negative it is. Add all the data up together and you have something like a real-time approval score for Obama and Romney, determined by what tens of millions of people are saying, which Twitter is going to release daily at election.twitter.com.”

Can you truly put your finger on the pulse of the nation just by logging on to Twitter’s Political Index? Sharp replies that the social media view often mirrors worldwide feelings regarding a candidate and that the last two years’ Political Index scores for President Obama often parallel his Gallup approval ratings, sometimes even foreshadowing future polling numbers.

The advantages to this new resource can be integral for future elections. Damage control, online fundraising, voter communication, streamlining hot topics, and political strategizing can enter into a whole new level with such a vast audience with information accessible in real time. The potential for this frontier is incredible and I am excited to see what happens next!

You Ask, We Answer! Getting Donors Involved with Social Media

We are getting asked some great questions from nonprofit leaders pertaining to online fundraising during our weekly Tweet Ups. Here are the expanded answers that will hopefully help with your social media fundraising goals.

Q: When sharing my story with potential donors, which works better: videos or pictures?

A: Both are great tools. Video can often captivate donors with a greater connection through music, voices, images, and words. It can give more depth to a story, show your personality, and create a stronger emotional pull. While having a professionally made video is great, it is also costly and time consuming. Depending on your cause and the size of the organization, an amateur piece that is interesting and sincere can be just as effective. (Consider the immense number of videos on YouTube.) On Fundly we have a broad spectrum of videos that are uploaded to fundraising pages which range from kids raising money for their schools to large organizations raising tens of thousands of dollars for their cause. While not every visitor to the page clicks on the play button, I’ve never known of a promotional video that hinders donations.

With that said, pictures are also extremely important for that reason: not everyone has the time or interest to watch a promo video. I believe that having some images are a must to grab attention and create a stronger emotional tie. Fundraising is about creating relationships and knowing who you are giving to, both the organization and the patron of the charity, which allows the donor to form a touchstone of who they are helping. In this fast paced and visual society, you need to grab attention and get your point across the fastest way you can.

Q: What is the best avenue to get people involved with my cause? Social networks, email, or street teams?

A: Email is definitely one of the most effective ways to communicate with supporters and has the capacity for the most information. Think about how you compiled your e-mail list in the first place; it was probably through an interest that a person had in your cause and gave a donation, volunteered, or filled out an information card at an event. With e-mails, you are communicating with people who care about your mission which is half the battle!

Social networks are also valuable for getting people involved with your cause. It casts a broader net than e-mails alone. While e-mails are reaching specific people you know, networking sites can advertise your cause to friends of your supporters therefore attracting potential donors.

Q: I have recently decided to run for office, what is the best way to jump start my fundraising campaign?

A: Tell your story, why you’re running, reach out to everyone you know, and encourage them to create personal fundraising pages. The best way for a candidate to get support is word of mouth. Generate interest on social networking sites and have your voters “Like” you on Facebook or tweet about your campaign. Advertise events, where to get signage, or how to volunteer using Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.

Q: What do you find more effective: suggested giving levels or open donation forms?

A: Utilize both! Suggested levels help donors determine need and make the process easier, open forms give more freedom. Generically speaking, I would take the average donation amount and start a giving level at 50% of that amount then work up accordingly. For example, if the average gift was $50 I would increment the giving levels at $25, $50, $100, $150, and $200. I would also certainly leave a space for whatever the person could give emphasizing that no gift is too small. I would also consider the project that the donations are being used for and the supporters which you are including in your campaign. If you are raising money for school supplies for 100 kids, you wouldn’t necessarily ask for $200. If you are sending letters to your top donors to sponsor a new wing to your building, $200 is a miniscule amount. You may also want to use the formula that if 10% of your donors give to your project, how much would that average out per person and work from there.

Q: We are throwing a school fundraiser, is there a way to get students involved?

A: Getting students involved is always a good idea.  Encourage them to create personal fundraising pages and set goals! What grandparent could resist little Johnny in a video asking in a squeaky voice “Could you please donate to my school’s library so we can have some new books?”  (Check out this post for a great example used on Fundly.) Also, what kid doesn’t love a little friendly competition? You could have a contest and give a prize to the kid with the best video. You could have each class create a webpage and post how much each has raised. You could send e-mails to the parents to get them on board. Take a ton of pictures and post them online to keep the momentum going and to have inspiration for next year’s fundraiser. The possibilities are endless!

Due to the Fourth of July we will not be having our Tweet up this week. However, if you have a question about online fundraising that you want to ask one of our Fundly professionals, we would love to hear from you for our next Tweet Up! Please leave a question in the comment section below or follow #fundraisingtips on Twitter every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time.

Does High Political Fundraising Dollars Translate into Approval Ratings?

With the 2012 presidential election just under ten months away, a current survey conducted by Fox News shows that it’s going to be one close race. So far President Obama is ahead in his political fundraising numbers, but does that translate into high approval ratings?

There are some surprising results presented in this survey involving telephone interviews with 906 randomly chosen registered voters. If Obama and Romney were to go head to head in the polls today, 46 percent of voters would back the incumbent and 45 percent would support Romney. Consider that there is a three percent margin for error, and it could be anyone’s game.

In an interesting twist, the report states that, “behind those numbers is a striking contrast: 74 percent of Obama backers say they are voting ‘for’ him rather than ‘against Romney’ (21 percent). Yet for Romney, his support is mainly anti-Obama. Fifty-eight percent of Romney voters say they would be voting ‘against Obama’ rather than ‘for Romney’ (33 percent).”

Not surprising is the dedication that voters have towards the political party that they are affiliated with. 88 percent of Democrats support Obama and 86 percent of Republicans support Romney. What I do find intriguing is that with other Republican contenders still in the race, Romney’s numbers are rather high. I know that these numbers are based on an Obama vs. Romney election, but it seems pretty clear that the Republican forerunner has a strong chance at grabbing the nomination for president.

Furthermore, even with drastically low approval numbers, Obama still has a fighting chance at a second term. The survey found that, “currently 45 percent of voters approve and 47 percent disapprove of the job President Obama is doing. That’s little changed from December when 44 percent approved and 51 percent disapproved… Meanwhile, about four voters in 10 are either ‘very happy’ (7 percent) or ‘satisfied’ (35 percent) with the Obama administration. More than a third is ‘disappointed’ (37 percent) and about one in five is ‘angry’ (19 percent). These views are mostly unchanged from the last time the question was asked in September 2011.”

So what can we learn from this survey? For non-profits and politicians alike, if you have a strong and faithful support team, the possibilities are endless at what you can achieve. Secondly, these numbers are too close to call at who will become the next leader of the nation. It has been said time and again that the battleground is on the internet, so hang on as we see some new strategies being implemented using social media fundraising.

Jeb Bush to Support Jon Huntsman

Long ago William Shakespeare penned the line “What’s in a name?” Well, in the political arena your name is worth its weight in gold… especially if that name happens to be “Bush.” Fortunately for Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jeb Bush Jr. is lending his name and extensive resources to Huntsman’s political campaign for President.

Reporter Patricia Mazzei shares this story in the Miami Herald and explains that, “Huntsman touted the backing from Bush Jr. and Ana Navarro, a longtime fundraiser and strategist, as significant as he tries to grow an operation off to a shaky start into a top contender… Bush Jr., a real estate developer with an extensive network of contacts, will lead the campaign’s outreach to young professionals. Navarro, who co-chaired John McCain’s Hispanic outreach in 2008, will head Huntsman’s effort to attract Hispanics, a crucial demographic to make Florida go red or blue.”

It’s no secret that the name “Bush” is synonymous with former presidents, conservative politics and big industry. It also brings to mind an era where the dollar was stronger, unemployment wasn’t as rampant and morale was high (didn’t we all rally together after September 11?). It will be interesting to see how the names “Bush” and “Huntsman” will combine to create a viable presidential candidate for 2012 and if this endorsement will help give a boost to his political fundraising endeavors.

To learn more about how Fundly can benefit your political fundraising efforts online, please contact Fundly today.

MSN Video on Fundly and $300 Billion Social Fundraising Market

MSN interviewed Fundly CEO Dave Boyce on our recent entry into the educational and non-profit fundraising markets.  Some memorable quotes are below followed by a link to the full video (3 minutes give or take).

“Politico calls it one of the most ‘in demand’ pieces of technology. Candidates like Barbara Boxer and Meg Whitman use it to help run their campaigns. But this small business says that politics pales in comparison with the $300 billion market they are getting into now.”

“Fundly has a social fundraising platform. Social fundraising has proven to be very effective.  If a friends asks a friend for a donation, your likelihood of a gift is 10x and the average gift is 52% larger.”

“Fundly has been used in more than 50% of the senatorial and more than 33% of the gubernatorial races this political season.  But now the company is moving into a much larger arena.  Political candidates raise on average about $3 billion a year.  Educational institutions raise $30 billion a year and non-profit in general raises $300 billion a year.  Fundly has already secured 40 customers in the new markets and is growing every day.”

You can view the full video is here.

What Non Profits can Learn from the 2010 Election Season

We are at the pinnacle of the 2010 political season and the fundraising records are piling up. Why do Americans have this great love for the sport of politics, and are willing to part with their hard earned dollars to get someone elected, but they won’t donate $100 to help the poor/save the environment/improve education/put your favorite cause here?

Besides the fact that democracy and supporting the candidates who best represent our views is how our system works, why has political fundraising become such a huge part of our fundraising landscape?

Keep your old poli-sci books on your shelf. I won’t dive into the pros & cons of the McCain Feingold Campaign Reform Act and the rise of the political fundraising machine. What political campaigns have over the rest of the world is a built in SENSE OF URGENCY.

You MUST create a sense of urgency
The great thing about political campaigns is that they have a federally mandated finish line, a final moment on that first Tuesday in November. If I want my candidate to win, I have to step up and give him/her my wooden nickel so they can buy yet another TV ad or drive one more elderly voter to the polling station. If I don’t help the candidate early enough, they can’t spend my money so it makes a difference. Even in politics, donors don’t get off the giving stick until election day is within sight.

How does this relate to my non-profit?
If I am a supporter of your non-profit, what difference does it make if I give you a donation today or next week, or maybe in December… if I get my bonus… if I remember after all that glögg? You MUST give the donor a reason to “act now!” (think late-night infomercial). You are competing with thousands of good causes, and millions of distractions. Without a deadline, your donor probably has something else they should be doing right now that is more fun than parting with money.

Get creative and fabricate a finish line. Let me get you started.

Offer “exclusive” stuff:
– First 50 donors get a copy of my signed book (once I pick a topic and get it written).
– Anyone who gives over $500 gets a team jacket (I walked into this one when my college pulled it on me).

Offer Access (popular among the political types):
– If we get your gift today, you get a photo-op with me.
– The first two $10K donors get lunch and an afternoon skiing with me.
– Go collect a couple million dollars from your friends in $2,400 increments and I will let you be ambassador to France.

Schedule Events:
– Tickets to Reunion/Winter Formal/Dancing in the Park.
– ___-a-thons, Road Races, Tournaments

I think you get the idea. Go create a sense of urgency that best fits your organization and the dollars will come.

Ace your state and federal disclosures in political fundraising

When you are raising money for political fundraising campaigns you have to deal with state and federal regulation with respect to campaign donation disclosures. This is easier said than done.

There was a good article in the Boston Globe recently on how Massachusetts political candidates are improving their campaign donation disclosures. Having all your donation information in one central database sure makes it easier to comply with these regulations.

A great example is Fundly user, Mary Z. Connaughton for State Auditor. Mary Z. has set the standard by providing full compliance information for more than 97 percent of donors.

As a contrast, Mary Z.’s competitor, Suzanne M. Bump for State Auditor, is the worst filer. Ms. Bump (great name) only provided information for 61 percent of her major donors as of the end of September.

Data is power. Campaigns can make better decisions when they have good data. Fundly gives campaign fundraisers the power to make good decisions, which is especially important in these last 24 days of the election cycle.

There are many other benefits of a centralized donor database; not in the least your ability to leverage past donor to raise more money. This will be the topic of a future Fundly blog post!

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