Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Josh Marshall on the Dean operation

If Josh keeps blowing me off when I visit DC I’m going to have to stop calling him a “good friend” (just kidding, Josh). But I can’t help but smirk when I read this account about the contrasts between the Lieberman and Dean camps:

I’m obviously on his main direct-mail list, all on the strength of one contribution. VERY impressive operation on the technical side, and it certainly makes me more likely to contribute again. Wonder where Dean’s people came from? Are these the tech-savvy people who are also staffing his Internet operation?

The organization starts at the top. This is Joe Trippi’s fifth presidential campaign. And yes, there are a number of extremely smart people trying hard to get it right. And given the Lieberman camp’s well-publicized shake-up on the fundraising efforts, the Dean camp has enjoyed a relative stability that gives them an edge.

But here’s my request on the fundraising side: my wife and I have already given money to the campaign, and will continue to do so throughout the year. Direct mail isn’t going to encourage me to give any more money. I’m online, I give online, and I’ll continue to give online. (And let me point once again to my comments from several months ago: money raised online is far more valuable than money raised offline. Don’t believe me? Go back and read the post.)

I want the campaign to save the money they’re spending on paper and postage and put it to better use. I’ve talked with them, and there’s no easy answer: the stats don’t lie — direct mail works. So how to segregate between people like us (who will step up and continue to give) from people who traditionally respond to direct mail? The cost savings to the campaign could easily cover the costs of a few TV spots ($300k or so per quarter)… so we’re talking about real issues.



  1. (I should point out that I work for SPSS, so I'm hardly fair and impartial here.)

    There ought to be ways, using data modeling and decision trees to come up with a model that will either improve, or keep steady, direct mail response while significantly decreasing the number of mailings that need to go out. It'd be easy to discriminate between people who gave online vs. those offline, but I'm not sure how to discrimate between those who continued to give online, and would have anyways without the direct mail solicitation.

    But, it'd be fun and exciting to try, if there was any data available. But I doubt they'd want to hand it over to a 28 year old with half a masters in political science. :)

  2. I don't know how you could possibly separate people who will continue to give (and might be turned OFF by too many reminders) to those who need to constantly be reminded.

    What I am certain of, however, is that they need to keep online contributors separate from offline ones. I think a case could be made that someone who contributed online would prefer to do so there, and the only mail they should be getting much of is the electronic kind. (Although an offline thank you letter each time is a VERY good idea!)

  3. Did you read my mind, Rick! I just got my third or forth piece of mail in the past week or so from the campaign. I never send in contributions or fill out surveys on paper any more. How can we get the campaign to realize that if they saved the money and just sent me an email, I would react more if I contributed online in the first place. My most recent survey said to send in money so they could send out more pieces of mail to people. I just kept thinking, that if you didn't send me any more pieces of mail, then you could send more to others.

  4. I think the very easiest thing to do would for people to have an "opt out" option for snail mail, just like you can "opt out" of email solicitationss.

    But, they may have found that snail mail gets people's attention more - I wonder how many online contributors are really bothered by the snail mail soliciations. I know I would be (I'm sure my giving level is too low to trigger any real mail. :)), but it may also jostle people's memory, including those who would say that they'd prefer no mail.

  5. I've had the same thoughts. I think that there is NO REASON to send out more that one piece of snailmail to an online contributor per month. I also highly doubt that there has been ANY study of online vs. traditional donation behaviors that is of any merit.

    The bottom line is that Dean has to trust his supporters. If a person has taken the effort to donate online, and expresses a willingness to do so in the future, then the best move is probably to simply contact that person through email and web-ads.

  6. I responded to the mail appeal and It helped me
    commit my 3 payments to the campaign. They chose
    for me a ammount based by past giving and its what I can afford This quarter.

    My wife is doing the same. We will be giving some of the child credit also.

    So the mailing worked for me.

  7. As someone who has worked closely with the direct mailing industry, I can give two pieces of advice with regard to direct mailings.

    First : The campaign should be advised to ALWAYS use what the Post Office calls an "exceptional address format". This is where the mailer adds a phrase like, "or current resident" or " current occupant" in addition to the addressee's name.

    The Postal Service does not forward bulk mail to people who have moved. They do not return such mail either.(Bulk rates do not include forwarding or return postage as first class mail does). If a bulk rate piece of mail is addressed to John Doe at 123 Main St. The Post Office will dispose of it if Mr. Doe no longer recieves mail at the given address. Depending on the accuracy of your mailing list, this can be upwards of 20% of the mail being disposed of. Believe it or not, voters registration lists are notoriously inaccurate, (just ask any postal clerk). The way to avoid this is to use the exceptional address format. This way, the post office will deliver this mail to anyone at the given address. Maybe it isn't the intended recipient, but at least SOMEONE will see it.

    Second : Direct marketing companies can do what's called a " merge and purge". They take two lists, merge them together, then purge duplicates. This can be used to create a new, more refined list. A list of Democratic donors with a list of Dean donors would yield a list of democratic donors who have not donated to Dean. Such a list would be useful as candidates begin to drop out. It would allow the campaign to go after those other candidate's supporters without spending money to mail to people already on board. The key to a successful mailing campaign is to clearly define your target - merge and purge techniques can narrow these targets down very precisely.

  8. I got a snail mail request and had the same reaction you did. I wrote my comment about contributing only on the blog, on the return form and didn't send any money. I hope they get the idea and remove my name. I also stuff the return envelopes from other direct mail solicitations from candidtes I don't favor, with I hope enough junk to get them over the minimum retrieval rate at the post office. Of course I only do that with return postage guaranteed. Any without return postage guaranteed go in the trash. I do that with ALL junk mail solicitations!! I wish I coud do it with SPAM! But I am contributing regularly to Dean on the bat. I think the community building, personal outreach potential of this form of fundraising has to be a mark of pure genius.

  9. I posted this in the comments on the Dean blog we should use all those return envelopes and put a dollar in it and send it with a post-it saying is for the interns pizza fund.

  10. See today's post for an update on this thread: