The race to 130K unique donors is well underway among the remaining democratic candidates vying for a shot at the presidency in the 2020 election. With the first two rounds of democratic debates behind them, candidates have been hard-pressed to meet polling and grassroots funding thresholds in time for the third and fourth debates this fall.

DNC Introduces New Qualification Criteria

In May, the Democratic National Committee announced new criteria for participation in the debates this election season. Candidates are required to collect donations from 130,000 individuals – that’s a minimum of 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 states – and register at least 2% in four public opinion polls by August 28 to qualify for the democratic debates in September and October. 

The new qualification criteria have spurred a shift away from a big-donor fundraising approach in favor of small-dollar digital efforts. A new political advertising forecast estimates that digital media will account for 30% of the $10 billion to be spent in the U.S. for the upcoming 2020 election season – double its take for the 2016 presidential election year.

Democrats Face Fundraising Hurdles

Of the $9.8 million Democratic candidates spent between March 30 and June 15 on Facebook advertisements, $2.5 million went toward ads that mentioned the democratic debates.  While social ads may help Democrats grow their email lists and attract new donors, running an acquisition campaign can be costly – some candidates are paying up to $40 per donation this election cycle.

Aside from the hefty price tag associated with acquiring new donors (it often costs much more than $1 to raise $1), Democrats are facing additional challenges in the fundraising arena. Blue candidates share voter data via the DNC and use the same nonprofit fundraising platform – ActBlue – to pull in small-dollar donations. Relying on a single pool of aged voter files, they end up cannibalizing fundraising efforts.

Candidates Diversify Donor Acquisition Efforts

What must Democrats do to secure their spot in the make-or-break fall debates? Diversifying acquisition efforts beyond traditional channels is a good first step. Campaigns that have had success in finding new donors on social, but are now hitting a wall thanks to saturation and rising costs, have much to gain from pursuing new channels with proven conversion rates.

To make the most of their advertising dollars, campaigns need access to self-declared voter insights. While stale voter registration files are unlikely to align with individuals’ current party affiliation or candidate of choice, real-time data from Fluent can help campaigns identify and target the audiences with the highest propensity to donate.

In the upcoming democratic debates, actions – not impressions – will determine which candidates earn the opportunity to defend their platform on a national stage. As a go-to growth partner for candidates and causes, Fluent can deliver pre-qualified audiences on a pay for performance model, allowing candidates to drive donations without draining their campaign budget.