Roy C. Jones, CFRE

Roy C. Jones, CFRE

I woke up early the day after the election to hear the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Greg Walden, (after being up all night) pontificating about how his party took control of Congress and it immediately shocked me wide awake:

“Well, I think what it means is, we got data and digital right. We figured out how to run good ground campaigns. Elections are decided by those who turned out to vote. We identified them early. We worked them often,” concluded Walden.

Data and digital…

Wow, that’s a line I thought I’d never hear a party chairman talk about. With all the commercials this election season, make no mistake about it, the politicos understand DRTV and radio messaging, but to hear their focus on data and digital was revealing about where the country is today.  Yes, there truly are some great lessons for charities and non-profits from the Republican takeover of both houses of Congress.

“Yes, we had to recruit candidates, and we had to train them,” said Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). “We had to bring back our incumbents. But most importantly, we had to modernize creaky campaigns. And we had to prevent the mistakes that have plagued our party.”

Those that know me know I learned fundraising working for political campaigns and candidates… during the 1980’s I found I could keep a job in Washington for one reason, I wasn’t afraid to ask for money and that usually meant the political gurus would keep me in the room with them.

The journey to finding out what techniques were critical to winning campaigns was a tough one for the GOP.  According to the Washington Post on November 5, 2014, Battle for the Senate: How the GOP did it” , the article spelled out how much pain was involved in “modernizing creaky campaigns”.

The Post story implies that it began with Senator McConnell being embarrassed by the pounding the party took in 2012 and the lethargic approach candidates took in 2014, even after they got their heads handed to them.  McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner had had enough.

These are some of the take-aways for nonprofits learned on Election Day:

Open New Technology Doors or Find The Back Door.

It is critical that your charity embrace new media.  There have been multiple research studies documenting that most of the nearly 2 million charities in the U.S. are slow to embrace new technology and the importance of ongoing optimization of their website and digital strategy.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy published earlier this year a study on online giving preferences that was commissioned by Google. The surveys showed just how far behind nonprofit leaders are in optimizing digital tools.

Source:  The Chronicle of Philanthropy 

75% of donors begin their donation research online

40% conduct their charity research on their mobile devices

25% make their donations via smartphones and tablets

28% of donors who donated through mobile devices did so via text message

57% said they made a donation after watching a charity’s online video

30% Percent increase in donation-related searches in September over August

Meanwhile, nonprofit directors continue to place their emphasis on “creaky” old tactics, with many dismissing digital altogether. A report from Infogroup Nonprofit Solutions shows the widening gap between nonprofits and their donor’s giving preferences.

60% of executives at nonprofits don’t consider data and analytics important

87% identified direct mail as their only fundraising priority

63% identified “using data and analytics to drive strategy” as the least important fundraising priority

Find Staff Who Understand BOTH New Media and Traditional Media

The GOP understood it was important to find someone who could “integrate” traditional technology with new media.  Integration was key to turning out both older voters with mail, TV and traditional GOTV techniques, and new voters with digital, social media and data targeting.  To win the party had to do both and so should every nonprofit…

After getting smashed in the 2012 elections the GOP turned to Congressman Greg Walden and named him the new chairman of the NRCC, National Republican Congressional Committee.

Walden had spent more than two decades as an owner of radio stations and had served as chairman of Congress’s subcommittee on Communications and Technology. He launched a comprehensive program to empower every GOP campaign with technology and innovation.

Of course, the little known secret about Walden’s experience is he is a former member of the Hood River Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees and as a former member of the Oregon Health Sciences University Foundation Board.  He is a nonprofit fundraising pro who knew the importance of “data and digital”.  There is little doubt why his House Republican colleagues unanimously elected him to serve as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Tough Decisions.

If you cannot change the people you are around… change the people you are around.  Sure, it sounds easy, but it is the toughest part of integrating new technology.  Some people just will not be able to change or grow.

To illustrate how tough it is, The Washington Post told one story about McConnell and Senator Pat Roberts campaign:

“…in early September, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called a longtime colleague, Sen. Pat Roberts, from his living room in Louisville, furious about the 78-year-old Republican’s fumbling and lethargic reelection campaign.

Roberts had raised a paltry $62,000 in August. He was airing no ads. His campaign staff, mostly college students, had gone back to school. Most worrisome, McConnell had in his hands a private polling memo predicting Roberts would lose in Kansas — an alarming possibility that could cost the GOP a Senate majority.

McConnell was blunt. A shake-up was needed. Roberts unleashed a flurry of expletives at McConnell. Ultimately, though, the ex-Marine gave in. The next day, he led campaign manager Leroy Towns, 70, a retired college professor and confidant, into a Topeka conference room and fired him. There were tears. “It hurt,” Towns said.”

It hurts.  It takes courage.  It is the right thing to do.