During the 2016 election, digital strategy has played an important role in fundraising methods and targeting donor audiences. Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton all have different digital strategies for utilizing digital and social media to garner donations. The use of technology in fundraising has increased smaller donations by accessing a wider variety of donors.
Digital fundraising techniques include emails, online advertisements, social media and mobile apps. Social networks reach the millennial market, which is a prime target audience for candidates. With our increasingly technological age, candidates are able to receive more voter information via these digital and social platforms. With Sanders leading the largest amount of small campaign contributions, his digital strategy has been the most effective in receiving donations from everyday Americans.
In this presidential race, Bernie Sanders caught on to the digital trend early on, causing his fundraising amounts to skyrocket. Sanders has used digital technology to create a microfinance way of funding, by increasing the number of small monetary donations he receives. “Small donations” are considered to be $200 or under. According to The New York Times, Sanders used social media to leverage himself financially and socially. He gained small amount donors through online donation platforms and animated graphics, which helped his advertising campaign. He turned social media networks into “fund-raising engines” by targeting his audience through online advertisements. According to the Washington Post, this style of fundraising requires little overhead, so it is not as expensive as traditional fundraising avenues. Digital advertising allows for targeting different audiences and adjusting messages to different types of people. According to Politico, Sanders used the message that it was his average donor, not large corporations that were making a difference in his campaign. This made his campaign a fundraising magnet since people felt their financial support was vital for Sander’s success.
Trump and Clinton have not been as active in using digital fundraising techniques to tap into the pool of small donations. Trump has so far raised the least amount of money due to his reliance on earned media. According to The Guardian, Trump uses Twitter as his main social platform, however his popularity in this outlet has not translated to donations. According to the Washington Post, Clinton has tried a blend of techniques by receiving some small donations as well as large corporate donations from super PACs.
The use of digital fundraising has a chance to impact the fundraising style of future elections. We may see a stronger movement towards targeting smaller donations, in order to reach a younger audience. This fundraising style has the ability to develop a stronger voter base for the candidates and raise more money in a non-traditional way.