Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds

to-do-listThe “to-do” lists are similar: Recruit volunteers, raise money, and deliver targeted messages to specific audiences. In fact, nonprofit organizations and political campaigns often appear to work from the same playbook. However, while political campaigns and nonprofits “play” to different audiences in different arenas with different goals, both share many of the same strategies for moving the ball down the field and achieving their respective wins. In other words, both politics and nonprofits are about winning a particular campaign, whether it’s a political candidate race or a campaign to raise $50,000 toward cancer research. Let’s take a closer look.

1.     Both campaigns and nonprofits should realize the power of data.

Data is a valuable resource for any and every entity today – from nonprofits to campaigns to corporate ventures. On the campaign front, it has been estimated that politicians will allocate almost 10 percent ($1 billion) of their media budgets toward social media for the current cycle. The “data-driven campaign” collects data, filters it, analyzes it and uses data insights to respond to specific audiences with targeted messaging. Campaigns and nonprofits alike must listen to data to see how a target audience is responding to a particular message.

While a campaign manager needs access to real-time data to determine how a candidate’s performance in a debate is affecting his support numbers, a lung cancer nonprofit may examine if its new social media push is translating to more “walk for the cure” sign-ups. Data helps us communicate to the right people, analyze how those people are responding, adjust the messaging as needed and re-communicate a new message.

2.     Both campaigns and nonprofits use technology – and social media – to mobilize support.

In the campaign realm, we are trying to reach voters and volunteers while nonprofits are working to connect with like-minded people who believe in a cause. Campaigns and nonprofits both rely on email and social media (Facebook, Twitter, websites) to reach their target audience to encourage participation, share updates and test messages. A breast cancer research nonprofit will use a different message to connect with 30-year-old women vs. 60-year-old women. A political candidate will have a different message for an 18-year-old college student vs. a 60-year-old business executive.

3.     Both campaigns and nonprofits rely on the “wisdom of the crowd,” crowdfunding and grassroots efforts.

Crowdfunding’s roots are in the nonprofit world. How many times have you seen a Facebook invite from a friend asking to sponsor her in the Relay for Life as she runs in memory of her aunt? We have tried to apply this grassroots participation model to the political realm. CFB Strategies worked with Ted Cruz for President and its grassroots #CruzCrowd initiative – the world’s first presidential social crowdfunding platform. CruzCrowd empowers supporters to raise small-dollar donations and recruit others to join the Cruz campaign’s grassroots army. Since its launch in October 2015, CruzCrowd has grown to 4,000 users with more than 500,000 weekly impressions on social media.

4.     Both campaigns and nonprofits share a common struggle: raising money.

Finding money, raising money and then raising more money is top-of-mind for campaigns and nonprofits. This is why crowdfunding efforts are particularly important – using data to reach the right audience with the right message who will support (financially) your cause or candidate. At the end of the day, if the money isn’t there, the race is over. Like it or not, fundraising is where the data “rubber” meets the message “road,” with audience members either choosing to support the cause or not.

In coming years, we will see data, crowdfunding and social platforms take even bigger roles in campaign and nonprofit efforts. We live in a social sharing economy – think of Uber and Airbnb in the corporate world. These companies are driven by data, connecting people around the world in new and different ways. The social sharing model will continue to escalate, with nonprofits and political campaigns tapping into new networks of potential supporters – and both with one common goal: Delivering the right message to the right audiences to gain support and “win” a particular race.


Trace Anderson, Founder and President, CFB Strategies

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