Finding 9: No on 8 FundraisingUnprecedented Success

What Went Well with Fundraising

·         Raised $43 million dollars—500% more than the amount raised during the last marriage campaign in California in 2000.

·         Made dramatic changes in online presence and fundraising that helped generate a 900% increase in donations in the final five weeks.

·         Better-late-than-never released internal polling data about our side being behind.

What Must Improve

·         We must share with our base enough internal polling information to convey the urgency of the   situation. We must do this even if the consultants advise against it.

·         We need a Web team as talented as the volunteers from Google, Facebook, and Yahoo who relaunched online fundraising.

·         We need to raise much more of our money early.

The fundraising of the No on 8 campaign broke all records and set a completely new, higher standard for what the LGBT community and our allies can accomplish in the face of an anti-LGBT campaign. Despite this remarkable achievement, however, outspending the opposition by $43 million to $40 million was not enough for victory. The spending edge was not enough both because so much of No on 8’s money came in late, and also because money alone doesn’t solve the problem of “Princes.”

The $43 million raised by No on 8 so completely exceeded any preexisting expectation that it dwarfs most conceivable points of comparison.

·         No on 8 raised 500% more than was raised only eight years earlier in California when the LGBT community faced its first ballot measure on marriage, Prop 22 (which itself raised what was then a record amount of money to fight an anti-gay ballot measure).

·         No on 8 hit these numbers because fundraising, particularly online fundraising, improved dramatically in October. Yet the early fundraising also represented a record-breaking achievement that deserves attention and commendation.

·         The improved fundraising toward the end of the campaign can be credited to strong efforts made by those long engaged in fundraising as well as the new campaign manager and the strategic restructuring of online fundraising.

·         Money is crucial, but by itself it is not enough to win. The 2009 No on 1 campaign in Maine outspent the opposition by 50% and established its fundraising edge early, yet still lost. Without a stronger message, money is not enough.


 

Early Money

In total, No on 8 raised over $43 million. No on 8 first broke the $1 million mark by the end of July. By October 1, 2008, the campaign raised another $13 million, more than double what the No on 22 campaign was able to raise in the 2000 same-sex marriage ballot measure campaign.

Late Money

No on 8’s big increase in campaign spending in October, however, would not have been possible without substantial improvement in fundraising that same month. Two events made the vast improvement possible.

First, online fundraising was turned over to an entirely new group of former and current experts from Google, Facebook, and Yahoo. Volunteering their considerable talents, they added substantial functionality to the Web site and drove traffic to the website. They developed easy ways for the campaign to measure the yield of each fundraising appeal and approach. They put the campaign in a position to track the ways in which people were finding their ways to the No on 8 Web site. With this additional information—updated within hours—the campaign could determine which experiments were working and which weren’t. Then it could focus on replicating and rolling out more fully the successful experiments. The much quicker ascension of the learning curve that came from this overall data-driven approach—iterative learning is the term that best describes it—greatly increased online fundraising productivity.

The Web site improvements and more sophisticated online outreach alone would not have been enough; greater engagement of more and more entities was also essential. Dozens—maybe hundreds—of small independent improvements informed by the better data cumulatively created the tsunami of small donations. A wide array of volunteers wrote new Web site content and better daily fundraising emails. More and more organizations began to send daily emails to their lists, driving traffic and donations to the Web site. This much more systematic effort to drive donors to the No on 8 Web site yielded dramatically more money. In the wake of the online fundraising relaunch, small donations to No on 8 increased 900% in the final five weeks. See Appendix G for data on gifts of $500 or less, $250 or less, and $100 or less.

Second, all fundraising greatly improved in early October when No on 8 much more fully disclosed to the LGBT community that our side was in serious danger of losing. See the discussion in Finding 6 for more details.

A Lesson from Maine: a Financial Edge does not Assure Victory

The only caveat that need be offered here comes from the experience of the pro-LGBT No on 1 campaign in Maine. There, No on 1 outspent the anti-LGBT Yes on 1 throughout the campaign. This helped No on 1 compete. But by itself it could not produce victory. Money is essential but not enough if our message is vague, our message delivery tentative, our response to attack indirect, and the opposition well-funded enough to get its message out. For a more detailed discussion of this topic see Finding 3.