Because I have a fresh perspective on fundraising from a donor's perspective, I thought it might be useful to articulate the do's and don'ts for successfully extracting a donation from my wallet.
Rule #1 after the jump.
If your campaign needs money to air a TV ad, fund a direct-mail campaign, or hire staff, then say so. Ideally, you should enable me to view the ad (YouTube) or direct-mail flyer (link to image/PDF on campaign site) to decide for myself if it's worth supporting.
As a small donor, I am extremely leery of donating to open-ended funds. Sorry, DSCC and company, but I would rather target my funds to something tangible. Dumping my $100 into an account awash with $20M or more doesn't exactly reassure me that my donation will make a difference.
Scorecard: About 40% of the fundraising appeals I've gotten this season have stated a specific use for my donation. This is a huge improvement over 2004, where less than 10% came right out and said what they wanted the money for.
Rule #2: If I have previously donated to your campaign, and this is your first contact with me since said donation, SAY THANK YOU!
This one drives me up the wall. If I make an out-of-state donation to a campaign, and the next thing I hear from them is a generic fundraising letter, they get NOTHING from me.
Look, this isn't hard: create one form letter for the general list, and a second form letter for people who have donated recently. Say "thank you". Frankly, if you don't have the courtesy to thank me for my donation I begin to doubt you'll represent my interests as much as I originally might have believed.
Scorecard: Miserable. Very few of the campaigns get this right. It's not rocket science. Bright points: Jon Tester and Jim Webb.
Rule #3: Send me a personal appeal from the candidate that rings true
Exhibit A in how to do this right is the letter I got from Jon Tester. I could tell before I finished the first paragraph that he'd written it himself, and that meant a lot to me. The personal details about bringing in the harvest on the farm were a great touch.
Campaign managers: fix the typos, correct any egregious grammar mistakes -- but for Pete's sake let the voice of your candidate shine through! Don't bother sending me generic, boilerplate direct-mail pieces. My bullshit detector goes off by the end of the first sentence, and seconds later the whole package is in the recycling.
Scorecard: Needs improvement. Again, see the Tester and Webb campaigns as shining examples of how to do this right.
Those are my rules, or at least those are the big ones. How do you, dear Kossacks, decide whom to support with repeat donations? I'll update with the best ideas from the comments, as well as a few more of my own that I don't have time to wordsmith at the moment.