Political Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 359–376 | Cite as

Campaign Targets and Messages in Direct Mail Fundraising

  • Hans J. G. Hassell
  • J. Quin Monson
Original Paper


Political campaigns raise millions of dollars each election cycle. While past research provides valuable insight into who these donors are and why they are motivated to give, little research takes into account the actions of political campaigns. This paper examines why and how campaigns target habitual donors for political donations. Using the 2004 Campaign Communication Survey, a national survey of registered voters who were asked to collect and send in all campaign mail they received during the last 3 weeks of a campaign, we show that campaigns send donation solicitations predominantly to individuals who have previously donated to a campaign. We also show that campaigns match targeting fundraising appeals to the potential motivations for giving: campaigns target the type of fundraising appeal they use, whether ideological, solidary, or material, to match the socioeconomic and partisan characteristics of the potential donor. The implication of effective targeting is that the “unequal” voice of participation in campaign contributions is not one-sided and simply resource based, but rather that campaigns also contribute to the situation with targeted messages to potential donors.


Campaign fundraising Political communication Political campaigns Campaign donors 



The data collection was funded in part by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (CSED) at Brigham Young University (BYU). Additional funding for data acquisition and research assistance was provided by CSED and the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at BYU. We thank members of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU and the Human Nature Group at UC-San Diego for helpful comments. All shortcomings remain our own.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


  1. Agresti, A., & Finlay, B. (2007). Statistical methods for the social sciences. New York: Pearson.Google Scholar
  2. Arceneaux, K., & Nickerson, D. W. (2009). Who is mobilized to vote? A re-analysis of seven randomized field experiments. American Journal of Political Science, 53(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartus, T. (2005). Estimation of marginal effects using margeff. Stata Journal, 5(3), 309–329.Google Scholar
  4. Brady, H. E., Schlozman, K. L., & Verba, S. (1999). Prospecting for participants: Rational expectations and the recruitment of political activists. American Political Science Review, 93(1), 153–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Butler, L. W. (2005). Claiming the mantle: How presidential nominations are won and lost before the votes are cast. Cambridge, MA: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cameron, A. C., & Trivedi, P. K. (2005). Microeconometrics: Methods and applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cho, W. K. T., & Gimpel, J. G. (2007). Prospecting for (campaign) gold. American Journal of Political Science, 51(2), 255–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Culnan, M. J., & Regan, P. (1995). Privacy issues and the creation of campaign mailing lists. The Information Society, 11(2), 85–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cummings, N., & Cummings, G. (2004). Strategy and tactics for campaign fundraising. In J. Thurber & C. Nelson (Eds.), Campaigns and elections: American style (pp. 67–82). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dawson, P. A., & Zinser, J. E. (1976). Political finance and participation in congressional elections. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 425(1), 59–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dillman, D. A. (2000). Mail and internet surveys. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Francia, P. L., Green, J. C., Herrnson, P. S., Powell, L. W., & Wilcox, C. (2003). The financiers of congressional elections: Investors, ideologues and intimates. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Fritz, S., & Morris, D. (1992). Gold plated politics: Running for congress in the 1990s. Washington, DC: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gerber, A. S., Gimpel, J. G., Green, D. P., & Shaw, D. R. (2011). How large and long-lasting are the persuasive effects of televised campaign ads? Results from a randomized field experiment. American Political Science Review, 105(01), 135–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gerber, A. S., & Green, D. P. (2000). The effects of canvassing, telephone calls, and direct mail on voter turnout: A field experiment. American Political Science Review, 94(3), 653–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gerber, A. S., Green, D. P., & Shachar, R. (2003). Voting may be habit-forming: Evidence from a randomized field experiment. American Journal of Political Science, 47(3), 540–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ginn, M. H. (2005). Prospecting for gold: Finding financial resources for your organization. Public Manager, 34(1), 11–13.Google Scholar
  18. Godwin, R. K. (1984). The implications of direct mail for political organizations. Social Science Quarterly, 65(3), 829–839.Google Scholar
  19. Godwin, R. K. (1988). The structure, content, and use of political direct mail. Polity, 20(3), 527–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goldstein, K. M., & Freedman, P. (2002). Lessons learned: Campaign advertising in the 2000 elections. Political Communication, 19(1), 5–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldstein, K. M., & Ridout, T. N. (2002). The politics of participation: Mobilization and turnout over time. Political Behavior, 24(1), 3–29.Google Scholar
  22. Grant, J. T., & Rudolph, T. J. (2002). To give or not to give: Modeling individuals’ contribution decisions. Political Behavior, 24(1), 31–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Green, D. P., & Shachar, R. (2000). Habit-formation and political behaviour: Evidence of consuetude in voter turnout. British Journal of Political Science, 30(4), 561–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Han, H. C. (2008). Does the content of political appeals matter in motivating participation? A field experiment on self-disclosure in political appeals. Political Behavior, 31(1), 103–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hart, N. (1992). Buddy, can you spare a grand? Campaigns & Elections, 14(9).Google Scholar
  26. Hassell, H. J. G. (2011). Looking beyond the voting constituency: A study of campaign donation solicitations in the 2008 presidential primary and general election. Journal of Political Marketing, 10(1), 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Herrnson, P. S. (2012). Congressional elections: Campaigning at home and in Washington (6th ed.). Washington, DC: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hillygus, D. S., & Shields, T. G. (2008). The persuadable voter: Wedge issues in presidential campaigns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, E. T., Kropf, M., Wiedlocher, L., & Battles, L. (2007). The candidates depart but the dance goes on: The 2004 presidential campaign in Missouri. In D. B. Magleby, J. Q. Monson, & K. D. Patterson (Eds.), Dancing without partners: How candidates, parties, and interest groups interact in the presidential election (pp. 97–112). Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  30. Jones, R. S., & Miller, W. E. (1985). Macro level innovation and micro level response. Western Political Quarterly, 38(2), 187–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kanfer, R. (1991). Direct to the bank. Campaigns & Elections, 13(7).Google Scholar
  32. King, G. (1989). Unifying political methodology: the likelihood theory of statistical inference. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Levine, A. S. (2009). Perceptions of relative income and the decision to contribute. in Meetings of the midwest political science association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  34. Levine, A. S., and Monson, J. Q. (2011). Campaign microtargeting and its unintended consequences on participation decisions. in Meetings of the midwest political science association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  35. Long, J. S. (1997). Regression models for categorical and limited dependent variables. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  36. Lovett, M., and Peress, M., (2010). Targeting political advertising on television. University of Rochester Working Paper.Google Scholar
  37. Magleby, D. B., Monson J. Q., and Patterson K. D. (2006). Mail communications in political campaigns: The 2004 campaign communications survey. in Meetings of the midwest political science association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  38. Magleby, D. B., & Patterson, K. D. (2008). The battle for congress: Iraq, Scandal, and campaign finance in the 2006 election. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  39. Malbin, M. J. (2006). A public funding system in Jeopardy: Lessons from the presidential nomination contest of 2004. Election Law Journal, 5(1), 2–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Malchow, H. (2003). The new political targeting. Washington, DC: Campaigns and Elections Magazine.Google Scholar
  41. Miller, J. M., Krosnick, J. A. and Lowe L. (2000). The impact of policy change threat on financial contributions to interest groups. Ohio State University Working Paper.Google Scholar
  42. Miller, J. M., & Krosnick, J. A. (2004). Threat as a motivator of political activism: A field experiment. Political Psychology, 25(4), 507–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Monson, J. Q., & Curtis, S. P. (2004). Studying the noncandidate campaign: Case study and survey methodology. In D. B. Magleby & J. Q. Monson (Eds.), The last hurrah? Soft money and issue advocacy in the 2002 congressional elections (pp. 281–299). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  44. Monson, J. Q., & Oliphant, J. B. (2007). Microtargeting and the instrumental mobilization of religious conservatives. In D. E. Campbell (Ed.), A matter of faith: Religion in the 2004 presidential election (pp. 95–119). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  45. Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Panagopoulos, C., & Bergan, D. (2006). Contributions and contributors in the 2004 presidential election cycle. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 36(2), 155–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Price, V., & Zaller, J. (1993). Who gets the news? Alternative measures of news reception and their implications for research. Public Opinion Quarterly, 57, 133–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  49. Rosenstone, S. J., & Hansen, J. M. (1993). Mobilization, participation, and American democracy. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  50. Sabato, L. (1981). The rise of political consultants: New ways of winning elections. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  51. Shea, D. M., & Burton, M. J. (2006). Campaign craft: The strategies, tactics, and art of political campaign management. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  52. Sinclair, B. (2012). The social citizen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Skocpol, T. (2003). Diminished democracy: From membership to management in American civic life. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  54. Sorauf, F. J. (1992). Inside campaign finance. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Vuong, Q. H. (1989). Likelihood ratio tests for model selection and non-nested hypotheses. Econometrica, 57(2), 307–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wilcox, C. (2008). Internet fundraising in 2008: A new model? The Forum, 6(1), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wilson, J. Q. (1974). Political organizations. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsCornell CollegeMount VernonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

Personalised recommendations