Vincent Harris Quoted On Revolution Messaging helps drive Sanders’ ‘political revolution’
WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders has weathered some tough losses in his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. But even when pundits close the curtain on his campaign, his supporters open their wallets.
Online small-dollar contributions helped the Vermont independent exceed an improbable goal of raising $40 million for the month of February — and outraise Hillary Clinton for the second month in a row — with a one-day haul of more than $6 million pouring in after she trounced him in South Carolina’s Feb. 27 primary. And supporters donated more than $4 million, just shy of the campaign’s goal, since Clinton swept Tuesday’s five nominating contests.
Such success helps explain why the campaign believes his “political revolution” is just getting started, despite his sizable delegate deficit. Whether he wins or loses, passionate supporters have responded to his online appeals with windfalls — and many are likely to give again because they haven’t reached the legal limit on donations.
“As our supporters go, the campaign goes,” said Tim Tagaris, a partner at the firm Revolution Messaging who leads Sanders’ digital fundraising. “They recognize that they are acting collectively with millions of people just like them to make a real difference in the campaign.”
Sanders has raised almost all of his money online compared to more than half, just this year, for Clinton. He has no offline fundraising staff and has held a total of just nine traditional fundraisers, while Clinton exceeded that number during a week in February.
“He was able to do what we want our political leaders to do instead of being locked up in a little room for hours and then going to only meet the donor class instead of going to those rallies,” Scott Goodstein, Revolution Messaging’s CEO and founder.
Sanders’ team of digital gurus credit his message with driving the dollars. His fundraising emails, fueling the majority of his online contributions, call on supporters to help him reach goals that will “astonish the political and financial establishment” and stick it to the “billionaire class” and super PACs.
“The key to success for Bernie Sanders raising money is to have him be his most Bernie possible in the emails,” said Michael Whitney, the firm’s senior campaign strategist who manages Sanders’ digital fundraising.
But there’s more to it than that. Sanders has relied on Revolution Messaging and his own digital staff to help build a giant email list of supporters through online ads, videos, shareable graphics and social media posts at key moments in the campaign.
He had a strong social media presence and progressive base before launching his campaign, but “he had literally next to nothing when we started with him as far as any type of national donor base list that had been managed in any way,” Goodstein said.
“He would send out very long, six-page-type speech emails to donors, never really even asking for money,” he said.
Sanders hired D.C.-based Revolution Messaging to run online fundraising and manage the campaign’s digital advertising, branding, video creation, website development, texts to supporters and online store. The boutique 60-employee firm, led by veterans ofPresident Obama’s 2008 campaign, would seem the perfect fit for Sanders. They don’t work for Republicans, “evil corporations that do harm” or dictators, and there are a lot of democratic socialists on staff, Goodstein said.
One of their efforts that raised six figures and helped boost Sanders’ donor list by tens of thousands was a fundraising email that looked like text messages between Ben & Jerry’s ice cream founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, about the influence of money in politics. His list also got a lift from Facebook ads in 26 states, petitioning governors to allow Syrian refugees in their states.
“It was a great way to give Bernie a digital megaphone on this particular issue,” saidElizabeth Bennett, the firm’s account manager who serves as deputy digital ads director for the campaign. “They sign the petition and then they’re fired up about his message and then they’re eager to donate later.”
The 74-year-old self-described “grumpy grandfather” has shown an enthusiasm for the digital world, joining Snapchat — or, “this Snapshot thing,” as he called it — and trolling Republicans on Twitter during their debate.
Sanders’ affinity for in-depth discussion has led to some unconventional projects, including a nearly 2,500-word fundraising email on perhaps every issue that concerns him and a more than eight-minute video on income inequality. The low-fi video, with Sanders ranting directly into the camera, received more than 7 million views on Facebook alone.
“It went against conventional wisdom, but that’s something that we go against all the time as well,” said Arun Chaudhary, creative director for the firm and campaign.
Sanders is benefiting from a progressive base that has become increasingly accustomed to donating online since Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, saidJoe Trippi, who managed Dean’s campaign.
“It’s what’s making it possible for him to continue even though there’s no delegate path that looks viable right now,” he said.
Vincent Harris, chief digital strategist for Sen. Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign, said small donors who are ideologically driven are more likely than moderates to donate online. But Sanders has helped his fundraising by using imagery and graphics online to push his message in an engaging way. Plus, his brand is cool, he said.
“His supporters are very loyal, and they’re going to keep giving and giving and giving,” he said.