When Rich Madaleno opted into Maryland’s public financing system during his 2018 campaign for governor, he knew he had a challenge in front of him. Simply clearing the threshold to qualify for matching funds would require him to raise nearly five times more money than he’d collected in any of his three previous campaigns for office.
Lacking the name recognition and appeal of the Democratic front runners, Rich understood his campaign would need to be people-powered, relying on grassroots supporters — not party institutions or big-pocketed donors. And, his fundraising effort apparatus would be no different.
That’s why he enlisted LPS Campaigns to manage his email program and outreach.
Joining the campaign team, LPS recognized it had a variety of potential assets to tap for Madaleno’s digital efforts. He was a popular, progressive state senator whose resume had obvious grassroots appeal for Democratic primary voters. Also, with the potential to become Maryland’s first openly-LGBTQ governor, Madaleno’s campaign had a natural narrative with which to tap both in-state and national donors. Finally, he possessed an asset any digitally-focused campaign would envy: an email list with more than 50,000 subscribers.
However, upon taking the reigns, the LPS team identified a number of key challenges for the campaign. Chief among them was the quality of the existing email list — where, of the 50,000 existing subscribers, fewer than 14,000 users had actually opened an email in the previous 6 months. A lack of maintenance and regular engagement leading up to the campaign meant that every email being sent was, essentially, doing as much harm as good by driving up bounce rates, tripping spam filters and reducing the deliverability of even the emails being sent to the active members of the list.
LPS quickly designed a plan to segment out the campaign’s inactive users and launch a focused re-engagement program via both high-appeal emails and list-matched social media outreach to bring these supporters back in the fold. The team also embarked on an ambitious program of testing to determine which sender names, topics and subject lines held the most efficacy for both the active and inactive parts of the list.
Over the next three months, the reengagement effort would reactivate over 5,000 previous subscribers for the campaign with barely any additional paid media cost, an important resource for a campaign with a very limited digital acquisition budget overall. The quality of the list improved in turn, as LPS helped the campaign increase its open-rates from 17% at the beginning of the email program to over 30% by the end of the primary.
Beyond the reengagement efforts, LPS helped Madaleno cultivate a lasting relationship with his supporters. The team continually identified and provided opportunities to engage during the state’s 2018 legislative session, take actions like signing and sharing petitions in support of issues like Madaleno’s successful introduction of one of the nation’s first bump-stock bans, and creatively fundraise with programs like the one that allowed interested users to opt-out of end-of-quarter emails if they became recurring monthly contributors to the campaign.
While Madaleno’s run for the Democratic nomination would fall short, his email program was an undeniable success as it ended up generating nearly 40% of the campaign’s donation totals, helped qualify for almost $300,000 in state matching funds and provided more than a 4-to-1 return on investment above LPS’s costs associated with running it.