How Matt Gaetz raised a quarter of a million dollars in 49 days

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The next election for Florida’s Senate District 1 is still three years away. So how did Matt Gaetz, with another respected candidate already in the race, raise a quarter of a million dollars in 49 days? 

Surprising everyone but himself, Representative Matt Gaetz posted a staggering fundraising haul which for now leaves him the only candidate in the race and obvious frontrunner to fill the Northwest Florida Senate seat being vacated by his father in 2016. 

Gaetz’s hands-on, determined approach to his own candidacy and fundraising are to credit for the success.  But no one can average $5300 a day without good data, a strategic plan rooted in efficiency and committed people to help. 

Gaetz and his team developed a three-tiered approach: 1.quickly maximize local support, 2. motivate previous donors early and 3. cultivate new donors for the long-term. 

To achieve these ambitious goals, Gaetz turned to ContributionLink. 

ContributionLink is a data consulting company that uniquely provides political strategic services to Florida’s most sophisticated candidates, campaigns, lobbyists, political parties and other advocacy organizations. We are revolutionizing access to political finance data through our one-of-a-kind management software. The data is then bundled with leading-edge professional consulting expertise, applied to each client’s needs, empowering them to make better-informed decisions and realize critical objectives. 

THE SITUATION 

Senate District 1 will be left open in 2016 as Senate President Don Gaetz is term-limited out of office. The seat extends from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico north to the state boarder and takes in all or parts of Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Walton and Washington counties in Florida’s conservative panhandle.  Though six counties large, the district’s vote centers are based in Okaloosa and Bay, which together make up 70% of the seat. 

Senate District 1 is a Republican stronghold; in 2010 Governor Rick Scott received 65% of the vote while in 2012 President Barack Obama received just 26% of the vote. For all practical purposes, elections for this district are decided in the Republican primary.

By Christmas of 2012, Representative Jimmy Patronis, the well-liked and battle-tested favorite son of Panama City had already declared his candidacy for SD 1 and raised a more-than-respectable amount of approximately $100,000.

Gaetz became a candidate for SD 1 on May 13th, approximately halfway through the second quarter reporting period of 2013. Over the next six weeks, he and his team displayed political fundraising muscle typically reserved for only the heaviest hitting incumbents or candidates for statewide office. 

Soon after, Patronis shifting focus to his young family and growing business, withdrew from the race avoiding what would have been an epic and expensive battle for both candidates.

So exactly how did Gaetz raise $260,000 from 662 donors in a month and half, by fully integrating the assets of his campaign, including his own time and stewardship, the expertise of his consultants and the generosity of his supporters with the resources of ContributionLink. Together, we implemented with precise efficiency three overlapping strategies, mobilizing local support, motivating previous donors and cultivating new ones. 

LOCAL SUPPORT FIRST 

The ContributionLink software system maintains 400,000 unique state level donor records going back ten years and more. From our system, sophisticated record searches produce highly targeted donor files. While Matt focused on being a candidate, we handled the back-end research and development workload. 

With an initial focus on Okaloosa, Bay and Walton Counties, we generated a file consisting of donors who gave $100 or more to any Republican state candidate or the Republican Party of Florida in the last four years. Together, the file totaled 1,179 records. 

We added 863 records to the file by integrating the donors of eight different county candidates from 2008 through 2012. While our system does not maintain data from local county or municipal candidates, we can integrate the data by hand yielding incredible results. 

Northwest Florida doesn’t have the urban fundraising centers the rest of the State enjoys, however it produced big for Gaetz, helping him raise $97,164, well more than a 1/3 of his total.  It is an unheard of ratio in today’s campaign environment, which relies increasingly on out-of-region resources.

MOTIVATING PREVIOUS DONORS 

Re-engaging past supporters should be the easiest part of any candidate’s fundraising plan so it needs to be turn-key and low effort. Gaetz supporters hosted fundraisers throughout the district and while they had their own invitation lists, the lists were limited in size and scope.

The ContributionLink software system manages more than $900,000,000 worth of donor information. To drive the numbers of these events, ContributionLink developed lists targeting historical Gaetz family donors. From three separate files totaling 2,169 records, Gaetz raised $58,342 from 141 previous donors.

CULTIVATING NEW SUPPORTERS

Running for a Senate district three times the size of his House district, Matt couldn’t rely solely on the generosity of past supporters. He had to make new inroads and quickly.

Trying to replicate the success of an earlier tactic, ContributionLink generated a file of Santa Rosa and Escambia donors who gave $100 or more to any state level Republican candidate or the Republican Party of Florida in the last four years who had not given to Gaetz – the file totaled 2,079 records.

We then targeted major donors in Escambia pulling a file of donors that gave between $400-$500 to local candidates in Escambia from January 1, 2012 through May 2013 and then eliminated any duplicate records to find 656 new potential donors. 

In all, 521 new donors gave approximately $200,000 to Gaetz’s Senate campaign in the second quarter.  The amount of new support will give the campaign the sustainability it needs long-term. 

ISSUE BASED DONORS 

At ContributionLink, we are in the business of making data work for our clients. Simply having historical donor information is not enough to keep pace with the sophistication of micro-targeting and modern communication strategies. 

In our six years of gathering donor data, we have learned to build profiles about donors and groups to which they belong. When we know more about their own affiliations, political proclivity and contribution behavior, it helps us make more informed decisions about their potential and future activity. These unique donor characteristics allow us to develop outreach target files based on a commonly held belief or issue. 

Matt Gaetz is a vocal supporter of gun rights. Our system monitors almost 25,000 donors country-wide who support gun rights groups. We narrowed the list to the 217 that live in SD 1 and now communicate with them regularly. 

SKY’S THE LIMIT 

Of Gaetz’s 660 Senate donors, 451 of them gave the maximum $500.  When the new $1000 contribution limit goes into effect on November 1, this group could potentially raise another $225,500 pushing his total fundraising to almost $500,000.

The real growth however could come from what may be the lowest hanging fruit. There are 1,302 previous Matt Gaetz donors who have yet to give to the Senate campaign. This group of donors accounted for $583,423 under the old contribution limit. Under the new law, this group could top out at over $1,000,000.

SUMMARY 

Matt Gaetz, his team and his supporters have set a new standard for grass roots fundraising.  They used our data systems and personnel to its fullest and we are proud to play a small role in their success. 

ContributionLink supercharges fundraising among existing donors and locates new donors for an ever-expanding fundraising network. Their customized approach turned fundraising programs that used to raise a few thousand dollars into 10, 20 and even 30 thousand dollar hauls! The harder you work at fundraising, the more you benefit from ContributionLink,said Representative Matt Gaetz.