How Obama Changed Fundraising

By Patrick Appel

Patrick Ruffini says conservatives shouldn't dismiss Obama's fundraising advantage:

The real shift we should be thinking about is not the shift from large to small donors. It is the shift from direct mail to the Internet. Republicans have always had a small donor base (in contrast to the pre-McCain-Feingold Democrats). It is called direct mail, and it's why the RNC always outraises the DNC no matter what (even in 2008). But the problem is that 1) it doesn't scale, and 2) the transaction costs are very high -- usually around 30-40% for mailing a housefile and 100% to prospect for new donors.

To put this in direct mail-ese, the Obama campaign raised $500 million online after sending one billion "pieces" of e-mail. To raise half a billion, Obama spent no more than $25 million on all Internet efforts combined (I have to review the final numbers, but I think this is right), a 20x ROI. Sending a similar volume of snail mail would have eaten up the vast majority of the $750 million Obama raised overall.