With campaign fundraising going fully virtual, there were signs of a pickup in online donations for both parties in April after they tapered off in March as the pandemic halted political fundraising, according to new data.
WinRed, the Republican counterpart that launched last year, saw its biggest month so far in April with nearly $60 million, officials said.
As the coronavirus spread quickly in mid-March, candidates from both parties largely paused their online fundraising and shifted their focus to voter outreach and raising money for local charities working on the coronavirus response.
Candidate fundraising picked back up again in April, but only online due to restrictions on in-person events. Both parties are projecting an explosion of online donations this year, and their online fundraising platforms are upgrading technology and hiring staff to accommodate campaigns going fully virtual.
Donations to ActBlue this year spiked in February, yielding nearly $210 million during the heat of presidential primaries, filings show. Fundraising tapered off in the second half of March as the party’s presidential primary effectively came to an end and as the coronavirus hit, drawing $157 million for the month.
Erin Hill, ActBlue’s executive director, said she was heartened to see people making their first donations despite the pandemic, with more than 420,000 donors giving for the first time on the platform since mid-March, she said. The $141 million generated on the platform in April is a decline from the previous two months, but a jump from the $50 million raised in April 2016.
Compared with March, donations to House races increased by 24 percent in April and Senate races by 5 percent, ActBlue said.
“What is encouraging to me is not just seeing things coming back, but that we’re also seeing growth,” Hill said. “This is not a new moment that the movement is adapting to. Candidates have been building robust, resilient small-dollar online communities for years now, over several elections.”
ActBlue projects a $3 billion cycle in 2019-2020, the biggest cycle yet. Six million Democratic donors gave $1 billion in 2019 alone, ActBlue said.
WinRed, which launched in summer 2019 to capitalize on the fervent online-donor support for President Trump, projects raising about $400 million in its first full year of operations. More than 800 GOP campaigns, from presidential to local ones, have adopted WinRed, officials said.
The share of monthly donations raised on WinRed by Trump’s campaign has been declining, a reflection of down-ballot GOP campaigns increasingly adapting the platform, said Gerrit Lansing, WinRed’s president. Donations to Trump and the Republican National Committee made up 52 percent of WinRed’s haul, Lansing said.
Of WinRed’s April donors, about 61,500 were converted into campaign volunteers making calls and sending emails on behalf of the candidates, officials said.
“The GOP enthusiasm is a lot stronger than people realize and it’s showing in the conversion rates [from donors to volunteers] and the overall numbers” raised on the platform, Lansing said. “That underlines the energy out there that they obviously want to donate but they want to go a bigger step and volunteer their time.”
Meanwhile, Swing Left, a liberal group that formed after the 2016 election, this week launched a new effort to help Democratic donors prioritize key down-ballot races and civic organizations working on voter turnout and ballot access work in the fall.
The group started Blueprint, an online tool that helps donors distribute their money across the party, including for donations made on ActBlue.
Swing Left officials said their new effort is modeled after Republicans’ years-long work to fund races and organizations across the country for the long term.
“Blueprint was created because traditional Democratic political-giving is broken. For too long, it has been top-heavy, too safe, too late and shortsighted,” Catherine Vaughan, Swing Left’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.