When President Biden traveled to San Francisco last month, he raised more than $10 million in 36 hours from wealthy Democrats. Trips to Chicago and New York generated millions more, as did fundraising events in Washington, showing that the party’s big-donor class is fully committed to Biden’s re-election campaign.
But the small-dollar online money faucet that helped Biden break fundraising records during his 2020 presidential campaign has yet to turn on, and there are many signs it may be months before it does.
The Biden campaign and the Biden Victory Fund, their joint fundraising vehicle, raised $10.2 million from small donors, defined as those who gave $200 or less, during the three-month fundraising period ending March 30. June, according to a federal report. Report of the Electoral Commission presented on Saturday. That figure is about half the $21 million President Barack Obama’s campaign raised during the same period of his 2012 re-election effort.
Democrats involved in Mr. Biden’s campaign and the world of online fundraising detailed a number of reasons why Mr. Biden’s run is relatively low.
Google and Apple have made it harder for email senders to see data about who has opened requests. Inflation slowed political donations across the board. Donors are exhausted by the endless stream of emails asking for money, and recipients respond to far less.
At the moment, Democrats aren’t as enthusiastic as they were in 2018 and 2020, when the Donald J. Trump presidency opened the floodgates of liberal money, or before the 2022 midterms, when riots on Capitol Hill, rising the elections. denial motion and the Supreme Court decision quashing Roe v. Wade all motivated donors.
And Biden is not some insurgent candidate who is motivating students to put posters of him on their dorm walls, as Obama or Sen. Bernie Sanders did in their campaigns. His low-key campaign in the White House and his bare-bones campaign have yet to motivate supporters to donate furiously to his campaign.
“Right now there is no daily competitive combat,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood mogul, whom Biden named his campaign co-chairman. “So these are the most loyal and dedicated believers and supporters. Will be built over time.”
Mr. Biden’s campaign highlighted a number of statistics to promote his grassroots donor operation. Nearly a third of his 394,000 donors did not contribute to Biden in 2020, the campaign said.
Yet the president’s financial reports show he is far more reliant on wealthier donors than Trump in his re-election bid or Biden’s opponents in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Ten donors, including Mr. Katzenberg, Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, and Stewart W. Bainum Jr., the Maryland hotel magnate, donated $500,000 or more to the Biden Victory Fund. Another 82 donors contributed $100,000 or more.
Four years ago, 35 percent of the money raised by Trump and the two joint committees his campaign formed with the national committee… win win and Trump Make America Great Again Committee — came from donors who gave $200 or less. For Biden, 21 percent of the campaign funds for her and the joint finance committee came from small donors.
Small dollar contributions have declined across the political spectrum. An analysis by Middle Seat, an online fundraising firm with a range of Democratic clients, found that small donors had donated less money during the first fundraising period of 2023 than they had in nearly four years since early 2019. .
“If I were on Biden’s team right now, I would be very happy with the numbers,” said Kenneth Pennington, a Middle Seat partner. “It’s a terrible fundraising environment, and he’s not launching a new campaign.”
While Biden’s total fundraising was roughly on par with the Republican candidates, he surpassed them with small donors. Combined, the Republican candidates raised $7.5 million from small donors to $10.2 million.
The percentage of contributions under $200 is generally at its highest at the start of a campaign and decreases as campaigns progress, because when the amount an individual donor has donated exceeds $200, a federal disclosure requirement is triggered. .
As Mr. Biden began his 2020 presidential campaign, 38 percent of the money its campaign raised during the comparable reporting period came from small donors.
Democratic online fundraising experts said they expected the pace of online donations to the Biden campaign to pick up early next year, once voters start paying more attention to the Republican primary race and the candidate to oppose Biden.
“Once Democratic donors focus on the Republican primary and the stakes in the 2024 election, the Biden campaign will have no problem raising record amounts of money online,” said Lauren Miller, who served as digital director for Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaigns.
Trump’s small dollar percentage cannot be discerned until his joint fundraising committees, to which most of his online solicitations direct money, report the finances. They are not required to do so until July 31.
The financial reports of the other Republican candidates reveal a party that, even more than Biden, relies heavily on big donors.
Among the other Republican candidates, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reported $2.9 million from small donors, but that figure represents only 14 percent of what his campaign raised. Small dollar shares among other candidates ranged from 34 percent for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to 2 percent for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who largely self-finances his campaign.
Unlike the Obama and Trump campaigns, the Biden campaign did not start with a digital fundraising team. Instead, she has relied on the Democratic National Committee for her online applications. The bell announced last week that he was looking for an “Email and SMS Director” to lead a division that would normally have more than a dozen people. The campaign recently hired a grassroots fundraising director, an official said Saturday.
The Biden campaign has spent at least $3.3 million advertising on Facebook and Google, according to data compiled by Bully Pulpit Interactive, a marketing and communications agency. That figure is far more than any Republican candidate has spent on the platforms and suggests the campaign is investing in finding small donors.
Two of Biden’s top advisers, Anita Dunn and Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who oversee his re-election campaign from the White House, this week formally blessed a super PAC, Future Forward, as the primary conduit for big cash. . of billionaires and solidarity billionaires.