The eighteen months that I spent living and breathing the Hillary Clinton email program were the best of my life, and I’m so fucking excited to introduce you to it.
We were responsible for three things: raising money, recruiting and activating volunteers, and making sure people voted.
- Of the $330 million raised by the digital program during the 2016 cycle, email was directly responsible for $180 million of that — and was a major mechanism of the overall fundraising program.
- In the six weeks between the convention and the beginning of early vote, we doubled down on voter recruitment and moved more than 250,000 new volunteer signups over email.
- And when it came time for voters to head to the polls, we did everything from chasing down mail-in ballots to emailing more than 850,000 people their polling places.
Just as important as the numbers is what we learned. We saw over and over again that an email program that takes into account the diversity of its audience and keeps the experience of the user front of mind is a better and stronger email program. We sent more than 10,000 emails to more than 8,000,000 people in total. We wrote twice that many drafts. We reached out to folks based on how much they’d donated, whether they lived in a certain state, how often they volunteered, whether they liked to buy merch from the HFA store, when they made their last donation, whether they preferred to read emails about Hillary’s policies or about Trump’s latest dumpster fire, and more. We spent our free moments trying to find the segment of people we weren’t reaching yet, or who we could be reaching out to in a smarter way.
And we took time to ask ourselves: Is there a better way we can be doing this work? Where are we saying “no” to requests that we’d really like to say “yes” to? With major help from our teammates in analytics and tech, we built an automated tool to invite people to events that drove more than 65,000 RSVPs we wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to reach otherwise. Automated fundraising programs — like a program that followed up with people who had started but not finished the process of making a donation and a program that automatically asked donors within reasonable range of maxing out to the campaign to do so — raised about $12 million dollars in the background. Where we could automate without losing good writing or smart segmenting, we did it, and it paid off.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the heart of this balance was Amanda Litman, the email director who shared with us her belief in the power of email to bring people closer to the heart of a campaign. Our team, our wild 20-person team, was, in fact, almost all women. And women didn’t just power this team — for the first time in presidential campaign history, the majority of our donors were women. Nearly 65% of donations were made by women. You want to tell me that women weren’t enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton? Tell that to the record numbers of women who signed up to volunteer. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of proud holders of an official Woman Card — something we launched hours after our now-president accused Hillary of “playing the woman card” by advocating on behalf of women’s rights to the tune of nearly 16 million votes in the Democratic primary.
There were losses along with wins: We never quite answered the age-old question of how to prioritize fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and GOTV efforts. I can’t say that our choice was wrong, but I can’t tell you it wasn’t quite right, either. And we made a few mistakes when it came to our tools that I’d like to go back and warn my past self about. I won’t bore you with the details of tech limitations, but please believe me when I tell you that our well-oiled machine was balanced on the back of a moving dump truck.
But there’s so much more that I’m proud of. That we built the kind of fast, hard-working team that could respond to the news that Donald Trump may not have paid taxes for a decade within hours of the story breaking. That we finally shrugged off some of the old assumptions about how you really can turn enthusiastic subscribers into door knockers and phone callers by simply focusing on how email fits into a person’s experience with a campaign, not the other way around. That we took care of our mental health and of each other. And little things — like a simple program that allowed people to get a message from Hillary Clinton early in the morning on their birthday.
Nothing that was done well was done by one team alone. When we worked cross-department — we pulled folks from email, product, tech, digital organizing, design, social, digital ads, and analytics — it was like rocket fuel.
Here’s what matters when it comes to email: Start with the people and then work outwards. Email isn’t a machine where you put in a press release and get out money. It’s personal. It’s the closest most people will get to your candidate. Treat that with respect — no exceptions.
I have said this before, but the outside world made working for Hillary Clinton feel awful, but Hillary Clinton — and her team, this team, my team — made working for Hillary Clinton just wonderful.
To Amanda Litman, our email director; Taylor Salditch, Amy Beihl, Katie Tilson, Sonia Sanchez, Keira Thompson, Lawrence McDonald, and Nick Biggs-Chiropolos on the email organizing team; Thea Raymond-Sidel, Eduardo Silva, Areya Behrouzian, Colin Oldenburg, Marcela Aguirre, and Crandalyn Jackson rounding out the email fundraising team; and Kate Stayman-London, Juliet Spies-Gans, Joe Forsythe, Jess Lowry, and Janani Sreenivasan in the business of writing beautiful emails — I wouldn’t trade a second with any of you for the world.