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Amy McGrath Shattered Senate Fundraising Records Against Mitch McConnell in 2020

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Here’s why it’s about a lot more than how much she raised

If you didn’t already think retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath would give Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the fight of his political life in Kentucky, her first FEC filing should get your attention.

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In under three months, McGrath raised over $10.7 million from nearly 300,000 donations—an average gift of $36. A whopping 98 percent of contributions were $200 or less.

That doesn’t just set a resounding new record for a Senate quarterly haul—pulling in nearly double the previous top fundraising quarter for a Senate campaign this year. It evens out Mitch McConnell’s huge financial head start, and, more importantly, it gives McGrath a vast grassroots donor base (including donors in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties!) that will have her back over the next 13 months, no matter what Team Mitch has up its sleeve.

What’s noteworthy about McGrath’s digital program is a whole lot more than how much she raised. It’s how she did it. 

The McGrath team rejected the approach that has unfortunately come to pass for digital fundraising strategy in some circles these days. She never resorted to “the sky is falling,” “ALL HOPE IS LOST” tactics that try to beat wallets out of people’s hands. Instead, she writes to her supporters as if they’re actually, you know, supporters. She’s transparent and direct when it comes to why she’s raising money. She’s honest about how politics has never been her avocation, and refreshingly grateful for the people who have decided to help out. 

Going up against someone like Mitch McConnell and all his powerful friends isn’t possible without a team you can trust (and one that trusts you). 

This is what a digital-first campaign looks like

If you’re combing through McGrath’s FEC report, you’re going to see our team’s name come up quite a bit. Do Big Things couldn’t be prouder to partner with the McGrath team to support their email, digital fundraising, and digital advertising strategy. From the start, McGrath’s team has set out to make an aggressive investment in digital advertising. In their first quarter, Team McGrath spent over $1.3 million online—and, stunningly, saw a return on investment over 150 percent.

But the remarkable thing about the McGrath digital advertising strategy is that, unlike the vast majority of candidates at this stage, the investment they’re making isn’t entirely centered around fundraising. She’s also already thinking more long-term and making significant investments to reach and persuade voters all across Kentucky on the issues that matter right now—something that most campaigns wouldn’t traditionally budget for until much closer to the election.

“The reality is we’re not going to beat Mitch McConnell by running the same old playbook.”

That’s good. The reality is we’re not going to beat Mitch McConnell by running the same old playbook. We need to reach communities that Democrats traditionally don’t engage. We need to start that conversation before election season is in full swing. And we need to reach voters where they are—more and more, that’s online. 

A recent independent poll by the Trump campaign’s pollster showed that Mitch McConnell and Amy McGrath are virtually tied—with a difference of just 1 percent, well inside of the margin-of-error.

Think about that: A 34-year incumbent senator is just barely edging out a candidate who is not yet well-known in many parts of the state. It’s already a tie game. On resources, McGrath’s thoughtful, honest, people-centric digital fundraising strategy has helped her level the playing field. And she’s starting to build relationships now—more than 13 months from Election Day—with voters who are fed up with the culture of corruption and obstruction (essentially, Mitch McConnell’s personal brand) in Washington, D.C.

Amy McGrath is a one-of-a-kind candidate running a one-of-a-kind strategy in a one-of-a-kind race. And that’s exactly what it’ll take to win.

Toby Fallsgraff is the managing director of our Campaigns Division. This post was co-authored by Ryanne Brown, our VP of Digital Advertising.

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