Republicans have been talking about a small-donor platform to rival ActBlue for multiple campaign cycles. Now, with the launch of two new offerings over the past two weeks — the Donald Trump and GOP party committee-approved WinRed and Give.GOP, an offering backed by Anedot — a new potential clash has emerged within the party.
After cycles of competition on the right between the likes of Transaxt, Anedot, Revv and Victory Passport, the question now is whether practitioners on the Republican side of the industry are prepared to rally around a single solution: WinRed, a conduit PAC built on Revv’s platform in partnership with Data Trust. Gerrit Lansing, who co-founded Revv, is serving as president of WinRed.
The biggest questions at the moment, according to strategists C&E has spoken to on the right, are 1) how quickly can WinRed onboard the party committees and other federal clients, 2) can it overcome some skepticism from digital professionals, 3) how will the platform handle donor data, and 4) how much pressure will be applied by party insiders to candidates and organizations to switch to WinRed?
In an email to vendors earlier this week, Lansing said the goal is for GOP leadership and top incumbents to be onboarded by the middle of this month, while end of July is the target for all congressional incumbents.
Lansing wrote: “First and foremost, if WinRed doesn’t work for the vendors then it likely won’t work at all. We recognize and understand your stake in this and want to make sure you get what you need. Please never hesitate to reach out to me or the WinRed team with questions, ideas, comments or complaints.”
Targeted Victory, the firm offering Victory Passport, has shelved its platform and is migrating its clients over to WinRed, which has the backing of the RNC, NRCC, NRSC and the Trump campaign.
On Tuesday, Texas-based Anedot unveiled Give.GOP, a site designed to mimic ActBlue’s curation of relationships between small-dollar donors and candidate or group.
“It’s not a response, per se, to ActBlue. It’s a response to a problem that donors across the country are passionate about solving,” said Paul Dietzel, CEO of Anedot. “From a data standpoint, it shares the same principles as Anedot in that regard. People trust Anedot because we always do what we say we’re going to do. We’re not here to share, license or sell donor data. Technology is our product.”
Dietzel is undeterred despite the potential for top-down pressure for clients to migrate to WinRed, which earlier this year was floated under the name Patriot Pass.
“I’ve traveled to more than 42 states and I’ve talked to literally tens of thousands of campaign people. The masses, the grassroots love Anedot,” he said.
While Give.GOP can process donations, it doesn’t compete with Anedot, Dietzel explained. “It’s solving an entirely different problem.”
That problem is one of connecting donors who can give small amounts repeatedly to candidates and groups beyond their locality. The platform charges only a 30 cent transaction fee, and doesn’t take a percentage of the donation. It makes money when users sign up for its “insider” program, which provides “you curated notes from [campaigns] across the country.”
WinRed charges the same 30 cent fee along with 3.8 percent to the campaign. (ActBlue charges a flat 3.95 percent.)
Turning back to his Republican competition, Dietzel said: “I’m not looking for the RNC or the president or anyone else’s endorsement — or forcing anyone to use Anedot. I’m simply looking for the national party to look out into the market and realize that the grassroots people across the country have chosen Anedot because it’s a really good product.”
Targeted Victory CEO Zac Moffatt doesn’t see it the same way. “They’ve underperformed in the last couple cycles,” he said of Anedot.
While the platform may be popular with state parties, Moffatt noted that combined those entities only process about $30 million annually. “We call that June on the Trump campaign,” he said.
“This is an existential threat to them, and they’re trying to look for a wedge,” Moffatt added. “If it’s a better product, the market will speak for itself. I think there will eventually be one [platform.]”
Still, Moffatt admitted WinRed does have its technical kinks — something critics on the left and the right have pointed out — but he expects those will be worked out within the next fundraising quarter. “The reality is that the technology has to match up with the firepower that it has, but we have total faith that that’s going to happen.”
One of the biggest structural concerns we’ve heard from strategists about WinRed, none of whom would talk on the record citing business concerns, is that it’s less of a new platform than it is just a re-branded version of Revv. In his email earlier this week, Lansing noted that in the first phase of WinRed’s rollout it “will be accessed from an existing Revv account.” He said WinRed will be “rolling out a standalone, much-simplified portal in the next 3 weeks.”
As for ActBlue, Moffatt called it a “B-technology with an A-plus adoption,” but noted that the platform has the power of the network effect. “They will be getting bigger and bigger,” he said, adding that Republicans will catch up. “It’s just a question of time.”
The success of WinRed hinges on the GOP’s embrace of small-donor, crowdfunding culture, something that longtime consultant Karl Rove notes is a hurdle.
“Republicans have been conditioned by their decades of direct-mail experience to guard donor lists jealously and not ask contributors too often to support too many causes,” he wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal. “Democrats figured out in 2004 that their cause was better served if everyone worked together and as many voices as possible appealed to responsive donors.”
Republican consultants, at least, appear to be embracing that notion. The GOP firm Go BIG Media recently emailed its clients to update them on their adoption of WinRed. “We’ve heard a lot of questions regarding WinRed. Rest assured, Go BIG Media is working hard with WinRed and other parties to ensure our clients make a successful transition to the new platform,” Dean Petrone, the firm’s CEO, wrote.
In response to questions from C&E, Petrone said that the firm wasn’t being incentivized to use WinRed. “WinRed is the best product that gives Republicans the best chance to compete with Democrats in online small dollar fundraising," he said. "While the decision is ultimately left to our clients, WinRed will have our heavy endorsement, when asked."
Lawmakers, however, are being incentivized. The NRCC is offering its members a break of $20,000 on their dues if they use WinRed, according to the AP.
The next quarter’s fundraising numbers will at least partially reveal where the market is shifting. As a benchmark, ActBlue just announced that donors on its platform made some “390,000 contributions—surpassing the previous record of 306,000” in the second quarter. And in 2019, the non-profit said on Twitter, “1 MILLION new small-dollar donors have created accounts.”