There have been claims that LNC fundraising and membership retention are well down. I have previously written, in various places, that these claims were untrue. Matters have changed.
For most of this year, membership renewals were in the range 550 to not quite 1100. In each of the last two months, membership renewals were under four hundred, namely 360 and 389. If we look back to a year ago, there were 900 membership renewals and 130 new members, a count not very different from the count of renewals and new members in surrounding months. The low membership renewal numbers seen in the last two months do not arise because a few years ago there were few people renewing or joining, people who would be expected to renew this month. It’s an actual drop, quite pronounced, in the membership renewal rate. Last month, I noted the drop, but suggested that it was due to the very high renewal rate in the month before. That explanation does not hold water for this month.
The recent report on December LNC finances is also noteworthy. For the month, the National Committee brought in only $97, 000 in income. Now, December is always a poor month for fundraising for the national party. It may reasonably be argued, by comparison with the last three Decembers of election years, that the current revenue was not particularly bad. Nonetheless, the income is not better than the income for the same month under prior leadership. Indeed, the 2018 and 2020 revenues were appreciably higher.
In 2022, total LNC income was over two million dollars. That includes something like a half million dollars of income arising from the national convention, an income stream that will not repeat this year, meaning that reasonably expected income for this year will be something like a million and a half dollars. Out of that must come the very large expenses expected for presidential ballot access in 2024.
The LNC has taken to evaluating fundraising based on return on investment, the amount of money brought in relative to the amount of money spent on fundraising. One way to improve the return on investment is to raise money more effectively. An alternative path is to reduce how much you spend on fundraising, because a certain amount of money will come in regardless of whether you do fundraising or not. As a result, if you shrink the denominator of funds raised/funds spent on raising, the resulting fraction (income/expense) may well get bigger even though you are raising less money.
In the case of the LNC, general fundraising expenses are down considerably, from numbers in the twenty or thirty thousand dollar range to numbers in the upper teens of thousands of dollars range. That cut can certainly improve the return on investment on fundraising, but improving that fraction does not mean that you are generating more money. You can properly say that the fundraising efficiency has increased, but campaign ads come out of dollars, not a percentage ratio.
In addition, as was explained years ago by Richard Viguerrie, fundraising mailings have two effects. One is to raise money. A second is to convince the membership that you are active and doing things. The third is what would now be called shifting the Overton window. When you do less fundraising, and mail fewer issues of LP News, the membership tends to lose touch with you. Lower fundraising expenses are therefore not necessarily good.