WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign is expanding its fundraising strategy to try to boost contributions in the coming weeks and over the longer term, as officials acknowledge that small-dollar donations have been slower to materialize, according to three campaign officials and two other people familiar with the matter.
The new phase coincides with campaign officials’ privately downplaying expectations for how much the re-election effort will raise during the current fundraising quarter, which ends Sept. 30, according to the sources.
To increase fundraising numbers in the run-up to the deadline, the campaign plans to roll out fresh incentives and messaging that officials hope will energize donors, including a stronger focus on the notion that former President Donald Trump and his allies are a threat to democracy, the campaign officials and other people familiar with the strategy said.
They said Biden will have an aggressive fundraising schedule this month. And there’s an effort to recruit 1,000 new fundraisers by January who will focus on soliciting contributions in the $250-to-$1,000 range, the sources said.
Chris Korge, the chairman of the Biden Victory Fund, hinted at the effort in a recent phone call with Democratic Party donors that was heard by NBC News.
“We need as a group to go out there and start getting [fund]raisers,” Korge said.
“We’ve done very well in the last 2½ to three years with big donations,” he added. “But now we’re getting into crunch time, and we’re going to need an army of [fund]raisers.”
Biden’s re-election effort is grappling with a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats. The campaign’s public disclosure in July showed his campaign raised $19 million — part of the $72 million that was raised between his campaign, the DNC and the Biden Victory Fund. About $5.4 million came from donors who gave the legal maximum allowed, so they can’t give any more in 2024.
Trump’s 2024 campaign has been fueled by small-dollar donations online, having raised millions from supporters who are still eligible to contribute more — particularly around each of his four criminal indictments.
Biden's campaign dismissed the idea that fundraising was lagging.
“We are seeing strong enthusiasm from across the Biden-Harris coalition and continue to meet our fundraising goals,” campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a statement. “Any ‘reporting’ otherwise is false. We look forward to sharing our numbers by the filing deadline.”
Trump’s campaign said it raised $7.1 million in two days after his mug shot was taken when he was booked at a Georgia jail.
Biden’s campaign is contending with a lack of urgency among rank-and-file Democrats who typically make contributions far below the legal limit, campaign officials and other people familiar with the matter said. Biden isn’t campaigning regularly, and he doesn’t yet have an official opponent, with voting in the Republican primaries still months away.
One source familiar with Democratic fundraising across the party said small-dollar, grassroots donations are up broadly, but at the moment that enthusiasm hasn’t benefitted the Biden campaign as much as down-ballot and local candidates.
A source familiar with the campaign’s fundraising strategy said small-dollar donations have increased over the last month. Any increase appears to coincide with growing public focus on Trump’s legal troubles.
Biden officials said they expect donations to flood in if, as they presume, Trump captures the GOP nomination next year.
“Everyone remembers what the last six months of 2020 were like” when it comes to fundraising as Biden campaigned against Trump, said a person close to the campaign, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss fundraising strategy. “And it’s just not going to be like that for the next eight months or so. And then it will click into high gear in the summer and fall of next year.”
In the meantime, the Biden campaign plans to focus its message on warnings about Trump — which campaign officials hope will energize the party’s grassroots and spur more donations.
“We’re looking at the democracy being torn apart, little by little, inch by inch, and the only thing that is holding this country together, the only thing, is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Minyon Moore, the chairwoman of the 2024 Democratic National Convention, told fundraisers on the private phone call this month.
Some campaign officials see an opportunity for an influx of contributions when Trump’s legal trials begin. The spectacle, they said, could motivate supporters who have yet to closely tune into the campaign.
Biden is expected to talk more about threats to democracy in the coming weeks, officials said. He made that theme one of the core tenets of his 2020 campaign and his presidency. His 2024 campaign video announcement opened with scenes from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. But Biden has avoided commenting on Trump’s legal troubles, including a federal indictment charging him with trying to overturn the 2020 election, an approach that carries some risk.
A longtime Democratic fundraiser said that when Trump was running for re-election in 2020, soliciting campaign funds was “the easiest sell I ever had."
“I would have people tell me, ‘I’ll do X amount.’ And then Trump would open his mouth and I’d get a call saying, ‘I’m going to double that,’” the fundraiser said.
A Biden campaign official who softened expectations for the coming fundraising disclosure said Republican candidates may have also had a slow summer.
The Biden campaign will try to galvanize rank-and-file Democrats with new merchandise and ways for contributors to “engage” with the president, two sources said. Recently the Biden campaign began a fundraising contest to win dinner with Biden and former President Barack Obama.
“You really have to do everything you possibly can to command the attention of grassroots donors,” the person close to the campaign said. “You do it with contests. You do it with merchandise. You’ll see additional kinds of things to try to engage the [donor] list.”
The campaign intends to use the second Republican primary debate on Sept. 27 to raise money, one of the officials said.
Later this week, Democratic officials are hosting an event for fundraisers in Chicago, the host city for the Democratic nominating convention next August. Biden administration and campaign officials will be in attendance.
On the phone call with fundraisers last month, Korge said the campaign’s finance committee has 400 fundraisers. Fundraisers who join over the next four months as part of the campaign’s new recruitment effort will be tasked with holding small-donor events, rather than the expensive ones Biden and Harris headline, campaign officials and people familiar with the strategy said.
“There’s a recognition that the team needs to be out there doing many more events, and not just with the principals,” a campaign official said, referring to Biden and Harris.