Bernie Sanders is raising a lot of money from individual donors for his presidential bid, and he’s doing it even faster than President Obama did during both of his campaigns.
On Wednesday, Sanders’ campaign announced that it has raised approximately $26 million since July, and currently has more than $26 million in cash on hand. The bulk of that money has come from small, individual donors — more than a million online donations so far, according to his campaign.
The number of individual online donations far exceeds the number President Obama had received during this time eight years ago. Obama — whose victory was partially credited to his savvy digital fundraising — did not reach one million individual donations until February 2008, after he had won the Iowa caucuses. Even when Obama was running unopposed in 2012, he did not reach that number as quickly as Sanders, according to Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance expert and professor at Colby College.
“[Sanders] has reached a million [donors] faster than Obama did in either 2008 or 2012 elections,” he told ThinkProgress. “His pool of donors is sizable — yesterday, in one day, they raised $2 million.”
Though Sanders is doing well, he is still not beating his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton when it comes to actual accumulated money. Over the same fundraising period, Clinton’s campaign raised $28 million compared to Sanders’ $26 million, and her campaign currently has $32 million cash on hand.
Clinton has more cash on hand than Sanders: $32 mill to $25 mill. Still, Bernie's relative $ strength startling. https://t.co/XTYVmCgJ57
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) October 1, 2015
In addition, according to the Washington Post, Clinton’s campaign has raised $75.1 million in total, not to mention the additional $17.1 million raised by the Super PAC supporting her. Sanders, by contrast, has raised $41 million in total and does not have a Super PAC.
The key difference, though, is that nearly all of Sanders’ money is coming from individual donors, while Clinton is relying more on bigger, corporate donations. That’s advantageous for Sanders in a few ways, Corrado said.
“By having so many small donors, [Sanders] is creating the potential for a recurring stream of revenue, so he can go back to these donors again and again as the campaign goes on,” he said. “That can often leads to some of these small donors becoming rather large donors.”
Small donors becoming large donors was “key” to Obama’s fundraising success during his first campaign, he added. “In 2008, there were 13,000 donors who began as small donors who eventually gave a total of $1,000 or more, either because they set up a monthly contribution on a credit card, or gave three, four, five times over the course of the campaign.”
In addition, Corrado said a sustainably large base of small donors means Sanders can spend more time at events where he actually gets to talk to supporters and build that base, instead of spending time at closed-door fundraising events like Clinton may have to. Indeed, the Washington Post reported, Clinton has held 58 fundraising events to achieve her total this quarter, while Sanders held only seven.
What’s also remarkable about Sanders’ fundraising effort is his unorthodox approach to fundraising: “Do as little of it as possible,” as Politico put it. “I don’t have a super PAC,” he said in June, referring to the committees that can accept unlimited amounts of cash from corporations, unions, and individuals to support a campaign — so long as the committee doesn’t directly coordinate with the candidate. “I don’t want money from the billionaires. And that’s the way we’re going to run our campaign.”
That approach has made some progressives wary that Sanders could wage a successful campaign. But as long as he keeps getting positive reviews on the campaign trail, Corrado said he thinks Sanders’ fundraising will grow.
“They have the money they need to keep this going,” Corrado said. “He’s now positioned where he could very well have raised more than $50 million by the end of the year, maybe even have much as $70 million, and therefore have the money they need to do what they want to do.”
That prospect does not, however, mean Hillary Clinton needs to be worried, he said. Clinton’s campaign is on track to raise $100 million by the end of the year — and that’s not even including the two Super PACs supporting her, Priorities USA Action and Correct The Record.
“She’s going to have a lot of money, which will be supplemented by the Super PAC,” Corrado said. “But the crowds and enthusiasm seen on [Sanders’] campaign trail is translating, not simply into expressions of support, but into money for his campaign, and therefore she is going to face an opponent who is going to be much stronger financially than they anticipated.”