Jan 30, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: AI turbocharges campaign fundraising

Illustration of stacks of money with a strap that travels upward and forms an upward pointing arrow

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AI is helping political candidates raise more money more efficiently, according to an organization dedicated to helping Democrats win.

Why it matters: Tech for Campaigns is one of the first organizations to run an AI-aided email writing experiment, starting in Virginia last year.

  • Even when AI helps raise the same amount of money, employing the technology can free up time for other work, such as engaging with voters.

How it works: Tech for Campaigns conducted the first round of tests on July 26, sending a human-only version of an email and a Bard-aided one across 16 campaigns.

  • Between Sept. 25 and Nov. 7, the organization sent a batch of 25 emails — a human-only version and a Chat GPT-aided version —across four Virginia House campaigns.

What they found: Google's Bard helped garner 3.5 times more dollars per work hour in the first round.

  • OpenAI's ChatGPT helped garner 4.4 times more dollars per work hour.
  • The experiments did not conclude that one company's model is better than the other, Tech for Campaigns co-founder Jessica Alter told Axios.

Of note: A human was always involved in reviewing and editing the AI-aided emails.

OpenAI earlier this month announced organizations are not allowed to use their tools in campaign efforts.

  • Alter said it was "disappointing" that OpenAI used more of a hammer than a scalpel approach, but noted campaigns still have other tools from Google and open-source models at their disposal.
  • "We don't want the Democrats to be behind the people on this because of fears. We don't think the Republicans will be," Alter said.
  • "And that doesn't mean using it for nefarious purposes. It just means understanding it, testing it, investing in it and not just being afraid of the negative pieces that can happen."

In addition to helping Democratic candidates use AI, the organization also has been holding educational sessions with elected officials and their staff to help them demystify the technology.

What's next: Tech for Campaigns is particularly focused on the state legislative level and will conduct several more AI experiments in 2024, allocating more than 33% of its budget this year toward AI.

  • The experiments will not be exclusively for email or fundraising.
  • For example, Tech for Campaigns is planning to test the performance of AI-generated image and video advertisements, particularly now that there are disclosure requirements.
  • The organization will use its Learning Engine AI tool to quickly show best messaging practices by state or campaign.
  • The engine looks at Tech for Campaigns' own data from the last three cycles across its campaign and voter turnout programs.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to remove a reference to Anthropic's AI tools, which the company does not permit political campaigns to use.

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