Former President Donald Trump is strapped for campaign cash following the mid-November launch of his 2024 presidential campaign, according to end-of-year figures obtained exclusively by NBC News.
Trump, who has been the GOP's most prolific fundraiser in recent years, pulled in about $9.5 million over the final six weeks of last year through his campaign and a joint fundraising committee, according to a person familiar with his haul.
The numbers were shared with NBC News in advance of Trump's filing of the first campaign finance totals of his third bid for the presidency Tuesday.
Trump's decision to launch in the shadow of a tough midterm election for the GOP, donor fatigue and his soon-to-end absence from the social media giant Facebook all contributed to the cash crunch, Republican operatives said.
In a sign that Trump understands he'll need to raise more money faster for what promises to be a competitive GOP primary campaign, his campaign recently expanded its digital fundraising team by hiring the firm Campaign Inbox to solicit the small-dollar donor set. Campaign officials have long said he would use the early part of this year to build up his apparatus and begin expanding his footprint in early primary states.
There are other reasons to think that Trump can bolster his cash machine.
He has yet to launch a traditional mail-fundraising apparatus, which is a time-tested means of gathering small contributions in large numbers. And his early fundraising has been limited by his ban from Facebook, a top fundraising platform for him in 2016 and 2020, which kicked him off for inciting the mob that sacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But the company has said the ban will be lifted.
Trump also hurt himself by announcing his campaign right after the midterm elections, a fundraising doldrums for candidates across the partisan and ideological spectrum.
Eric Wilson, a Republican digital fundraising consultant who isn't affiliated with the campaign, said that in addition to announcing at a bad time for fundraising generally, Trump started asking for money amid a round of finger-pointing over the GOP's disappointing midterms, in which some fingers were pointed at the omnipresent former president.
"If you want a big fundraising pop when you announce your campaign, you don't do it right after an election where all your donors are burned out from being bombarded by fundraising asks and you don't have a great track record to show for it," Wilson said.
That was the reality for Trump, whose affiliated entities actually raised more before his presidential campaign launch than after his big announcement - $11.8 million from Oct. 1 until his Nov. 15 launch, and then only $9.5 million from Nov. 15 through the end of the year.
The vast majority of post-launch donations to Trump, which largely flowed through the joint fundraising committee, came from low-dollar donors, according to the person familiar with the numbers. The 291,617 donors who gave $200 or less accounted for 99.48% of his contributions. On average, their donations totaled $32.32.
It's also possible that Trump could hire additional vendors for the digital fundraising program, which relies on emails and text messages to solicit donations.
"Everybody wants that account because he's the king of small-dollar donors," said a Republican who works in the digital fundraising space and asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about the former president.
Beyond the digital enterprise, Trump is expected to build a more traditional fundraising structure to bring in donations of $2,900 apiece for the primary campaign - the maximum allowed under the law. Campaigns often tap heavy hitters to bundle those donations together at high-level fundraising events.
But it's the low-dollar donors who have carried Trump in the past, sending small chunks of cash to keep his campaigns running. Most important, Wilson said, may be his impending return to Facebook.
"Almost 50% of Republican donors log in to Facebook every single day," Wilson said, citing data from a survey connected to a nonprofit group he runs. "So if you are not able to reach those donors, you're just at a huge fundraising disadvantage."
The cash-strapped Trump hasn't held one of his signature campaign rallies since he announced his bid. He kicked off his travel schedule Saturday with stump speeches in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com