In Trailblazers: Diaries From The Front Lines Of The 2020 Election, we take an in-depth look at the lives of women working behind the scenes to make our country better every day, whether it’s on a presidential campaign or political advocacy organization.
Name: Clarke Humphrey
Occupation: Deputy Digital Director, Biden for President
Gender identity: Woman
Location: Quarantining in Washington, D.C.
I run the Joe Biden campaign’s online fundraising operation — the email, texting, ads, and store programs, in addition to making sure our website is optimized for fundraising.
8 a.m. — Wake up, press snooze.
8:27 a.m. — Okay, I actually pressed snooze three times. I am not a morning person. I do this literally every day. I have a daily check-in call every morning at 8:30 a.m., but I don’t have to give an update so I mostly take that call laying down with the camera off and mic muted. It’s kind of soothing — like listening to a podcast to start the day.
10:55 a.m. — Just finished two other daily team check-ins! The digital team senior leadership meets every morning at 9 a.m. to align on priorities for the day and share relevant updates. Meetings like this are especially important during hectic weeks, like this one with so many moving parts surrounding the Democratic National Convention.
11 a.m. — Shower.
11:30 a.m. — Touch base with a new person joining my team to work on special projects. It’s her first day, and she’s here just in time. We’re certain to have no shortage of projects to get through during the convention this week.
12:03 p.m. — Blow out candles (lol). Take out the trash and grab some coffee. Trash really just accumulates when you’re working from home.
12:15 p.m. — We're planning to launch an exciting series of grassroots fundraisers over the course of the week. Since the convention is entirely virtual, we have gotten creative with different events to give supporters additional opportunities to be part of. We’re rolling out one of the events — Grassroots Fest — with an email from Grammy-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor, who will be one of the headliners of an event happening on Thursday evening with Sen. Kamala Harris' husband Doug Emhoff. Our email list really enjoys hearing from James Taylor (the emails we’ve sent from him have raised a lot of money), so we’re excited to see what the response will be. I chat with two people on my team about a test we can run to optimize user experience, but also raise as much money as possible. We’ve set a pretty high goal of $25 million online over the next four days, which is ambitious but totally doable.
1:30 p.m. — Logistics call about the grassroots fundraisers! Tomorrow we’ll have Vice President Biden in conversation with Tom Hanks, which I think is pretty cool. We chat about the event format and make sure they both have the equipment they need to join the livestream.
2 p.m. — Check in with a member of our digital ads team! I manage a pretty large team, so I try to check in with folks who report directly to me as often as I can. This is mostly to see if they need anything, get updates about progress on their goals, and offer them a chance to ask me questions.
2:30 p.m. — “Draft Review Work Block.” Some folks on my team put a block on my calendar for 30 minutes every day to review content that’s going out across our channels, primarily fundraising emails and text messages that go out to subscribers. I look at ad creative sporadically throughout the day and sign off on everything else mostly as it comes up.
5 p.m. — Time for a snack. Grapes and cheese; brie and cheddar. Four more calls to go!
7:30 p.m. — Finally done with my last meeting, so I walk over to a friend’s place to watch the first night of the convention. She and her roommates have adopted me into their pod since I live alone, so I can still get some human interaction. We order Indian food and settle in. I’m still responding to emails and making sure my team has everything they need to launch all of our content once the livestream begins.
9 p.m. — It’s showtime!
10:20 p.m. — I get really excited because moderator Eva Longoria tells viewers to go to joebiden.com to pitch in $5 or $10 or whatever they can. We have our best fundraising hour of the day! I really love running a program that empowers grassroots supporters to be active participants in our democracy. Pitching in to support your favorite candidates goes a long way when it comes to making your voice heard and being involved in what representation in our country looks like. 97% of contributions to our campaign are from grassroots supporters, which, frankly, is unheard of on campaigns that also do high-dollar fundraising. It’s such a cool thing to be part of, and I use that to ground me when the days get hard and the work seems impossible. [Ed. note: The Biden campaign says it raised $70 million total during the DNC.]
11:05 p.m. — Feeling very inspired by everything Michelle Obama said. This really is a fight for our lives, and I am invigorated by her call to action. My team hits send on a fundraising email from Sen. Kamala Harris asking our supporters to answer Michelle’s call, too. It’s our best-performing email of the day.
11:35 p.m. — Return home. Brush my teeth and do my skin-care routine before I have a chance to lay down: basic Sephora-brand cleanser, Drunk Elephant glycolic acid, belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb.
11:56 p.m. — Crawl into bed and put on an episode of Selling Sunset! We do it all again tomorrow.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020: Day 2 of DNC
8:18 a.m. — Could only press snooze twice today. Had to get up to check on a fundraising report that ran overnight that campaign leadership will be checking every day during the convention. We had a great night last night in terms of money raised — really excited to see what the rest of the week looks like. I brush my teeth and wash my face before laying down for a little bit longer. My morning routine is the same Sephora face wash from last night, Drunk Elephant Vitamin C Serum, Caudalie’s salicylic acid serum, Drunk Elephant eye cream — or sometimes The Ordinary’s Caffeine Solution — an oat milk water cream by Krave, and sunscreen on my face when I remember. Not gonna lie, I’m delinquent half the time.
8:30-10 a.m. — Same daily check-in calls as always.
10:15 a.m. — Finally get outta bed, make coffee, scroll through Twitter for a little bit. Today’s a bit lighter for me on the meeting side of things, which is my favorite kind of day because it means I can get some work done. There are quite a few projects that need my attention: settling on our budget for digital acquisition for this month, finalizing the slate of grassroots fundraisers we’re hosting this week — today is the Tom Hanks convo! — and making sure our online-store team has everything they need to get orders shipped.
12:30 p.m. — The Joe Biden-Tom Hanks event is in an hour. For less than 24 hours’ notice, the number of RSVPs is in great shape, and my team spends some time confirming supporters’ attendance and answering questions from attendees in our livestream inbox.
12:55 p.m. — I check our fundraising numbers for the day for at least the sixth time, which is not that bad for just four hours of being awake! I feel like if you’re not glued to your tracking dashboards, can you really say you’re running a grassroots fundraising program? I think no.
1:30 p.m. — The event is starting! I’m working with my team to make sure that any supporters who signed up last-minute have the registration link they need, while I listen to Joe Biden and Tom Hanks chat in the background.
1:52 p.m. — Ugh, got caught up working through emails, and now I’m seven minutes late for a call. This happens to me too often, but I’m working on it! Luckily, everyone was pretty chill about it. This was a call with our analytics team to talk about our fundraising goals for this month. When the campaign announced Kamala Harris was joining us, we saw some historic fundraising numbers — more than $39 million online from grassroots supporters in the first 48 hours. So, naturally, we are reprojecting to get a better picture of how much money we’ll raise this month. Having a handle on that really does inform decisions about how money is spent — what resources and staffing needs we can afford to invest in.
2:30 p.m. — Eating! I put a frozen lasagna in the oven. I rarely cook during quarantine. Cooking for one person is too hard, and I can only eat leftovers once, maybe twice. So I do takeout a lot and easy-to-maneuver, single-person meals like this.
5 p.m. — I eat a quick Caesar salad and check in with our store team! The store had an incredible week with the running mate announcement and all the enthusiasm around the convention. We go over our top-selling items, our marketing plans for a few new items, and how we’re going to make sure everyone gets all the merch they ordered in a timely manner. I’d never run an online store before I joined this campaign, so I’m glad I’ve got a team of brilliant and experienced folks on board. It really is a lot more than choosing the items you like personally and putting them up for sale. For instance, I love a crisp white T-shirt, but darker T-shirts consistently outperform lighter ones.
6 p.m. — I chat with our analytics team about a project I need their help on. They’re some of my favorite people to work with on the campaign. This is my second-to-last scheduled call!
6:29 p.m. — I rush out to the grocery store to grab a whole host of essentials I’ve been needing for days: eggs, creamer, bacon, yogurt. I like to have breakfast foods handy because there’s something about ordering breakfast during the week that just doesn’t sit right with my spirit. Yes, I did also grab a bottle of wine — my companion as I watch night 2 by myself at home. I make it back home with just five minutes to spare ahead of my 7 p.m. call.
7 p.m. — My boss and I check in with our ads team leads every night at 7 — we call it “Ads Happy Hour” — and on some of these longer days, the rare beer or glass of wine has definitely made an appearance. Performance is so variable for an ads program like ours, and there are so many moving pieces that it just makes sense to regroup every evening.
7:45 p.m. — Not super-hungry — that lasagna and salad was pretty filling — so I grab more cheese and grapes, pour myself a glass of wine, light some candles, and spend an hour getting to any stray emails I’ve missed.
8:52 p.m. — Tuning in to night 2! Tonight we’ve got Tracee Ellis Ross moderating (I love her!) and I’m personally looking forward to hearing from Dr. Jill Biden.
10:15 p.m. — Wow, the Roll Call Across America was just so well-done! This was the part of the convention when delegates in 57 states and territories cast their votes to nominate Joe Biden for president. It was such a cool and diverse group of delegates all excited to cast their votes, and it felt great to watch Vice President Biden officially accept the nomination.
11:01 p.m. — Dr. Biden is giving a remarkable speech about the Biden family’s grief and the strength it takes to unify through some of life’s toughest challenges. Not gonna lie — I did tear up there. I was certainly not expecting this night to make me as emotional as it did, but here we are.
11:45 p.m. — One more glass of wine while I finish up some work — send a few emails and prep anything I might need ahead of tomorrow morning.
12:16 p.m. — Head to the bathroom for my nighttime routine, then get into bed.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020: Day 3 of DNC
8:18 a.m. — Same deal as yesterday! Look at our fundraising report (we had a great day!), listen to my morning check-in call while I brush my teeth and wash my face, hop back in bed for my 9 and 9:30 check-in calls. Today is what we on the online fundraising team affectionately call “Barack Obama Day” — a day when we get to send fundraising emails signed by Barack Obama. I don’t think it’d shock anyone to learn that our supporters really love hearing from the former president, and it shows. Emails from him are always high performers, both in terms of amount raised and number of donors who give.
9:43 a.m. — Get out of bed, take a very quick shower, and get dressed a little earlier than usual. I’ve got a call at 10 a.m. to think through how we integrate Kamala’s digital operation into our program. I sit down to join the call and find that it’s actually been moved to 8:30 p.m. tonight. I grab a yogurt (Noosa, honey-flavored) and start combing through my inbox.
11 a.m. — Tomorrow we’re hosting a concert featuring James Taylor and a special guest, Doug Emhoff. I spend a bit of time finalizing our promotion plan to make sure as many of our supporters as possible get to enjoy this treat. Tonight, we’re launching a contest for a supporter to get a call from Joe Biden once he leaves the stage tomorrow night. I love being able to offer supporters a front-row seat to this campaign and our candidate.
11:30 a.m. — Our store team has done a fantastic job advertising and selling merchandise, and I believe tonight will be no different. We finalize our plan for the Kamala-related merch we plan to launch as she gives her speech tonight. Really excited because we worked directly with Meena Harris, Kamala’s niece, to add a shirt that she and artist Cleo Wade designed.
12-3 p.m. — Various meetings about the mass mailer we use to send fundraising emails, our internal processes for getting content out into the world, and a check-in with one of the emailers on my team.
4 p.m. — I’m excited to be leading a training session today for “Campaign Academy 2020” — a series of trainings hosted by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Arena in partnership with the convention and the campaign. Of course, I am speaking about the thing I know best: online fundraising. I’m planning to discuss the importance of cultivating a relationship with donors, empowering grassroots supporters, and arming them with the knowledge that small-dollar donations really do make a difference when it comes to the makeup of our country’s representation. No matter how many times I do this kind of thing, I’m always nervous as hell! I hope it goes okay.
6:02 p.m. — I think the training session went fine! Speaking to groups is something I’ve been trying to get better at for years, and somehow doing it over a Zoom call doesn’t lessen my anxiety at all, but I’ll get there. The audience was great. They asked a lot of great questions and are clearly being thoughtful about what campaigning during the pandemic looks like. It’s so encouraging to see people still so committed to the cause of electing Democrats and promoting our values even in the midst of *gestures vaguely at everything* all this.
It's so encouraging to see people still so committed to the cause of electing Democrats and promoting our values even in the midst of *gestures vaguely at everything* all this.
6:30 p.m. — Run over to CVS to pick up a prescription before my check-in with the ads team at 7!
8:30 p.m. — Drop into my last meeting. This one’s short; about 15 minutes. I quickly grab a cider and put in a late order for Greek food — really craving some hummus and Greek salad this evening.
9 p.m. — And we’re back for day 3! Kerry Washington is hosting tonight, and she’s wearing this amazing pinstripe suit. I love her, and this outfit is perfect. Tonight’s convention lineup is stacked with some heavyweights: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? And Kamala Harris officially accepting our nomination for Vice President. I didn’t fully prepare myself for all the feelings that bubbled up last night, but I certainly am not making that mistake again.
10:25 p.m. — The clip of Barack Obama surprising Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom gets me every time. His speech was everything you expect a Barack Obama speech to be in this moment and more. This entire convention has been exactly what I needed to double down and get to work for the next 76 days.
10:50 p.m. — I could say a million things about what it’s like to watch a Black woman accept the nomination for Vice President, but I’m just going to describe this moment as powerful. I’m awe-stricken. Overcome with emotion. I can't wait to elect this ticket in November.
11:37 p.m. — The email team hits send on our last fundraising email of the night, and with that we’re wrapping up day 3. Going to log off and sit with the magnitude of this moment — a Black woman will be our next Vice President, and all of a sudden the entire world opened up for girls who look like me. I don’t know how I’ll ever get to sleep.