The Democratic National Committee's (search) efforts to find new donors are paying off.

So far this year it has mailed letters to 35 million prospective first-time donors. The first mailing went to roughly 15 million donors and yielded contributions from nearly 2 percent, or about 300,000. That's nearly double the 1 percent rate of return such mailings usually produce, party chairman Terry McAuliffe (search) said Monday.

The Democratic Party has been trying to expand its donor roster to help make up for the loss of corporate, union and unlimited donations known as soft money. Under a law that took effect after the November 2002 elections, the national parties can collect only donations of $25,000 per year or less from individuals and political action committees.

In 2000, the DNC sent mailings to between 3 million and 4 million people, McAuliffe said.

The DNC has since cut its direct-mail costs by using a mailing list it developed rather than renting lists from others. It now spends about 30 cents of each dollar taken in through a direct-mail solicitation on mailings, down from 50 cents, he said.

McAuliffe credits direct-mail fund raising with helping the party amass $42 million in its bank account for the presidential election, with no debt. The DNC raised $25 million from January through April.

The Republican National Committee (search) has not released its fund-raising totals through April. Reports are due next week at the Federal Election Commission (search).