Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign announced Friday that it had raised $6.3 million in its opening 24 hours, the biggest first-day haul of any 2020 candidate, easing concerns among some supporters over whether he would be able to raise the money needed to compete financially in the Democratic primary.
Mr. Biden’s team had viewed his early fund-raising showing as important, not just for the infusion of money but also as a metric by which his nascent candidacy would be measured. His campaign sent multiple emails asking for donations on Thursday and he attended a high-dollar fund-raiser in the evening.
His campaign celebrated its total in a note to supporters, calling it “AMAZING news.”
All told, Mr. Biden’s campaign said 96,926 people had contributed in the first day, and that 65,000 of the donations were from people who were not previously on his email list of supporters.
The campaign said that 97 percent of online donations were below $200, but it did not disclose the share of overall contributions that were below that threshold.
Mr. Biden and his advisers spent recent days privately urging major donors about the importance of his financial showing in the first hours and days of the contest. They pointed, in particular, to the $6.1 million first-day haul for former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, and the $5.9 million collected in 24 hours by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as benchmarks against which the former vice president would be judged.
[Read more: Mr. Biden entered the campaign with $0.]
Mr. Biden held a conference call on Wednesday, the eve of his announcement, to rally and consolidate support from potential top contributors.
But the bigger question for Mr. Biden was how he would fare among donors making small contributions online, who have become the new currency of Democratic politics. Unlike Mr. Sanders, who ran for president in 2016, and Mr. O’Rourke, who set fund-raising records as a Senate candidate in 2018, Mr. Biden did not enter with race with a pre-existing large and active small-donor base.
As the former running mate of President Barack Obama, Mr. Biden did have access to the same email list that raised so much money for the ticket in 2008 and 2012. But the fund-raising power of an email list atrophies relatively quickly, according to digital campaign experts, and seven years is a particularly long time to lie fallow.
Adding to the perception that Mr. Biden was starting from behind financially, some federal officeholders — such as Mr. Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — had more than $10 million ready to transfer from their Senate accounts to support their 2020 runs. Mr. Biden began at $0.
Mr. Biden has the advantage of national name recognition and broad popularity among Democrats. But he is also expected to quickly assemble a robust staff that must be paid.
On Thursday, his campaign announced 26 “key campaign hires” who will work for Mr. Biden at the national level, and it has even more people lined up in the states that will begin the nominating contest: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Mr. Biden spent his first evening as a presidential candidate at the Philadelphia-area home of David L. Cohen, a top executive at Comcast and a former political operative who is one of the Democratic Party’s leading fund-raisers.
A roster of prominent Pennsylvania politicians were listed as hosts of the event, as well as, among others, Daniel J. Hilferty, the chief executive of the major health insurer Independence Health Group, the parent of Independence Blue Cross.
“It’s gauche to talk about money, so I’m not going to talk about money,” Mr. Cohen said at the fund-raiser, according to a recording of his remarks. “But all I’m going to say is that once again this group has produced an event that is off the charts, beyond anyone’s expectations.”
Mr. Biden’s rivals took note of his entry. Mr. Sanders, Mr. O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris and Jay Inslee all emailed supporters with Mr. Biden’s name in the subject line on Thursday to gin up their own donations.
The message from Mr. Sanders’s campaign was pointed about how Mr. Biden was spending his evening. “It’s a big day in the Democratic primary and we’re hoping to end it strong,” the email said. “Not with a fundraiser in the home of a corporate lobbyist, but with an overwhelming number of individual donations.”