All very good questions and common concerns! Daily emails and texts can cause us to tune everything out – but donations are an important way to help promote democracy and the other policies we care about. Let’s talk about a strategy to help navigate all the requests.
Here are a few ways to think about your monthly strategy – whether it’s $5 or $500.
Will your Donation be Additive and Timely?
One way to look at it is that you want your money as close to the voter as possible. In this case, I would recommend choosing a non-profit group to give to. These groups play an important role in activism. The best non-profit groups are composed of volunteers from their own communities. These local volunteers are present in the community all the time – not just at voting time. They understand the local voting laws and the barriers erected to keep people from voting. Do people need IDs? Registration? Vote by Mail information? Ballots in a different language? TurnPurple2Blue has some recommended groups.
“The best non-profit groups are composed of volunteers from their own communities. These local volunteers are present in the community all the time – not just at voting time.”
Another way to look at your donation is that you want to give it to a group that will use it in a flexible and strategic manner. This could be a PAC (Political Action Committee), like VoteVets.org, or similar organizations. It is important to ask what the PAC will spend the money on and to choose a group you trust. For example, I trust Indivisible to use Unrepresentatives campaign donations for the US House race that needs it the most and for the tactic that is not already saturated (examples of tactics are radio, billboards, or lists and software for phone banks, text banks and canvassing). Other effective groups to consider might be Sister District, The States Project, or Working America.
If you do want to give to candidates directly, I would advise to give to the smallest race that you are interested in. State and local races are run on thousands, not millions, and your small donation can be more impactful. We have seen that municipalities are the front line of climate action and book banning; states are the front lines of gun safety, education, LGTBQ, and reproductive rights. Democrats have long overlooked these races, and now we are reaping the consequences.
Next time your town and surrounding communities have elections, check to see if there is someone running for school committee or select board that needs support. Right now, I would suggest Virginia candidates for their November 2023 state legislature election. Virginia is the last southern state with legal abortion, and we must prevent the MAGA governor there from gaining a veto-proof majority. As David Pepper has shown in both his books, Laboratories of Autocracy and Saving Democracy, the path to issues we care about lies through the states.
Federal races now spend millions, so it is important to consider not only how much money these candidates have but how much they need. Is MAGA going after them hard? Are their districts more purple?
In general, candidates need “early” money – money is a lot harder to use effectively in the last week or two before the election. (for example, there could be no more ad spaces to even buy; printed materials need to be ordered with lead time, etc.) Nonprofits need money anytime.
I’m mostly speaking of “small dollar donations” here. If you have the resources to give more, watching the calendar year can help you maximize your contributions. In federal races, a donor can give $3,300 per candidate per election per year. For Massachusetts state candidates, the amount is only $1,000 per calendar year. So, if you have the means and really like a particular candidate, make sure to make your maximum donation in each calendar year.
“If you have the resources to give more, watching the calendar year can help you maximize your contributions.”
Now, let’s discuss who NOT to give to and how to manage the deluge of emails and texts asking for donations.
- Don’t be tempted by “Hail Mary Candidates.” Is the district R+30? Your small donation will not help a candidate win there. There are some candidates that we hate, and we want to throw money at their opponents who have no chance. Resist! If you really care about that district, fund a grassroots group building a presence there.
- Don’t give to candidates with more money than they need (which depends on the candidate’s competition and district). Sometimes, they are willing to share with other candidates for the greater good, but then they get to make that choice, not you.
- Don’t give to the Democratic party in general because they are inflexible at best and stagnant at worst. Only give to them if there is a division working efficiently on the ground. Some examples are the NEAZ Native Dems in Arizona and County parties in North Carolina. The Democratic Governors Association and Democratic Association of Secretaries of State are other good subgroups.
- Don’t donate on a whim for appeals that are coercive. For example, Quarterly fundraising goals or other similar countdowns. If you hear this from someone you have donated to in the past, only give if you would have done so in the absence of this guilt messaging. Stick to your budget.
How to stop the deluge of requests:
- Don’t give your mobile phone number. If you still get texts, type in “STOP.” Unfortunately, you will have to do this for each campaign.
- Unsubscribe from their emails. This actually saves them money – they have to pay for these emails, and if you don’t intend to donate to them, you can save them some money.
It’s time to act.
Your donations are very important, and none are too small to make a difference. But budgeting and giving strategies can help you navigate needs vs. pleas. We have 13 months before November – it’s time to get started!