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In yesterday's Washington Post, T.W. Farnam apparently thought it would be illuminating to compare grassroots donors to addicts. The article is the other half of a classic D.C. lose-lose attack on the grassroots: if you don't give, you're a feckless mass who can't be trusted to come through for candidates, and if you do give you're rubes at mercy of canny political operatives.

Unconsidered in the article is the apparently outlandish possibility that grassroots donors are making their own decisions about who to support–that they aren't just money pinatas to be beaten by enterprising staffers when cash gets low. Crazy, I know. 

Beyond the condescending frame and patronizing tone, the article still has a huge problem: what's the alternative? Over the past two years we've seen a marked erosion of campaign finance law, always to the benefit of monied interests. If grassroots donors don't step up to provide a counterweight to that ever-increasing concentration of power, the end result will be the total capture of our electoral system by those interests. Voters will just be the people who show up on election day to ratify a choice that was made long before ballots were printed.

And that's the real reason why grassroots giving matters: by engaging in the fundraising process, grassroots donors are taking ownership of their political future. To use a well-worn GOP chestnut, they have "skin in the game." Grassroots donors raised over half a million dollars for Kathy Hochul (D-NY) and helped her pull out an unlikely win in NY-26. That kind of participation fulfills the promise of American democracy, and shouldn't be treated like some kind of hideous affliction brought on by the digital age. 

Tomorrow marks the end of the first quarter of 2010, and campaigns will be sending out their last emails before the FEC reporting period ends. But EOQ isn't just for campaigns, it's an opportunity for grassroots fundraisers to get in on the action.

First, take a look at our step-by-step guide to creating your own fundraising page. I've also included a few tips below to help you maximize your success.

  • Your request should be personal and urgent. Explain why you support your candidate and why your prospective donors should as well.
  • Make use of your social networks. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, make sure to post or tweet links to your fundraising page. Ask your friends to donate and retweet the page using ActBlue's handy Twitter and Facebook integrations.
  • Make sure you link people directly to the contribution form. The more your donors have to click, the less likely they are to give. (To find your page's contribution form, after you've created your page, click on the "contribute" button and copy the URL on the page you're redirected to.)
  • Relatedly, be sure to fill out the "Your Contribution Blurb" field. The text you put there will appear on the contribution form, so you're reminding your donors why they should give as they fill out the form. If you've already created your page, you can edit it by clicking on the "Edit" tab in the gray toolbar at the top of your page. 
  • Once you've created your page, click on the "Goal" tab to set a fundraising goal. Your progress toward that goal will be tracked with a nifty thermometer graphic, which lets your donors know how close they are to that goal.
  • Above all: don't get discouraged. Like baseball, fundraising is a game of
    failures. Thank the people who do give and keep asking. We have a few tips to help you
    ask successfully. 

Remember, all the money that comes through your page is tagged as such in the campaign's contribution reports, so your success will enable you to build credit with the people running the show.

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