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Welcome to the latest installment of our monthly stats reports. The summer months are filled with Democratic primaries, but before we get into them we’d like to take a look back at the month of May. With major Democratic contests taking place in Arkansas and Pennsylvania, it’s been a busy month on ActBlue. Let’s dig in:

First, the May 2010 Overview.

Number of contributions 40,130
Total raised $4,111,081.87
Average contribution size $102.44
Committees receiving money 1,304
Fundraising pages receiving money 1,080
Fundraising pages created 733

 

May 2008 May 2010 Change
Contributions 18,674 40,130 115%
Volume ($) $3,603,205 $4,111,081 14%
Mean Donation $192.95 $102.44 -47%
Committees 885 1,304 47%
Pages Created 516 733 42%
Pages w/ Money 611 1,080 77%

 

As in previous months, the number of contributions doubled relative to 2008, with impressive growth in dollar volume, fundraising page activity, and the number of individual candidates in committees receiving money through ActBlue.

Here are the Top 10 Campaigns & Committees for May 2010 (by donors).

Name Race Donors Raised
Bill Halter AR-Sen, 2010 12,947 $407,551.28
Joe Sestak PA-Sen, 2010 4,377 $256,022.07
PCCC Organization 2,106 $19,910.82
Democracy for America Organization 2,048 $17,670.50
Ann McLane Kuster NH-02, 2010 1,319 $17,986.56
David Segal RI-01, 2010 1,229 $51,818.80
Jack Conway KY-Sen, 2010 1,171 $49,504.13
Mark Critz PA-12, 2010 967 $107,807.95
Marcy Winograd CA-36, 2010 942 $19,397.19
Gavin Newsom CA-Lt Gov, 2010 741 $201,321.00

 

In May, AR-Sen. challenger Bill Halter was the top candidate on ActBlue by both total donors and dollars raised. Lifted by a contested primary with national attention, Halter was the focus of online fundraising from a multitude of sources which included the support of fellow Top 10 groups–the PCCC and Democracy for America. A major primary battle against Sen. Arlen Specter powered Rep. Joe Sestak into the #2 spot, and the special election for Rep. Murtha’s seat brought fellow PA candidate Mark Critz into the #7 berth. An engaged Netroots community pushed Kentucky senate hopeful Jack Conway up to #6. California’s early June primary saw Lt. Gov candidate Gavin Newsom and congressional candidate Marcy Winograd safely into the #9-10 slots. 

We’ll a number of these candidates again when we look at the Top 10 Fundraising Pages (by donors) for May 2010:

Name Donors Raised Average
pccchalterfield 3063 $51,707.57 $16.88
supportbillhalter 1780 $38,937.50 $21.87
orangetoblue2010 1263 $89,891.95 $71.17
halterpoll 989 $15,756.00 $15.93
supportjoesestak 752 $28,186.20 $37.48
davidsegalpccc 624 $10,122.51 $16.22
newsom0522 590 $141,244.00 $239.39
billhalter 572 $11,692.60 $20.44
2010pccc 563 $15,447.42 $27.43
critzdccc 555 $57,405.00 $103.43

 

Looking at these successful pages, all linked above, we see three that make use of our support for embedded video, four with ActBlue’s fundraising goal based thermometers, and three that have branded ActBlue pages. We can see how fundraising for candidates as a group can create a halo effect; organizations that include themselves on fundraising pages tend to earn funds of their own in conjunction with their supported candidates. 

To learn more about fundraising pages and how to start your own, click here.

Matt Yglesias has a post up about fundraising and filibuster reform, which

Highlight[s] that political fundraising is a good place to be
uncompromising. There’s no sense in “staying home” on Election Day or
casting protest votes for can’t-win candidates. You look at the two
candidates with the best chance for winning and you
vote—enthusiastically—for the better of the two candidates. But money is
different.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's primary battles, that seems rather apparent. But I'd like to dig a little deeper, because I think Matt hits on something in his post that's central to political fundraising, and particularly pertinent right now:

The world of high-dollar fundraising is about donors making wagers. If you're the sort of person who can afford to drop $4,800 on a number of federal campaigns, you're more interested in the access you'll get to the candidate if they win. It's transactional–the donor is betting that money now will result in access later. As an aside, let me note that in order for that gamble to make sense, the candidate has to be both "viable" and receptive to your position.

Grassroots fundraising is a bit different. I'm fond of saying that ActBlue was the platform that figured out how to monetize Democratic passion, and that captures the essential point. Grassroots donors give because they're passionate. What exactly they're passionate about is hard to say–hundreds of thousands of donors have given through ActBlue, with motivations as various as they are. 

But the general point is this: high-dollar donors are making a calculation, while grassroots donors are expressing themselves.

That distinction has important implications for campaigns. Passion generates important external benefits, or spillover effects. A grassroots donor has invested in the campaign in a very real way, and that
predisposes them to participate in the future. A donor who gives to a campaign is more likely to volunteer or vote for the candidate in question, and more likely to give again. In short, they become engaged in a way they weren't before.

Passion produces engagement, and engagement produces viability. The fact that the Halter and Sestak campaigns worked to connect with grassroots donors and amassed significant funds as a result is not a triviality. Running against an establishment candidate usually results in a financial chokehold, but the money that Sestak received from grassroots donors made it possible for him to stay in race and fund the devastating ads that led to Specter's defeat. A similar set of circumstances applies in Halter's race.

Obviously the interconnections here are vast and complex, and we can argue all day about the value of a dollar or a donor in a given race versus an endorsement or press hit. But I think it's pretty inarguable that the rise of online grassroots fundraising has broadened political participation and, as a result, the spectrum of viable candidates. More voter participation and voter choice are unquestionably good things.

Finally, In a more self-interested vein, I'd like to echo Matt's last point:

You’re only going to give so much money away in a year, and you might as
well hold out for politicians or political organizations … who are really doing a good job.

Agreed. I'd suggest ActBlue, for one.

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