Small Campaign Donations Are Big

The Democratic field for the 2020 race seems overwhelming, but this race and the way races in general operate now mean you have much more control over the outcome than you think. We hear the term “grassroots” a lot and this has several meanings, but it ultimately means that the organizers at the smallest or least powerful level are really responsible for mobilizing. This can apply in the field with local offices, online with social media and promotion or it can apply in the most important way-donations.

You have the ability to shape the candidate’s platform and help them develop their plans that could ultimately lead to policy.

The modern campaign relies on smaller, more frequent direct donations from people who are more likely to go out and vote for the candidate they are funding. These donations provide a quick influx of money that can often be obtained with a simple email or social media request, but they also provide grassroots credibility in a time when candidates need bragging power to elevate themselves from others who are taking PAC or big donor money. It’s critical for campaigns to have access to quick income to meet campaign and party deadlines, but it’s really important for a candidate to be able to stand on a debate stage and explain their numbers come from small donors. This is powerful for them and for you.

You have the ability to shape the candidate’s platform and help them develop their plans that could ultimately lead to policy. When a candidate makes a speech or a video that appeals to something the electorate wants to see, there is an influx of donations and this reward lets the candidate know they are on to a popular sentiment, that this is something you want to see from them. It also lets other candidates know that something another person did is gaining traction and forces them to pay attention. You may think that a small donation of a few dollars every time you are impressed with a candidate is nothing much, but when many people are doing the same thing, it amounts to a lot. It is the fastest and most effective form of feedback you can instantly give your preferred candidates in the Democratic race right now and it only costs you a few dollars. 

It can feel overwhelming, especially when you are only giving small amounts at a time, but if you were impacted by what a candidate said and donated as a result, many people did.

For example, Elizabeth Warren came out with a groundbreaking plan to alleviate student debt for many by erasing up to $50,000 of student loans for those who qualify based on income. This made a huge impression and shaped the discussion on the entire campaign trail for weeks to come. Then she rolled out a calculator on her website for people to check what their benefit would be under her plan, which kept that momentum going. The result was undoubtedly an uptick in donations, which benefits her campaign in two immediate ways: she gets critical funding and instant data about what is working and what people really respond to. This is often more beneficial than hundreds of local meet and greets which take much more time and energy. The campaign is able to see where the direct donations are coming from in terms of demographics-your location, your age, your interests. You are being counted and heard at a never before seen speed. 

You can also help shape the issues for your preferred candidate by donating to other candidates. For example, you have your favorite picked out, nothing will change your mind, but you really want to see her develop a stronger stance on gun control or the environment or the opioid crisis. A great way to do this is through smaller donations to candidates who are speaking out on those issues and proposing plans that resonate with you. This is a great way to get the candidate you will vote for to expand their policies while staying loyal and not disparaging their campaign. It’s a positive and effective way to get the candidates to listen and evolve strategy.

It can feel overwhelming, especially when you are only giving small amounts at a time, but if you were impacted by what a candidate said and donated as a result, many people did. I had originally decided that I would donate my time and save my contributions for the general election, when the chosen candidate would need a huge influx of money. But there are now other milestone obstacles, such as donation quotas just to qualify for the Democratic Debates. These small donations are critical now as well. What feels like a little turns into a lot and this is mutually powerful. As we continue through the grueling process of selecting a Democratic candidate for 2020, remember that you can help shape the platform moving forward utilizing grassroots action and create the best possible candidate for all of us.

Amee Vanderpool writes the “Shero and a Scholar” Newsletter and is an an attorney, contributor to Playboy Magazine, analyst for BBC radio and Director of The Inanna Project. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.