Crowdfunding For Political Campaigns

Everyone in the political space knows how hard it is to raise money. This week, I read an interesting article in TechVibes about how more and more non-profits are turning towards crowdfunding, as more traditional donation campaigns see declining results: “Internet-facilitated fundraising methods, such as crowdsourcing, allow people to raise money for niche causes that might be closer to the heart than those supported by large, amorphous entities such as the United Way, which has seen a steady decline in donations over the past five years in Greater Vancouver.”

The article goes notes that in 2012 alone, 30% of the 2.5 billion dollars raised via crowdfunding globally went towards social causes. it also explains that crowdfunding is inherently social, and appeals to the “iPad generation”: Unlike most dated leading fundraising software, crowdfunding platforms are built for the “iPad generation” with lots of social gamification features. The ability to involve your community, launch and brand campaigns as you wish and the ability to offer perks makes crowdfunding a fun event in itself.”

While all that is certainly true, it made me wonder about whether political parties could leverage this approach to help boost their fundraising efforts. In the recent Ontario election, we already saw early signs of this strategy at work, with email blasts asking donors to “help keep this ad on TV”. But what if could be expanded to other items, such as software or other regular needs for Party operations.

This is a similar approach to the “money bomb” technique that most notably the Howard Dean campaign used very successfully in 2002, where his team would set fundraising goals based on very short term objectives.

What I like about it is that the ask can be specific and tied to a goal or objective. The current model focuses on general donations which may go towards staff, offices and other overhead that supporters realize are necessary, but don’t actually get excited about.

Crowdfunding is now a little bit more entrenched in the public consciousness, with successful projects like the Pebble Watch and the Veronica Mars movie. It could also be a very public way to get supporters involved, rather than expecting the Party fundraising operations to do all of the work. You can narrowcast to a particular group or section of the party and enlist their help to help make a particular objective a reality.

While it is certainly out of the box for traditional fundraising approaches, it may also prove to be a very effective tool for political campaigns suffering from donor fatigue.

  • Michael Ras

    I like the idea, but a whole lot of rule changes would need to take place. For municipal and provincial campaigns, it’s residency in the province, for example. There is also the requirement to give address contact info and many of the crowdsourcing initiatives have thrived on anonymous donors (at least to my understanding).
    A thought picking up on this idea is to have a particular niche cause – say support for preservation of wetlands … something that can get people motivated to donate – and have candidates (regardless of political stripe or municipal jurisdiction) sign on to support that particular cause. Money would be donated to the particular cause and allocated to the candidates who pledge their support. This way, individuals support the cause they care about rather than a particular candidate, which for some is off-putting. (I suppose this is not much different than the PAC system in the U.S., though hopefully with more transparency.) There would need to be rule changes for political fundraiser to accomplish something like this, but it could be worth pursuing as a way to get people engaged in issues, rather than in candidate campaigns.