I have been asking for money for organizations or campaigns, or at least working for organizations and campaigns that ask for money, for a long time. Despite that, I rarely give. When I did give, it was been because someone I know was asking, which figures:
“Asked who could get them to donate to an organization, most Millennial donors say they would be likely or highly likely to give if asked by a family member (74.6%) or a friend (62.8 %). Only 37.8% would be likely or highly likely to give is asked by a coworker.”
But lately, that’s been changing; I’ve gotten a bit addicted to supporting progressive causes I believe in (e.g. here, here, here, here and more that hasn’t been reported yet). Multiple, small contributions – aren’t I just the millennial online donating cliche :)
Partially, it’s because there’s an incredibly important election happening in Massachusetts and I’ve been happy to give to Governor Deval Patrick because I appreciate that he’s helped Massachusetts lead the country in access to healthcare, job creation, student achievement, and because his administration represents an important change of pace in Massachusetts government (actually passing reforms, working with unions to get concessions that work, closing the Mass Turnpike Authority [don't ask], and investing in infrastructure across the whole state).
But part of it’s for another reason. It’s the same reason I’ve been able to raise $335 for our volunteer-run Young Democrats of Massachusetts with no financial investment on our part – or more significantly, that Gov. Patrick has raised more than $1.3 million from nearly 6,000 contributors online. Online giving makes you feel good, and is good for you. And ActBlue is an incredibly easy way to make your campaign feel good, too.
For those not familiar with ActBlue, there are a few great benefits you should be aware of – and then you should sign-up:
- An incredibly easy mobile site (I kid you not, I raised $15 from a friend at a bar using my Droid in 5 minutes)
- Facebook app to integrate with your campaign Fan Page and supporter’s personal pages
- The ability for supporters to create personal fundraising pages (like Young Dems for Deval)
- Very easy tools to help supporters fundraise after they give like sharing on Facebook and Twitter, as well as a great email tool
- Easy integration with your website (just look at all of the ActBlue embedding I’ve added to ydma.org)
- Ability to create multiple pages for multiple fundraising campaigns, as well as multiple event registration pages
- Using multiple pages and the ability to track URLs by referral codes enables great tracking and measuring
But the great features aren’t the only reason to get connected:
- Online fundraising is the way to reach your next generation of contributors. According to the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet, “In the 2004 presidential election, nearly all young donors gave online – more than 80 percent of those 18 to 34.” Also see “Young Voters Bolster Campaigns Through Online Donations” and “Online Giving: Donors Are Younger, More Generous, and in a Hurry to Help.”
- Getting someone to give even a small amount online increases the chance of them giving again or getting involved in other ways
- Young people will only have a voice when we change the fact that “More than 60 percent of all 2004 donors were over 50, and that was true in 1996 and 2000 as well. Just 2 percent of donors who gave $200 or more in 2004 were under 35.”
- Online giving is on the rise, even if it’s been rising slower during the recession, with lots of potential for further growth. Also check out the Nonprofit e-benchmark study.
- Did I mention it doesn’t cost anything besides some time?
And what got me to enter my credit card information on a website other than GrubHub or eBay?
- For me, low dollar events in almost every case – from a Turkey Fry in Dorchester, bash in Downtown Crossing, evening with David Plouffe, and the list goes on. Young professionals like the opportunity to network or the sense that they’re getting something directly from their contribution, so events are a great way to get the wallet opened up – and ActBlue makes the registration process easy.
- As mentioned before, being asked by someone you know will always be the most likely way, and some of our YDM Board members have done a great job of introducing new donors to our PAC through ActBlue’s easy tools
- What about emails? While I think Governor Patrick’s campaign is doing amazing things on every front, none of his email appeals have resonated. They tend to run on for four or five paragraphs, and lack the bullets, bolding, images, and linking that I think would increase response rates (seriously, guys, there should be a link in the first two paragraphs of a fundraising appeal). I’d also encourage more targeted appeals (“hey young people.. yada yada yada.. give $5, $15, or $50″), more exigency (“help us meet this deadline,” “give today so we can stay on the airwaves tomorrow,” etc.), and more talk of specifically what my contribution will enable.
Regardless of what you give, or to whom, it’s important you get involved now. And even if you can’t give, you can find a candidate you like and create a fundraising page for them.
Until we are able to undo the notion of “corporations = people” and take money out of politics, campaigns are some of the most important causes you can give your time and/or resources to. I’m not saying give less to the 501c3’s charitable organizations you support, but I am saying stay in one extra night, skip a few coffees, or otherwise redirect $25 to a candidate who represents the values you care about (like Deval Patrick).
And if your a progressive campaign or qualified advocacy organization, sign up for ActBlue now.
Nonprofiteers: Don’t just give, get involved. Government has a direct impact – and all to often neglect – for the nonprofit sector. You can blame some politicians – on both sides – for not being involved enough in our sector. But you can absolutely blame the thousands of nonprofits that don’t understand that the third sector needs to act like all the rest and play an active role in the political process. There are some things you and your organization can legally do (PDF) related to ballot initiatives (PDF) and public policy, but budding nonprofit leaders would be wise to start finding ways to get involved in other aspects of the political process.
Part of the reason I’m so adamant in my support for Gov. Patrick is because I know he looks at the role of government the same way I do. Government should help strengthen our communities by helping people help themselves. And I know he knows nonprofits play a crucial role in that. Helping people with disabilities lead independent lives, included in our community. Empowering the most vulnerable people in our communities. Enabling people to go to work because they don’t need to stay home to take care of a loved one every day. Employing more people that many of the other sectors we’re investing heavily in. Acting as an economic engine. Check out the leadership he showed addressing nonprofit human service agencies in 2008 and 2009.
For some quick tips on getting your campaigns online giving and other strategies off the ground, check out Learning from Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond and Internet Media Strategy Tips for Political Candidates. Happy campaigning.
Whether you’re a 501c3 nonprofiteer, advocacy organization, or campaign, let us know your favorite fundraising tool and the most important features to you!