Campaigns: Donations

donate2Donating to a political campaign or political party at the federal, state, or local level can be effective with a donation of just over $200. The reason this is true is because so few Americans actually donate to political causes. According to an analysis of FEC campaign donor disclosure data by Open Secrets, only 0.40 percent of the U.S. population gave more than $200 to political candidate, political parties, or PACs in 2011-12. The FEC requires that federal campaigns, parties, and PACs disclose the names, addresses, occupations, and employers of anyone who contributes $200 or more. These same groups must try to maintain names and addresses on anyone who donates between $50 and $199. The FEC collects this information and makes it public. Every state has its own requirements for reporting donors and expenditures by candidates, political parties, and PACs.

helpThis provides opportunities for a citizen lobbyist who wants to use fund-raising and campaign donations as part of his or her strategy to affect change. Particularly in a local or state political campaign where donors are small and harder to come by, a citizen lobbyist who can mobilize a fund-raiser that brings in a relatively modest amount of money—but that is significant in the donor list of a campaign—makes an opportunity for her- or himself. It is very important to check state campaign laws before taking any action—and even to check with the campaign staff. One popular idea for grassroots efforts is to have someone host a barbecue in a backyard or park. Someone donates the main course (protein) and everyone else brings the side dishes and dessert. Then everyone pays a barbecue fee to attend. The barbecue fee than becomes the donation/contribution to the campaign.

Just like the thousand-dollar-a-plate fund-raising dinners that the public often hears about during national campaigns, a smaller grassroots effort may generate local media attention, and it would certainly get the attention of the campaign when the money is turned in. Just be sure to follow all applicable disclosure laws and regulations for the individuals who attend any event or contribute to the event.

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