Power And Dollar

CNN Advertisement: Time To Buy Republican

The author (John Feehery) of this CNN commentary is a political operative, lobbyist, etc.  He makes his living by using his access to the Republicans.  When Republicans are in disarray, so is his livelihood.  In order to drum up more business, he has to encourage his potential customers to spend money in Republicans.  This article is very consistent in his message about “bottom out”.  He also points out very explicitly that political entrepreneurs will see opportunities. 

He is also very good at organizing his advertisement into 5 bullet points.  These points are also in order to of investment relevance rather than political ideology relevance. 

All his points are very valid.  However, the advertisement taste is a little too obvious.

Since when CNN did distributing ad content in place of news content?


May 7, 2009 Posted by | activism, advocacy, Current Events, Democrats, fundraising, legislation, nonprofits, politics, Republican, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

Electioneering 102: A Lesson From Green Party of Canada

The federal election in Canada concluded on 2008.10.14.  The incumbent party won another mandate.  There are a lot of interesting content in this election to fill the media.  However, for the purpose of Electioneering, this story may not make the cut to the paper, let alone to the headline.  This case study lesson is experienced by the Leader of Green Party of Canada.  This biggest contribution of this race is: how to choose a spot to run.  The most applicable lesson of this is still city councilor.  


Green Party of Canada has been increasing its vote share ever since the turn of the millennium.  In 2006, they got 4.48% of the votes and no seats in the parliament.  After that election, the Leader of the party then did not run in the leadership race again.  It then became an open race and Elizabeth May won the leadership.  She was an Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada, with government bureaucrat experience, a law degree and a recipient of Order of Canada.  She ran a by-election earlier, against all parties and got the second largest votes in that race.  


Green Party has long held the position that they are unable to win a seat because they are excluded from the televised debates.  This election proves that a televised debate did not help.  


May was looking for an epic race.  This could have been the first sign of trouble.  An election is not about making a statement.  Election is about finding the most representative will of the people.  By being the leader and possibly the first elected officer of a party, May’s election is more important than any other candidate.  There is a lot of media attention, political resources, volunteer resources, and money involved in a leader’s race.  Therefore, it is only prudent to maximum the vote, not to dramatize an epic.  


If you are running in a city councilor race (or county board, school board, etc), you run to win.  Any other objective is mischievous, and misleading the voters.  It is true that people run elections for all kinds of reasons, some of them noble too.  However, it is only when you aim to win would you be serving your voters, be honest to your voters, donors, volunteers and other kinds of supporters.  Furthermore, if you do not run to win, your result tends to sink, even if you got some special interest groups’ backing because your true primary motives usually affect your plan, execution and result.  For instance, since your real motive is a geography A, you divert more resources to that area instead.  However, that area may be a contestable area.  if the votes are already secured, no need to get vote there.  However, you are doing it there to serve your personal interests.  So, your volunteer hours are lost, your lawn signs are wasted.  Alternatively, you may be interested at a specific donor group.  Similarly you wasted your campaign.


Liberal party delivered their promise not to contest against May in order to maximize her chances to a seat, wherever her choosing.  This promise is also unlikely to be offered in the next election since the leader of Liberal party is also in his trouble.  And no one should plan a race with the expectation that this offer will be made twice anyway.  


May placed this epic over at Central Nova, where the incumbent runs a dynasty there: 2 generations of incumbent, close to 10 elections.  This is where the second problem is.  One should contest in a place to win, not a place to dramatize.  By being the leader, she can choose any leader she wanted.  She should have picked a riding where


1)       The Liberal candidate is not the incumbent, however strong enough that the votes actually matter in her race;

2)       The Green votes are decent, say above the 2006’s record of 4.48% votes;

3)       Incumbent votes are actually weak; below 50% is minimum requirement.  The lower the better. 

4)       Since there are 3 major parties contesting in every riding in Canada, an ideal riding is where all three parties split their votes, i.e. around 30% each.  Of course this is unrealistic.


Election is a contest of organization, stamina of the salesman (candidate), branding (party), money (fundraising) and product (platform).  A leader got the luxury of choosing a riding, which most people cannot afford the infrastructure investment to do.  Building up a local political network to support is not easy.  However, this is fairly accomplishable if you were interested at a city race.  Changing a house from this corner of the town to that corner is not too difficult.  What is the ideal demographic for you?  Ethnic group? Income class? Age group? Occupation?  Family status? 


If she spent 30 minutes to look around the >300 ridings in Canada, she maybe able to see that there are multiple ridings where Liberal is the incumbent, however with >25% of votes; Green votes are above 5%, and the incumbent got votes around mid 30%.  


With 30 minutes of your time, you can see that Welland is one such riding where the incumbent is Conservative.  Vancouver Kingsway is another one, where the incumbent is NDP.  There are probably others.  These 2 may not deliver an ideal environment for victory.  However, the point is there are potential sites to choose from.


If May knew that it wasn’t going to be a victory, then dramatizing an epic is not a bad option.  However, in your case, don’t run.  An election is costly not only to you, but also to your supporters in forms other than money.  


If you plan to remove a low performing incumbent, then get all the prospective candidates together.  Gamble all resources in only one person.  So, all your prospective candidates may want to have a quasi primary to determine who will have the best shot.  

October 22, 2008 Posted by | activism, advocacy, canada, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, environment, fundraising, nonprofits, politics, Republican, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

What About Lobbyists’ Money?

CNN is talking about lobbyists’ money.  Lobbying is inherent to the business of politics.  The very action of voting is a form of lobbying.  The threat should be more focused on if one is lobbying for the interests of some minority group.  If Americans want to prevent lobbying for the interests of some minority groups, than it is no different from the British parliament system where minority lives in the shadow of majority.  That would be markedly different from the American constitution where the judicial branch checks against the Congress, i.e. the tyranny of majority.  The threat media reports focuses on lobbying by money.  This is not unique to presidential politics.  This happens in every state, county and municipal just as well.  Politics happens when there are two or more parties who exchange interests.  The relevant question is how to manage lobbying. 


The convincing lobbying is to lobby politicians by votes.  The back door to this is to lobby by money.  That is why there are laws around election financing. 


A lot of countries manage lobbying with campaign financing laws.  America is no exception.  The law manages this problem by limiting donation amount per individual.  Ever since Clinton’s administration, it changed to donation limit by citizen.  However, more can be done:


Currently, any political action committee can accept donation.  That can change to only political parties and declared campaigns.  

Furthermore, can charity donate? Incorporated?  Labor union?

What about the campaign surplus?

What about donation in kind?  

What about expenses?  Can a vendor charge an amount lower than the fair market value?  Is that in kind donation?

What about money lent to campaigns?

What about third party campaigns during election times?  Say WWF or NRA running ads during election times without any references to candidates?

What is the definition of a volunteer?  Some people may have very strong interests in being a volunteer full time.


Media’s focus should direct the fire to the debate of campaign financing since Obama will not take this issue up to debate.

July 29, 2008 Posted by | activism, advocacy, Barack Obama, business, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, fundraising, John McCain, mccain, nonprofits, obama, opinion, politics, Republican, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

Why Do I Care If Obama Opting Out Public Financing?

Obama changed his mind: he will not use public funding now.  Obama’s decision also reflects his comfort level of this campaign.  McCain says he will consider opting out as well.  The truth is McCain cannot afford not to.  McCain’s funding is so low that he can barely run a competitive campaign against Obama.  With Republican side running low on campaign personnels due to removals of lobbyists from the presidential campaign, low morale of loyalists and casualties’ from Bush years, McCain will have such a disadvantage that Obama may have a easy ride.  


For it not because Obama is a populist and a challenger with a very unpopular incumbent, his decision of using private donation would draw some fire.  America, because of Obama’s decision, now missed a great opportunity to debate what kind reform the US election laws should take, especially election financing.  


America champions itself as the model of democracy.  However, America has not spent much time formulating what kind of election financing system works best.  Obama’s decision actually buries this important question for at least another decade.  


No one likes politicians.  And using tax money to help politicians is unlikely popular.  


Why is this question important?  And isn’t his micro-donor system good enough?


Money is the mother’s mile of politics.  There are a few other big items we will not have a chance to reflect on the great intellectual capacities both McCain and Obama can provide us before the TV box:


1)       What shall we do with campaign surplus? 

2)       Who can lend money to a campaign?  And what to do when a candidate cannot pay off the debt?

3)       Who can be a donor?  Certainly only citizens.  What about companies?  Unions?  Non-profits? 

4)       Who can accept political donations?  Are political parties and candidates the only entities who can accept donations?

5)       What about third party campaigns during election times?  Say WWF or NRA running ads during election times without any references to candidates?

6)       What is the definition of a volunteer?  Some people may have very strong interests in being a volunteer full time.


These items may be mundane and uninteresting when compared to jobs, health care and foreign policy.  However, they decide who will have more face time with any aspiring candidates, running candidates and incumbents.  These items are no different than defining what an “eligible voter” is or what a valid ID is at the voting precinct.  



June 19, 2008 Posted by | activism, advocacy, Barack Obama, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, fundraising, John McCain, mccain, nonprofits, obama, opinion, politics, Republican, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs | 1 Comment

Clinton Contributed A Great Lesson: Electioneering 101

For any aspiring politician, say an aspiring city councilor, Clinton has taught us a very good lesson, especially her Iowa race.  Since the lesson is most useful for an aspiring city councilor, I will focus on that particular case.  A primary is more similar to city councilor race (versus challenging an incumbent) than house/governor races since city councilor races usually remove the party affiliation; since all candidates in a primary are from the same party, party affiliation is also meaningless.  


There are almost always more than 2 candidates running for any city councilor seat anywhere in the country.  Not many candidates can run more than 2 full fledge campaigns in his life since campaigns are costly.  Therefore, one has to know if he has before pouring money in.  Alternatively, if $ is not a big issue, as in the case for Clinton, how much resources are you supposed to pour in to secure the Iowa race?


This is equivalent to: what is your self knowledge?  



How many votes were cast in the last city councilor seat election?  How many candidates were there?  How many votes were needed to secure the seat?  If it is a challenger race, then please assume the incumbent will continue to get similar votes, no matter how incompetent he is.  If Clinton wanted to secure the Iowa race, Clinton should have checked properly how many people attended the caucuses, the amount of volunteers needed to mobilize attendance, the field staffs needed to find volunteers.  


Now that you know the votes,


Where are the votes distributed?  Which precinct got the votes?  How many eligible voters in those precincts?  What are the voting rates in each precinct?  


You will only want to spend your resources in the high voting rate areas.  It is not only about money, but also time.  For you to be a credible, competent, and winning candidate, walking the area is essential.  


In fact, this is why there are so many precinct captains.  These are the people who hold this kind local knowledge.  They walk for the parties every time.  They know which household is more receptive to this or that party.  They know which household votes.  They know if they will want to be a volunteer.  True, party affiliation is unimportant for local races.  Party is an institution that accumulates this kind of vital intelligence.  


This is where Clinton also failed.  Running Iowa was almost like an after thought for Clinton.  No enough research was done in Iowa.



If the party office of the local does its homework properly, then it should accumulate the information such votes / walking hours, votes / lawn signs for each precinct.  Now this is a good piece of information for you to see what kind results you should expect.  Can you get hold of last election’s voters list?  Can you get hold of last election’s voters check list?  Do you remember the scruntineers at the precinct?  They check your name off in order to prevent voting fraud.  However, the party collects this information over time.  A voter who voted last time is more likely to vote this time.  If you are short on pamphlets, then you know your priorities.  In fact, the purpose of a political party is to create an institution: knowledge accumulation, branding, and staffing fundraising operatives.



How many people do you need for your campaign machine?  Now that you know how many votes you need and where they are distributed, you get a rough idea about the man hours, pamphlets, lawn signs are needed.  Do you have the people to walk all the votes you need?

Exactly because Iowa was an after thought, Clinton did not have enough pay staff and volunteers.  And since Obama was an under dog and he was a field organizer in Chicago, he out performed everyone else in Iowa in terms of volunteer strength and field organization.



There are more lessons to be learnt from both this Obama vs Clinton in this classic and text book like election and fundraising campaigns.  And they are better discussed when the time comes especially since they are not related to Iowa.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | activism, advocacy, Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, fundraising, Hillary Clinton, nonprofits, obama, opinion, politics, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

How Much $ Will A Super Delegate Cost To Obama (Or Clinton)?

Obama needs approximately 80 super delegates.  How much will these 80 super delegates cost him? 


There are 280 uncommitted super delegates left. 217 pledged delegates are left for contest.  Obama needs 189 to win (Clinton needs 356). 


At this stage, the answer of electability is fairly clear.  Each candidate’s core constituency is known; their turn out rate is know.  Nothing can really get “negotiated” there.  You see what you buy.  Similarly for platform.  Other than a noble cause to vote for the winnable candidate, is there something a candidate can do for a super delegate just to get one additional vote?


It goes down to the question: what will convince a super delegate to vote for a candidate?  Electability?  Policy platform?  Popular vote count? Or something else?


All these above are very legitimate criteria.  However, some super delegates may have something more urgent on their hands: their own incumbency.  If a super delegate is in a tight race, his personal interest may be more at stake.  And Obama is not naïve about this: he has been fundraising for other candidates to gather favours.  The earliest senator endorsements are of this type. 


Other trades are typical political brokering: a promise of a specific legislation or pork barrel project.  What about fundraising support for a super delegate’s 2010 governor race?  Now, we are talking about money, real money for a politician.


Political Action Committees are the only ones that can accept political donations.  And they are owned by politicians.  The owner can forward the money to another PAC.  In fact, the surplus after campaigns belongs to the candidate.  They are structured very much like a personal account.  The point of this status is for the monitoring of Federal Election Committee.  


What did McCain do after he won over Huckabee?  Help pay off Giuliani’s campaign debt.  How?  Forward the money from his PAC!  Now, why did McCain do that?  Once Giuliani is out of the picture and since Giuliani and McCain share similar constituency, McCain wants to use Giuliani to help do fundraising.  And Giuliani was too busy with his own debt.  So, a favour was made, and a favour was returned.  


If the race gets another dramatic turn, the cost of super delegate will definitely rise since the Obama’s need of super delegate will increase.  However, if Obama can win the race all by him (through pledged delegate), then there is no need for Obama to get any more super delegate.  If not, no matter how much old politics he distains, he is still not immune to realities.  

May 7, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, fundraising, Hillary Clinton, opinion, politics, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs | 2 Comments

Learn It From Shrimp and Election

In any given year, I would see the following news story by CNN as a human rights issue.  Not this year.  In a year where we have a long and arduous primary on the left side, the Thai shrimp story is a good way for a non-profit to get the attention to the topic it cares the most: free trade.  Here is the link to the story: 


Who sponsored the study? According to CNN, it is an “international nonprofit allied organization of the AFL-CIO”.  Even if AFL-CIO did not intend to project this issue on the stage of primary race, the media is doing the job.   

What is the interests of this story?  This story is to drive the readers to import products are morally tainted.  To prevent that is to establish a higher labour rights overseas among our free-trade trading partners.  That will increase the costs of production overseas and thus make the domestic products more competitive, at least domestically.  And even though US may not import shrimps from Thailand, the image that “imports are morally tainted” is implanted in the minds of the voters.

This is the same tactic (or effect) that the Tibet protests / Olympic torch protests achieve.  If the timing of these stories are timed and are in a sequence, then they can build up a very effective momentum to force the issue from an individual story into a campaign issue where all candidates cannot afford to ignore. 

Of course, the organization has to have some sort of ground level organization to make it work effectively, such as “concerned citizens” asking the right question in town hall meetings when the candidates attend.  And such schedule is easy to obtain.  Better yet, find out which media outlet and the name of the reporter were attending.  (planting)

And when third party campaign work (i.e. soft money) in conjunction with these releases, they become powerful.  While the media attention is on the issue, fundraising can get a much better lift of response rate.  The metric of one time donor amount will see a spike.  This is also a wonderful time for donor acquisition.  Elections are exciting, even for shrimping!

April 23, 2008 Posted by | advocacy, Current Events, election, Election 2008, environment, fundraising, nonprofits, opinion, politics, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

Obama vs Clinton: A Lesson on Advocacy / Non-Profit

This 2008 election proves to be a textbook material for advocacy, fundraising and electioneering, even better than 2000 election.  Clinton’s victory will certainly encourage her to continue her race.  What Clinton shows this time in Pennsylvania is similar to what Obama showed when he was the underdog: money does not buy election victory all the time.  Clinton won by 10%, CNN reports.




An indecisive Obama Super Tuesday victory brought this “lengthening, torturous” race because, as always, an indecisive result invites the loser for a re-match.  And Clinton gladly took on the challenge of a re-match.


Obama out spent Clinton by 2 to 1.  Obama enjoyed the positive media attention.  And he had the momentum, the most important thing of all.  And he yet he was behind by 10%.  A lot of people may expect him to win and would not be surprised by a loss.  But 10% probably is the threshold for “failure”. 


The real loss of this race so far is Ralph Nader.  He and/or his party have not improved their platform, i.e. the product, much since 2000.  Neither did they improve their election techniques.  Ralph Nader does not have the charm Obama has.  However, the electioneering could have been improved when in fact Obama took the great leap.


Clinton won by canvassing, the most important virtue of a politician.  Politics is a service industry.  Responsiveness to voters, not leadership, is the virtue promoted by democracy.  She canvassed hard in every county, in every city hall.  And she mobilized her daughter and husband in the state.  The air war of TV and Radio ads rained down by Obama did not bring him a victory just like money did not the Iowa victory for Clinton.  Obama won Iowa by the activists.  Clinton won by her hard work and her organization’s (or Governor Ed Rendall’s organization) hard work.  


This race broadened the voter base of Democrats in Pennsylvania.  And this is what advocacy / non-profit groups want.  The organization itself need not lend its name in the campaign in order to reap the benefit of it.  It’s the board members responsibility to participate in individual campaigns in order to gain the political access to the politicians, even though they may be the city council politicians.  It is this type of occasion that the cause focused groups can cultivate the next group of volunteers, big ticket donors, board members, fundraisers.  A broadening base means a longer list of “concerned citizens”.


When an election gets voters excited, voters are more willing to increase their level of civic participation, be it scrutineer, dropping flyer for an advocacy group, phone bank caller for a fundraising campaign of MADD, or even better attendance for the local recycling organization.  Although this race is dragging on, this serves as an opportunity for all non-profit groups to enlarge their voice and base.  


Leadership is wanted when voters are unable to specify their needs.  When change is wanted without a laundry list is change for the sake of change.  A victory by promoting leadership shows people want to be led, people expect someone who knows better than they do.  

April 23, 2008 Posted by | advocacy, clinton, Current Affairs, Democrats, election, Election 2008, environment, fundraising, nonprofits, obama, politics, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

What Can Non-Profits Do For Climate Change?

Bush announced his goals on climate change.  Sierra Club already says Bush’s plan will require a miracle to save our planet.  Even McCain’s ideas are more agressive than Bush’s.  Very little is said about climate change in yesterday’s Pennsylvania presidential debate between Clinton and Obama.  Why is Bush anouncing something so useless and so late?   Is it part of his last minute legacy plan?  How does it relate to my non-profit organization when it is not an advocate of climate change?

This is his stall tactics. 

Getting a bill passed requires a process in the congress and senate.  It goes through committee, agenda arrangement, scope definition, text proof reading among members and aides, negotiation among members, parties and administration.  By providing something (anything), it takes off some of this momentum to his goals. 

Bush realizes that something will get passed in the next administration.  But providing something so vague, he can drag the bargain wide open for the next round of lobbying and thus provide a possibility of pushing a resolution less aggressive than it otherwise would be. 

In other words, he is not aiming for any kind of success.  He is aiming for a pay back to his constituence.  He is not even aiming for a legacy.

However, one point is worth noting: if Bush recognizes the need to address this issue, it will be difficult for anyone in the future to deny climate change.  The remaining question will be what and how: what should be done and how to get it done.

A lot of attention will be focused on what the emission will be.  However, the how question will affect more people in a wider range than media will be able to focus on.  Advocacy groups/nonprofit organizations representing interests not directly affected by the emission will have to pay attention on the how question.  Unfortunately, since media do not focus on the how part, advocacy groups and nonprofit usually lose their sight of it. Here are two examples to achieve the same goal with different implementations and their corresponding effects outside of pollution.

Example: emission legislation requires enforcement.  This will increase the government budget, i.e taxes.  Who gets the worst of it? Small business since cost of compliance always takes up a higher proportion of cost than a big business.  Emission can also be achieved by placing a higher gas tax and increasing personal income tax exemption at the same time without affecting the federal government’s revenue as well as its budgeting.  And the effect will be significantly different in aspects outside of the pollution. 

The former will increase government participation in the overall economy.  The latter will not.  The latter will at the same time help elevate the tax burden on the lowest income bracket tax payers, same the $10k/year income group.  Now, the poverty group suddenly have an interest in how the goals are achieved. 

When attention is so focused on emission, attention on other pressing issues are forgotten.  That is why climate change can be percevied, as an elitest cause, as a competing interest against other interest groups, say proverty groups.  It needs not be.  In fact, groups of different causes can exploit opportunities of any issue to further its own goal without sacrificing the issue of the moment. 

And exactly because advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations may not be able to follow these legislation details as well as being not able to provide these suggestions to complement the legislation to achieve its goals (piggy bag), politicians now can service the interests of the lobbyists’ paying customers without much scrutiny.   Therefore, if the issue of the moment is to discourage a certain behaviour (pollution), then your organization can always advocate to tax that behaviour and cut taxes (or spend that same tax revenue) for your constituence (seniors, students, low income, domestic abuse victim).

Fiscal policy is boring.  However, that is the most effectively way to modify the aggregate behaviour to achieve a goal.  Aggregately, people adjust their behaviour to the most use of their budget.  Even people who do not subscribe to that specific ideology now gets taxed and contributed to the cause.  An issue completely unrelated to your organization’s goal can help you when the implementation can be compromised to your favour.  In fact, you can suddenly become an ally of any issue of the moment, if you can demonstrate you can mobilize votes to support a legislation.

April 17, 2008 Posted by | advocacy, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, environment, fundraising, mccain, nonprofits, obama, opinion, politics, Regulation, Republican, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

Obama vs Clinton: A Lesson on Fundraising and Advocacy

Clinton’s fundraising figures for March is not released yet.  This democrat primary has not been concluded yet.  However, Obama vs. Clinton has given a lot of advocacy organizers, fundraisers and non-profits a very good lesson.  This primary also demonstrates the effect of the changes on election financing laws.    

The news this morning regarding Obama’s fundraising focuses on the $ raised in March.  I would like to stress that it is the quarterly fundraising filing, not a monthly filing.  And the detailed report illustrates only the donors with total amount >$200.  

The donation limit forces candidates to reach a wider donor base than before.  And Clinton appears to miscalculate this effect: she never cultivated this group of donors.  And since Obama was 1) the underdog; 2) was unable to tap into the bigger donor base than Clinton and 3) had experience in organizing grassroots campaign, he farmed the small donors.  And there is an advantage of farming small donors: they are more likely to be your advocates.

Small donors also have less leverage on the candidate (or your nonprofit organization), they cannot assert as much influence as a $100k donors can and do.  That gives the candidate more flexibility which can be a good thing as well as a bad thing.  

Cultivating these donors also require a different kind of talents.  Small donors usually come through direct mail, tele-marketing, online, face-to-face / door-to-door and media buy.  Therefore, the message management team has to play a bigger role, which advantage Clinton should have had.  However, Obama’s fundraisers managed to overcome this. 

Obama obviously had better donor segmentation to achieve this result.  For a nonprofit, this is equally important.  The knowledge of your donor base can see when your donors will have to exit the donation cycle.  Can you see the danger if 70% of your donors are over age 65?  Yes, you can certainly start a bequest/major gift campaign.  But you still need to worry about the sustainability of your organization 5 years from now.  How to create such a campaign anyway?  A lot of organizations are very much into major gift and bequest.  Very few organizations understood bequest campaigns requires talents that are unrelated to major gift fundraisers.

Obama fundraising team should have had better technology in phone bank management.  However, the most dramatic difference between the 2 campaigns is the online advantage Obama had.  Obama has web team that is more capable of generating traffic (keyword management, inbound links, etc).  

Before the donation limit put in place, all these techniques may have been relevant although lower priorities.  Now, they are critical.  Small donation limit means the candidate cannot afford to have face to face with donors himself.  This turns everything into an industrious enterprise.  It’s not about 1 to 1 any more; it is about 1 to N.  

This will be the same for the nonprofit industry, anyone who is (wants to be) a strong advocate of a cause.  Foundation money is larger, but they assert a much larger influence on your cause.  Technology, not only web technology, has made small donor acquisition easier than before and is able to make your cause successful, Obama is a good example of your long ignored cause.  

A small donor is also more likely to be more committed to your cause.  And they are more likely to donate a small amount over a longer period of time.  This makes the financial risk of an organization smaller since financial revenue fluctuation is now smaller.  Converting a donor from a one-time donor to a monthly donor is another specialty in fundraising.

A lot of boards have a difficulty in finding board members who are not only committed to the cause, but also has institutional memory with the organization.  Well, a good place is to find it among its donors.  And so, it is a large number of donors that will help this goal.   

A lot of organizations have fundraising plans.  They usually have a 5 year plan on what to accomplish.  However, they also need to have a 5 year fundraising plan.  What is the % of donors who are <age 45 5 years from now (compare to today)?  What is the % of monthly donors will it be?  How long does a donor stay with the organization (life time value)?  Which occupation / industry gives you the most donors?  Are you surprised of the amount they give and the occupation they are in? Is this an untapped market or under-cultivated donor base?

From organization development perspective, this pro-longed primary is actually good for the Democrats.  They are building up a better donor base, more lists, tapping into markets where they have not been serviced.  This will build up their base for 2010 congress election and beyond.  Of course, there is a cost for that, i.e. reducing time to fight McCain and win the White House.

Obama’s campaign is actually educating a lot of people who are in the field of fundraising and nonprofit/advocacy.

April 4, 2008 Posted by | advocacy, america politics, Current Events, Democrats, election, Electioneering, fundraising, nonprofits, politics, Republican, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 2 Comments