2016 Election Fundraising Results

Yes, exactly what you needed right now was one more article/post/blog/reference to the election.  We’re all sick of it.

I don’t care if You’re With Her or you want to Make the Country Great Again, as fundraisers – as annual fund-type folks – we have to pay attention to something very critical, here.

Go visit the Federal Election Commission website and their reporting on campaign contributions.  Check out this screen grab:


Now, let that sink in a minute . . . .

Contributions of $200 and Under are responsible for $721 MILLION dollars in contributions.

What could your NPO accomplish with $721M?

I pulled the data for the state of Nevada, where I live, and here’s what I found for contributions less than $500:

  • 51,200 donations (that’s not unique entities, that’s all transactions)
  • $3,150,000 total
  • Average Gift – $62
  • 26-month period

It was impossible to get a true de-dupe to see how many individual entities that represents, but even so this represents significant dollars from what we would typically consider low or mid-range donors.

“Yeah, but it’s political fundraising – it’s different. It’s the running of our country and really impacts every aspect of life and major national and international thingies.”


What is it about political campaigns that motivates giving of this volume and at this level?

I’ll tell you – it’s the story they make us tell ourselves.

It’s the story about what kind of people we want to be, how we see ourselves and what we want to accomplish in the world – told through the people we elect and how we support them.


“Make America Great Again” – you have to believe America isn’t what you want it to be and that this guy is going to get it there.

“I’m With Her” – you have to believe that it’s time for a female president and that her plan is the right one.

Listen, it’s not about tag lines, it’s about the whole story.  You have to believe that this campaign, this person, is going to bring about the image you have in your mind of what could – or should – be.

And when we believe.  Really believe.  REAAAALLLLLY BELIEVE, we will throw money at it.

Isn’t that what we’re doing in fundraising?

Isn’t that what we should be doing in fundraising?

Telling a story that people REEEEAAAAALLLLLLLYYYYY BELIEVE in?

“You can cure cancer.”

“You can save them all.”

“You can teach them.”

“You can _________________.”

OK, sure, but the infrastructure of these campaigns is so huge they can AFFORD to raise big dollars.  They can AFFORD huge campaigns and they call all the time and they text and they post and they have ad campaigns and . . . .

Do you think that anybody gave because Sheldon Adelson did?

Or because Mark Cuban did?

Or because they call 3 times a day and you get 20 emails a week?  And, hey, many of – if not most of – those callers are volunteers, so that’s a double-whammy of engagement.  Imagine if your cause was SO IMPORTANT to people, not only did they give, but they got on the phones and encouraged others to give, too.

No, they gave because they believe the story.

And that’s what we have to learn from these political campaigns.  That’s what we have to learn from $721M worth of gifts less than $200.

Tell a story people really believe in.  Tell them the story of the world they will bring about that is free of cancer and all kids are educated and people don’t go hungry at night and every dog has a home.  Tell them that story.  Give them hope and they’ll make the story come true.

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