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Monday, July 02, 2007

Financing the Future: Recurring Donations

By now, many of you have heard about Barack Obama's incredible fundraising quarter in which he raked in $32.5 million. Pretty amazing! The back story that will undoubtedly be missed my most in the MSM, is that Barack Obama has a very visible recurring donor program. Barack is able to consistently raise a large amount of money, hold the average donation low, and therefore keep most of it for the primary because of some help from his recurring donation program.

Some of RFDECs most loyal readers will remember I first discussed recurring donor programs around 2 years ago. DECs are always struggling for money, and that really shouldn't be. Money is the mother's milk of politics, as the old saying goes, but I'll also argue its the canary in the coal mine. If a DEC isn't regularly raising funds, its a good indication that it isn't engaging the community it represents and therefore not doing its job. Some may argue that DECs can be functional without an impressive fundraising record largely through their grassroots organization. I disagree. If your DEC has a good grassroots network, then you really don't have an excuse not to be raising money. A good grassroots network can raise good funds for DECs.

The main reason I think DECs struggle with fundraising is because of the following:

Fundraisers Are A Lot of Work: Those JJ Dinners DECs put on require a lot of time, people, effort, and frustration. Often after one or two dinners, most organizers associated with the dinners are burned out and would rather do something else. They also typically don't raise a whole lot of money.

There Is No Plan: Once you have money, what are you going to do with it? I see DEC members tripping through their words on this one: "Well...we'll use it to pay for mailings, help candidates, you know..." Basically, you really don't have a plan. Big donors in particular want to know where their money is going and whether its making a difference. No one wants to throw their hard earned dollars down a black hole. Would you?

Obviously, having a finance plan is another topic for another post. The question here is how do DECs raise money more efficiently. The answer is through recurring donations. I'll refer you to my previous post on the subject here to provide some context.

In Marion, we successfully implemented a very small recurring donor program, branded "The Winner's Circle" with several levels of support (and therefore recognition.) By just talking to our membership within the DEC and out in the clubs, we were able to recruit enough recurring donors to pay for all our monthly bills (around $16K per year.) There are around 60 people in the program (an average monthly contribution of $22.22.) Our goal is around 100 by years end.

Recurring donations make the DEC's life a lot easier. Its easier to budget, plan, and prioritize funds if you know how much is coming in monthly and yearly.

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