Political Crowdfunding: Building a Community Instead of a Campaign
By Anum Yoon, Crowdfund Beat Media Guest Editor,
Throughout the past few years, crowdfunding has become a source of fundraising for charities, life-saving surgeries, new products, individual travel goals, research projects and more. With crowdfunding platforms and social media, it’s easier than ever to set up a page where friends and family can donate to whatever it is you’re passionate about or need money for. But does this new fundraising fad have a place in politics?
Politicians who are starting campaigns or building platforms need money, and it’s a fairly new possibility that this money could come from small individual donations from people on crowdfunding websites instead of the wealthy upper class. Here’s everything there is to know about crowdfunding in the political arena.
Traditional Political Fundraising
In the past and even currently, campaigns have been funded by the appropriate political party the candidate is running for. Additionally, wealthy donors throw large amounts of money into the politician’s bank account and, more often than not, cash in the donation for a favor later on down the road.
With this system, the upper class and politicians are completely running the show. Campaigns are based on who got money from the top dogs, and elections are based on those campaigns. So, it’s not hard to see how the average person isn’t exactly included in the political process.
Changes Being Made
In 2008, Barack Obama, who would be elected president that year, changed the game of fundraising in politics. He was the first candidate who collected funds for his campaign from the average working class family.
Obama successfully built a campaign that got American families interested and invested in him – literally. He asked for donations on his website in order to fund his campaign and raised millions of dollars from small donors who simply donated what they could afford, even if that was only a dollar.
Obama’s strategy worked, obviously. Since then, politicians at the local and federal level have used similar campaign strategies. Bernie Sanders, who ran for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race, prided himself on not accepting money from billionaires. Instead, he wanted to be funded only by the average American. It was easy for his supporters to support him because donating was just a few clicks away thanks to the ease of electronic payments.
He would often send out emails to his supporters asking for just $3 before midnight to send a message to Washington that Americans are tired of billionaires buying elections. The average campaign donation was $27.
On the surface, it seems like Sanders’ strategy did not pay off, since he did not win the nomination. However, Bernie Sanders made quite a name for himself in just a few short months and was a serious contender for the nomination, running on only small donations through crowdfunding efforts. His effort is a look into what could be the future of political fundraising.
Building a Community
The idea behind crowdfunding is to build a community. Crowdfunding started with individual stories. People who wanted to travel and do philanthropic work. Somebody who needed a surgery their family couldn’t afford. An entrepreneur with a great business idea. A young girl who wanted to go to Disney World.
The stories behind each crowdfunding page are what drives people to donate money. People tell their story in the hopes of touching others and convincing them to donate to their cause.
For this reason, crowdfunding in the political arena could be a great thing. Imagine politicians building their campaign not around the nitty gritty of politics, but around a story that touches the American people — a story of hope and resilience. Campaigns and politics in general could become so much more personalized, and Americans could really play a part in the government.
Of course, there are always some things that could go wrong. Politicians could somehow corrupt this system. There will always be billionaires to buy out politicians in their own best interest. There are holes in every system, but it’s also possible to patch up those holes. Since crowdfunding is such a new idea, there is much to be said and discovered about how the system would actually work when utilized by many politicians.
So, crowdfunding in politics could be great, it could be terrible or it could be somewhere in the middle. Only time will tell how politicians will use crowdfunding for their campaigns and how people will react to this new way of fundraising.