Activist Fundraising for Non-Activists

It’s nice to think that the ultimate goal of a democracy is a sense of unity, a shared understanding, a base level of agreement. But the fact is, the engine of democracy is disagreement, and nothing keeps the contributions flowing like conflict. There is almost no issue or topic whatsoever that doesn’t fall somewhere on the political spectrum. And, try as they might to frame nonpartisan mission statements, most every cause and organization gets caught in the political crossfire at one time or another. But today’s blog isn’t about avoiding a fight. It’s about picking one.

When you’re a pilot, you aim to keep the passengers as calm as possible. When you’re a fundraiser, stirring up a little emotion is what keeps the coffers full. Luckily for you, if emotions in this country ran any higher, they would need Sherpas and bottled oxygen. Voters on both sides of the aisle feel under threat. Democrats and anti-Trump independents are expressing their dissent through unprecedented donations to left-leaning causes, particularly those perceived most vulnerable to the Trump administration. On the flip side, Trump supporters are racing to forward their agendas and defend newly conquered territory.

The point is this. If you pride yourself on riding the fence, playing to the center or creating the mythical nonpartisan issue, now is a good time to change your game plan. Your potential donors do not exist in a vacuum, and whatever side they’re on, they are fighting the good fight. Ignoring the political climate can make you seem out of touch. Tapping into the derision may not make everyone in your organization happy, but it will cause a reaction, and when your goal is to attract attention and ask for money, hot or cold is always preferable to lukewarm.