Integrated Fundraising

Integrating the budget requirements of a long-term voter engagement program into an organization's broader fundraising strategy circumvents the feast-or-famine nature of grants that are tied directly to the electoral cycle.

The problem

According to findings published by the Voter Engagement Evaluation Project (VEEP), many voter engagement organizations found that funding for the 2004 election “fell short of their goals.” For the most part, money didn’t start flowing in until early May, when the election was just six months away, and it wasn’t until August that donors really let loose. As a result, “groups were unable to hire needed staff at the most critical times, and could not invest in the long-term strategies that would sustain the organization’s capacity to conduct future voter engagement work.” The VEEP report is written for funders, so let’s hope that they’ll heed its warnings and invest in voter engagement projects early and often in the coming years. But the best way to avoid the periods of famine may be to integrate the voter work into the fundraising goals of the organization as a whole.

The solution

Both SCOPE and SWOP include long-term voter participation projects in the organization’s funding model. As Anthony Thigpenn explains, the work is so integrated into SCOPE’s community organizing and public policy campaigns that they are, in effect, two arms of the same operation. “There are lots of pieces of this that are transferable to our ongoing work,” he says, citing the database system, and its hardware and software components, as an example. Likewise, the civic engagement work is, Robby Rodriguez says, “a cornerstone” of SWOP and as such it’s “integrated into our general proposal, and any fundraising proposal.”

Engaging voters on a large scale – canvassing, calling, printing flyers, all of it – uses up a lot of resources, considerably more than the day-to-day organizing of most community groups. So SCOPE and SWOP also solicit grants and donations specifically for the electoral work. Both use their political context to advantage: Robby says that New Mexico’s position on the political map attracts donors to SWOP, while SCOPE’s coalition of strategic allies and hard-won renown among public charity foundations bring in funds, Anthony explains.


Click to hear from an organizer

SWOP has built the electoral work into the organization’s general fundraising strategy but, as Robby Rodriguez reveals, they’ve found that it attracts new sources of funding as well

Robby Rodriguez: being in a swing state has its advantages

Anthony Thigpenn reveals some of the donors to SCOPE's ongoing electoral project.

Anthony Thigpenn: contributions from coalition allies and foundations