Media Supermajority

Instead of Panic-Giving and Rage-Donating, Here’s the Smartest Way to Donate Right Now

Even if you’ve never heard the term “rage-donating” before, you’ve probably done it: A politician does or says something appalling, and, to exorcise your anger, you throw a few bucks to a good cause or a great candidate. Or maybe you’ve been a “panic giver” and made a donation driven by existential dread instead of righteous fury.

These donations have undoubtedly made a huge difference in 2020. Several Democratic Senate candidates, including South Carolina’s Jamie Harrison and Iowa’s Theresa Greenfield, are raking in unheard-of amounts. Joe Biden set a record in August for the biggest fundraising month of any presidential candidate — then smashed that record in September. And as The New York Times reported, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently complained “that [his] party’s Senate candidates are being financially overwhelmed because of small-dollar contributions” from left-wing donors. 

But while donating to make ourselves feel better in moments of despair is helpful, donating strategically to ensure that our dollars stretch as far as they can toward winning the presidency, flipping the Senate, holding on to the House, and more is crucial. 

“People panic-give without knowing exactly where to donate, and then money goes to places where, research shows, it isn’t necessarily going to have the most impact,” Cate Mayer, the founder and CEO of the civic action group Friends Vote Together, told Supermajority News

We asked Mayer for her tips on how donors can maximize their money’s impact and advice on when to give, who (and who not) to give to, and what to do if you feel another rage-donation coming on.

Make your biggest donation possible right now.

With less than two weeks before Election Day, how a campaign can make use of donations boils down to the simple adage “the sooner, the better.” “There’s not enough time to shoot an ad and pay to run it before people vote,” Mayer explains. “Especially this year, when more people are voting early than ever before.”

One of the most important things a campaign can do with last-minute cash, though, is make best use of volunteers who want to phone-bank and text-bank right up to the end. “With additional dollars, candidates can increase the number of phone-banking or text-banking sessions offered, as they have funds to pay an organizer to run those, as well as to pay for online dialers and call tools like ThruTalk and HubDialer,” Mayer notes.

More money also means more opportunities for last-minute campaign stops, which are costlier than you might think — especially in larger states where air travel is a must. “When you fly a candidate somewhere, there are hundreds of people traveling with them and that costs money,” says Mayer. In addition, thanks to COVID-19 protocols, ”We aren’t putting 250 on a plane together. We are taking two or three flights to space folks out and keep them safe.”

In short: Figure out what your maximum give can be and send it out the door ASAP.

Strategically divide your donation among big and small races.

The state legislators and local sheriffs people elect can be just as impactful on their lives as the elected officials they send to Washington. Mayer recommends a donation strategy she developed in partnership with fundraising strategist Jessica James: giving 10% of the total amount of money you can donate to the presidential race, 20% to a local race — which, Mayer notes, can include House races, since those campaigns aren’t as geographically expansive, and therefore not as expensive, as Senate campaigns — 30% to get-out-the-vote groups (like Fair Fight or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and 40% to a Senate candidate. 

If you live in a safely Democratic area, look for where you can donate elsewhere.

Your “local” donations don’t have to stay local to you if they can have more impact on flippable seats elsewhere. Many groups have already done the work to find those seats for you: ActBlue, for example, set up a fund that sends money to 48 Democratic candidates for state legislatures nationwide, and if those candidates win, ten state chambers will flip from red to blue. Crooked Media’s Vote Save America also launched a “House-Keeping Fund” that looks at congressional campaigns’ fundraising, spending, and polling data to automatically forward your donations to where they’ll have the most impact.

Let the experts tell you which Senate races need your money the most.

As for the best Senate candidates to donate to, Mayer recommends candidates “in lean-Republican states that have a great shot at going blue,” she says. “They’re also the races where money is either most needed or will go the farthest.” 

Texas, for example, is home to several of America’s most expensive media markets, so candidates there needs as much funding as possible to reach voters with TV ads. 

If you still want to donate again, give more money to voter-protection groups.

We’re all bound to experience increased anxiety over the next few weeks, so if you get the urge to panic-give again, your best bet is to give to nonprofits that will keep fighting after November 3 to make sure every vote is counted. “These are organizations that are critical to be supporting, right now and into October, because their work doesn’t stop with the election,” Mayer says. “The funds they are raising may go to the election or they may go to voter protection campaigns that we need into next year and years to come. Your money is never going to go to waste supporting these organizations.”