Fundraising Strategies from Congressional and Presidential Candidates

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December 9, 2011; Source: Sunlight Foundation’s Party Time | Some nonprofits know how to monitor the best in fundraising.  The Sunlight Foundation has a Party Time blog which tracks the fundraisers of politicians from both major political parties (Sunlight is nonpartisan).  Don’t you wish your local neighborhood-based charity could pull in the bucks and the celebs like these taxpayer-employed politicians and their political backers?  We looked at some of the invitations so you wouldn’t have to.

  • Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA) was scheduled to be the guest at and fundraising beneficiary of  the National Orange Show Annual Awards Dinner on November 28th, with tickets priced at $99 for individuals, $250 for bronze sponsors, $500 for silver sponsors, $1,000 gold, $2,500 platinum, and $5,000 for PAC Hosts.
  • If Oranges don’t stimulate political check-writing, perhaps the appearance of Chaka Khan on November 29th at an “evening reception” fundraiser for Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) might have gotten donors (individuals or PACs) to shell out $1,500 for tickets (though available at a bargain rate of two for $2,500).
  • Fundraising rodeos?  At a cost of $3,000 for a PAC or $1,500 for an individual donor, one could buy a ticket to the National Finals Rodeo on December 9th benefitting Congressman Frank Lucas with the added benefit of a rodeo ticket, a “behind-the-scenes tour,” and interaction with rodeo contestants.  Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) has a fundraiser at the same event with the same ticket costs as Lucas’s. 
  • For $1,000 from individuals or $2,000 from PACs, donors can join Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) for a “Weekend in New York City” on December 10th and 11th.  The invitation doesn’t explain what one would do in the Big Apple with the Senator nor explain why the campaign committee didn’t offer big ticket donors something more reflective of the Senator’s home, such as Wichita or Topeka. 
  • President Obama is running for reelection, we’re told, and the Obama Victory Fund is holding a fundraising basketball game on December 12th with confirmed players including three former Georgetown University centers (Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo), established all-stars (such as Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony), and several current young superstars (including Kevin Durant, John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Tyler Hansbrough). Tickets for the first ever Obama Classic Basketball Game run from $200 general admission, $500 premium lower deck, and $5,000 for courtside seats.  The invitation doesn’t mention whether the President, an active and skilled basketball player himself, will suit up. 
  • A good sponsor or partner for a fundraiser always helps (and pays some of the fundraising expenses), such as the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation PAC (for Rep. Adam Schiff’s lunch on December 13th), the American Farm Bureau Federation (whose “Taste of the States” event on December 8th included a contribution to the Heifer Foundation), and the United Parcel Service (on December 13th raising money for the Hawkeye PAC associated with Senator Charles Grassley).
  • The guaranteed winner in fundraising technique is Senator Scott Brown’s (R-MA) whose SCOTT PAC is selling tickets to the Washington Redskins v. New England Patriots game on December 11th for individual contributions of $1,000 per ticket and PAC contributions of $3,500 for a ticket or $5,000 for two. 

The techniques sounds and feel like fundraising event strategies used by the charities we all know—dinners, charity sports events, celebrity performances, corporate sponsorships—though the ticket prices are a little steep for most community residents that nonprofits serve.  If elections weren’t so incredibly expensive (the 2008 Presidential and Congressional elections cost some $5.3 billion, relatively modest compared to the $6 or $7 billion that the Center for Responsive Politics suggests 2012 might run), one wonders how much of that campaign fundraising effort and dollars could actually be redirected toward charitable fundraising and boost nonprofit coffers.—Rick Cohen