“Who Gets My Money?” A Small Donor’s Dilemma

We have a wealth of riches today in the Democratic party. In terms of candidates, we are in double digits and still counting. (Biden?) There are some who lament that there are simply too many candidates and our energies will be scattered. Others are looking forward to a lively debate where candidates will be tested and forced to defend their policies. Nevertheless, the real determinant as to who will make it to the end may be money. Which begs the question, particularly for small donors who are taking funds from their family budget, “Who gets my money?

Let’s face it – the reality of today’s politics is it is going to take a lot of money to win the Democratic Primary. Someone has to pay for all of those mailers, consultants, and ad buys. Already the requests are going out for financial support for those who have entered the race.
(With this many candidates can you imagine your email inbox and home mailbox as we get closer to actually voting?)

Small donors give to stay involved and have their say in the election process. The dilemma for democratic small donors this Primary season is who to support? Some people have their favorite candidate and will give to them and only them no matter what. However, a suggestion that’s making the rounds is that Democratic small donors pick their top candidates and divvy up their contributions in order to give to them all. At least to get them to the first Democratic debate stage in June. An NPR article from February of this year explains:

All “qualified” candidates are eligible to participate. A DNC official said a candidate could qualify by meeting one of two criteria:

Garner at least 1 percent support in three separate polls {or}

Meet the grassroots fundraising threshold, which requires obtaining 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 donors per state in at least 20 states

Traditionally, for candidates, the amount they raise can determine how long they can stay in the race. This means if they have enough in the coffers, they can be in 8th place after several state Primaries and still continue running as long as they have the financial wherewithal.

This year, more than ever before, small donors are going to be crucial to the race. However, this is the group with the least amount of money to donate. So how will small donors play this money game? Here are a few options:

  1. Wait to see who rises to the top. Some donors might save their funds for the General election. However, this gives them no stake in the outcome of the Primaries.
  2. Give only to their favorite candidate. Probably what most will do. After all, their favorite is supported for personal reasons and this is the person they most want to win.
  3. Donate to the person they feel needs it the most. This works for those who want the most number of candidates to stay in the race long-term.
  4. Donate to their top 3 candidates. This requires thinking about who they want still standing near the end of the state races. And, even more so – who do they want to see as Vice-President.

As the Democratic Primary contest earnestly begins, small donors will start taking a look at the candidates and make a better determination of who deserves their money and/or who they want to stay in the race. For the big donors it is probably a strategic call, but for small donors, with limited funds, it is a way to stay in the game.

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