Invest in our democracy
It is no small miracle that we got any substantial climate legislation in Biden’s infrastructure bill. And we need so much more federal action than that to avert catastrophe. There is no hope of passing anything if we lose either the House or the Senate in the midterms. In fact, we need to build a larger Democratic majority to loosen the strangling grip of right-wing Democrats like Manchin who are beholden to the fossil fuel industry. Both our climate and our fragile democratic experiment are at risk. How do we get a Congress that will act to protect us? To whom do we donate?
If you donated any money to election campaigns in recent years, you are probably already getting a steady stream of emails from campaigns all over the country. They urge you to donate to help progressive Candidate X keep her seat or help Candidate Y oust the regressive bum who is doing nothing but defending Trump's Big Lie. So many campaigns. So much at stake. How do you decide where your dollars will actually make a difference?
This is where I am putting my money now:
I am not putting money into any particular candidate’s campaign at this time. Instead, I am putting my dollars into groups doing the advanced organizing to persuade and turn out the votes for key races. I am making my donations based on analysis and recommendations of Focus for Democracy - a progressive donor network that seeks high leverage person-to-person organizing opportunities to move the upcoming elections that are off the radar of the big donors. The current prime recommendation from Focus for Democracy is an organization called Working America.
Working America recruits working class voters
Working America has a rigorously tested, proven program that has persuaded hundreds of thousands of non-college-educated, working-class Americans -- a critical demographic that few other organizations or funders are focusing on - to vote for Democratic candidates. They played a critical role in Arizona and Georgia elections last year.
This is a demographic that left the Democrats and was key in putting Trump in the White House. Working America has a patient, long runway process using a combination of door-to-door and other social contact to listen to these voters and provide useful support information and analysis to them, building trust and engagement that is tested and proven to bring them back to voting Democratic.
This program is critical to increasing the razor-thin margins of victory needed to protect and build our majority in the Senate and the House. Persuading non-college-educated voters that we care and they can have a voice will be key to protecting our voting rights, fair elections, and increasingly fragile democracy over the next two cycles.
Working America is an AFL-CIO project, that reaches out to workers in nonunion areas and focuses on services and policy and political voice, not on union organizing. The AFL-CIO provides core staff funding. Our donations will leverage that to support expanding field operations to make more critical door contacts in rural towns not reached by most campaigns, and then reinforced with phone and social media outreach. They have done impressive exhaustive testing of their techniques and really know what they are doing. Get a flavor of their smarts by checking out Matt Morrison, the very sharp Executive Director of Working America.
Donate to Working America
Make your donation directly through the Working America website
Focus for Democracy is only making recommendations, not collecting donations or commissions.
Please do let Focus know with an email if you do decide to donate so that we can keep track of our impact. Thanks!
Note that Working America is a 501(c)(5) organization. While it is tax exempt, contributions to it are not tax deductible. You can make a tax deductible donation to their educational work through the Working America Education Fund which is a 501(c)(3). Message us below if you need information about donating through a DAF or how to mail or wire a donation.
What is Focus for Democracy & why do I follow them?
Simply put, Focus for Democracy for is four very smart, connected people who are doing amazing research and analysis of the electoral landscape to determine the most important races and how to target our donations to have the most effect on those races.
How Focus on Democracy works:
1) Create an electoral map of likely key tight races for 2022 and for 2024. The Focus strategic team does deep research on electoral college votes, and key races for the Senate and House, plus races for state legislatures, governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general that will be making critical voter access - or suppression - decisions. Cross referencing all of these creates key target areas.
2) Identify key constituencies in those areas that must be moved to win, both through persuasion and through turnout.
3) Identify highly effective but under-resourced programs in those key areas and constituencies. They evaluate who is working in those key areas to identify proven and effective programs, strategically poised to make a critical impact on key election outcomes, but with funding gaps.
4) Make recommendations to the donor circle. The Focus team holds Zoom calls every few months to update us in the donor circle on their evolving analysis and their recommendations for the programs to target with our donations.
5) Donors donate directly to the programs. In most cases, us donors in the circle make our donations directly to the recommended organization(s), not through Focus for Democracy. Focus does not bundle donations, nor does it collect any commission.
What is Focus for Democracy's track record?
Last year, Focus raised $70 million for Voter Participation Center which played a critical role in the critical razor thin victory margins in Pennsylvania and Georgia and late in the election raised $20 million for Working America. That represented 84% of Working America’s budget and allowed them to bring in more votes in both Arizona and Georgia than Biden’s (& Ossof’s) margin of victory. Without that….
This year, we have helped support some impressive work on HR1, the For the People voter act. You can learn more about their record by joining us on an online Zoom webinar. Let me know if you are interested in joining one of these calls (next one is Dec 1).
I am very impressed with this group and am currently making it my primary vehicle for donations toward holding (and building) the Democrat margin in the midterms and the next presidential election.
Why not just donate to the big organizations like ACLU & Fair Fight?
We are blessed with a lot of good organizations like these that are doing excellent work (Praise be Stacy Abrams!) and there is nothing wrong with donating to them. The money will be put to good use. But with their strong national profile, these organizations are attracting many major donors and our money is just a drop in the bucket. Those drops add up, but... In Focus for Democracy, we seek higher strategic leverage for our dollars, through finding gaps where our dollars are most valuable to unlock more work, kickstart the most cost-effective grassroots operations - and in some cases leverage bigger donations in the future.
Our early investments now are highly valuable, leveraging more votes per dollar than money donated later in the process ever can. Early in the process - like now still a year out from the midterms - Focus for Democracy looks for programs that haven't attracted the big donors yet, but are doing the kind of relationship building that will build trust and pay off in swinging voters and getting them to the polls - and can bring in more big donors later as they demonstrate results to expand further.
Closer to the election, Focus for Democracy shifts to finding smaller, high efficacy grassroots efforts that may never get on the big donors' radar, but are filling critical gaps in the electoral strategy that can make the difference in key tight races.
Who is Focus for Democracy?
Focus was started by Aaron Frank & Liza Finkelstein, two people who started out like you and me, deciding in 2019 that the urgency of the crisis in US democracy warranted much larger political donations than they had ever contemplated but not wanting to throw the money away on TV ads. Aaron is an obsessive researcher, with deep expertise in return-on-investment assessment. They recruited two very sharp and well connected political donor advisers - Sandy Newman and Aaron Goldzimer - to fill out the team.
Who funds Focus for Democracy?
No one. The strategic team works totally pro bono, donating their expertise and time to do the analysis and has little overhead. There is no office and no website (well, there is a placeholder https://www.focus4democracy.org but you won't learn much there yet). This is a labor of love and passion by people who are immersed in the electoral process and obsessive about their research and analysis to maximize donation impact on the elections. They tap very knowledgeable connected people and use their insights, expertise and connections to help us donors find very cost effective (dollars per vote), high leverage places to make a difference with our dollars. They usually do not collect money from the donors circle, they just make recommendations for donations.
For the HR1 effort they did directly collect some money to hire a person to do some strategic engagement, but this is the exception.
Intrigued? Learn more!
The best way is to attend one of their Zoom meetings to get some history, understand how they operate, hear the latest analysis of the political landscape and get updates on their recommendations for effective donations.
Drop me a message below and I will let you know when the next Zoom call is happening. Or contact them directly at https://www.focus4democracy.org/ to get on their list for notices of upcoming updates. Tell them Tom Lent sent you.