AL Advising

Philanthropic and Political Consulting

Philanthropy is like wine: good grapes plus good terroir makes good wine. Candidates and organizations are the grapes you wish to cultivate; they need care, pruning, monitoring, and yes, sometimes they need to wither on the vine. Terroir includes the resources you start with and what you can add such as mission, staff, and money.

AL Advising is the winemaker: we work with both donors and organizations to maximize impact.

Where to give now

This is an updated version of the memo posted in February. I welcome feedback.

The 2018 elections will shape our politics until 2032. There are elections for Governor and the state legislature in 36 states in 2018 (and two in 2017). These are the state and local elected officials who will be in office to oversee redistricting, the process by which we redraw congressional and state legislative districts after the 2020 census. Democrats dropped the ball in 2010 and allowed Tea Party Republicans to partisan gerrymander states from Florida to Pennsylvania to Texas. We in California are lucky to have a non-partisan, citizen-led redistricting commission; however, in 35 states, districts lines are passed like a bill and we therefore need to control one chamber of the state legislature and/or the Governor’s mansion to have any say at all. This is why re-taking the U.S. House remains a challenge – but one that is doable in a wave election year. There are 23 seats held by Republicans but won by Clinton; Democrats need to win 24 seats to retake the majority (and have the subpoena power necessary to investigate the Trump Administration). Additionally, Democrats must defend 25 U.S. Senate seats, 10 of which are in states won by Trump. Essentially, we need to run the table and win in places where we are not used to playing. It is a daunting but critical task, one made slightly easier with the House GOP “repeal and replace” vote on Obamacare last week.

Since the election of #NotMyPresident Trump, we have seen a huge wave of activism on the Left. Groups like Indivisible, SwingLeft, Flippable, and too many others to name have popped up. Citizens are calling Members of Congress in unprecedented levels, shutting down the Capitol switchboard. The ACLU raised five times its annual budget in one weekend. Everyone is asking, What Can I Do?

The problem is, what we’re doing feels insufficient. We are so desperate to take action, so desperate to right the wrongs happening every day, that we waste time sending postcards to Paul Ryan in a futile effort to be heard. When we cannot even garner more then two Republican votes against a billionaire, non-educator riddled with conflicts of interest as Secretary of Education, we know we will lose many, many more battles before we can win the war.

We have seen that activism works, from town halls to scrutiny on sub-Cabinet level appointments. The Resistance is not dwindling in enthusiasm and this is making Republicans very, very nervous. The upcoming runoff election in GA-6 and the Montana special election are also ways to demonstrate that this is not business as usual.

As part of asking, What Can I Do?, many people are also asking, Where Can I Give? We are inundated with candidates, organizations, new initiatives, politician’s pet projects and other vehicles for political investment. But there are few filters to determine the most impactful and timely investments.

I have spent nearly 20 years in electoral politics, advocacy and non-profit organizations, and donor advising; you can learn more about me here. Below is a summary of my suggestions. 

A few general tips:

  • Resist the urge to spread the love in order to maximize your giving impact. Pick one or two priorities (such as women in the Senate, purple state Governors, or immigrant rights) and 3-4 candidates/entities or organizations.
  • Give to both national and state/local organizations as well as federal and down-ballot candidates.
  • Save 10% of total giving for last minute or urgent needs.
  • Consider at least a 70/30 split on 501c3/other giving (501c4, candidates, PACs, etc). Consult with your accountant or financial advisor for larger 501c3 (tax deductible) gifts. 

1. ELECTORAL INVESTMENTS

I use the term electoral broadly to include federal, state, and local candidates, party committees, and candidate-affiliated PACs and SuperPACs. I recommend choosing one electoral priority or state (see section three for additional information) to focus on and maximize investment.

2017 Governors and other state elections:

New Jersey Gubernatorial and state legislature: Embattled Governor Chris Christie (R) is term-limited. Former US Ambassador to Germany & Ex-Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D) has cleared the field thus far while the GOP has a crowded primary. The state legislature and other constitutional offices are also up for election. The Cook Political Report rates this race “Lean Democrat.”

Virginia Gubernatorial and state legislature: Incumbent Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) is term-limited. Current Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northum and former Rep. Tom Perriello are facing off in the Democratic primary. The GOP primary is led by former Bush RNC Chair Ed Gillespie but Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, was Trump’s state chairman and cannot be underestimated. Both Democratic candidates are currently polling ahead of the Republican candidates. Virginia has lax campaign finance laws for non-federal elections. Candidates and the Virginia Democratic Party can coordinate with allied organizations and there are no limits on individual or corporate giving. See below for more on allied organizations. The Cook Political Report rates this race “Toss-Up”.

Other constitutional offices including Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General are also up for election, along with the House of Delegates that is currently dominated by Republicans. Winning the Governor’s race and/or reclaiming the state legislature are our first opportunity to control the redistricting process since Reconstruction.

See below for more on state and local organizations in Virginia.

  • Give now: Either Gubernatorial candidate or the state party
  • Give later: Winner of Gubernatorial primary; targeted House of Delegates races; state party

 2018 Governors and other state elections:

 There will be Gubernatorial and state legislative elections in 36 states across the country – all are critical for redistricting, which will set the political landscape for a decade. Of these, at least 25 will be open. Many 2010 Tea Party Republicans are term-limited, giving Democrats numerous pick-up opportunities. Key open seats include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These races are still shaping up as candidates declare their intentions; many states have not yet set primary dates for 2018.

It is important to note that dynamics in Governor's races are very different than Senate. Democrats can compete anywhere with the right candidate. We do not yet know what the national narrative will be but Governors always run on more localized economic messages.

Most states also have other statewide offices up for election, including many that are crucial for redistricting such as Attorney General and Secretary of State. State legislative elections are excellent “bang for the buck” investments. State parties, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and in-state organizations create lists of targeted districts and candidates. Again, these races will shape up in the coming months as candidates declare and primaries are held.

  • Give now: Democratic incumbents (NY, OR, PA, RI); state parties
  • Give later: Gubernatorial candidates in purple states; targeted state legislative races; state parties; DGA; DLCC

2018 U.S. Senate:

The 2018 map is tough for Democrats and we are on defense, not offense. Senate Democrats must defend 25 seats, including two independents and several incumbents in deep red states, while Republicans have only eight to defend (and only one in a Clinton state, Nevada). There are 10 female incumbent Senators up for re-election in 2018, some of who are in red or purple states; you can support them through Electing Women Bay Area or WomenCount. Candidates in tough races need early support to try to scare off challengers. Endangered incumbents include (and this will change as races shape up): Tammy Baldwin (WI); Sherrod Brown (OH); Joe Donnelly (IN); Heidi Heitkamp (ND); Amy Klobuchar (MN); Joe Manchin (WV); Claire McCaskill (MO); Bill Nelson (FL); Debbie Stabenow (MI); and Jon Tester (MT).

  • Give now: Democratic incumbents, especially in purple states; state parties; DSCC
  • Give later: Democratic incumbents in targeted races; Democratic challengers/open seats; state parties; DSCC

2018 U.S. House:

Gerrymandered congressional districts have made re-taking control of the House more difficult – but not impossible. Democrats need 24 seats to take back the House. There are 23 House seats occupied by a Republican but won by Hillary Clinton; these are the top pick-up opportunities. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has an initial list of Red to Blue seats. Recruitment is critical for these swing districts; races will shape up in the coming months as candidates are recruited, primaries are held, and the national narrative shakes out.

  • Give now: Democratic incumbents, especially in swing districts; Democratic challengers/open seats; state parties; DCCC. SwingLeft’s district funds, which is raising money now for eventual primary winners, is also a great grassroots fundraising tool.
  • Give later: Democratic incumbents in targeted races; Democratic challengers/open seats in targeted races; state parties; DCCC

Party Committees/SuperPACs:

The national party committees include the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA), and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC). The DSCC, DCCC, and DGA work directly with candidates and fund coordinated and independent expenditure campaigns on their behalf. The DLCC works with state legislative caucuses and coordinates multi-state polling, research, and best practices as well as fundraising. The DNC serves as the umbrella organization, amplifying the party’s message and supporting state parties. There was a tremendous attention to the recent DNC Chair’s race; ultimately, this person is a figurehead and will not save the Democratic Party. Only we can do that, together, by exerting pressure and changes from the grassroots up.

While I believe some ongoing support is needed for national party committees and SuperPACs, I do not believe they are the most effective means for long-term impact. They are largely focused on paid TV ads, which have a very short shelf life and simply help enrich media consultants. These groups are often not held accountable post-election and leadership turnovers prevent a tough analysis from cycle to cycle. Money is better spent going directly to candidates and to state parties.

2. STATE AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS

Allied organizations play an important role in the progressive movement. We need to grow independent political power to hold elected officials accountable, move public opinion on key issues, reach out beyond super-voters and activists, work with under-represented communities, engage people who don’t see voting as vehicle for change, and organize beyond one election cycle.

Funding locally-led, field/grassroots driven organizations with leadership that is reflective of the New American Majority (people of color, young people, unmarried women) is crucial to long-term success nationally and in the states. Groups like State Voices, America Votes, the Alliance for Youth Action, Center for Popular Democracy, and others have multi-state affiliates and multi-issue strategies.

Many of these groups participate in state “tables” – coordinating entities nationally and in key states that provide financial, technical, and other resources; help reduce duplication of efforts; work on state legislation; and focus on voter registration, education, and mobilization efforts. On the 501c3 side, State Voices is the national/state entity; on the 501c4/501c6 (labor)/527 side, America Votes plays that convening role.

A group called Movement 2017 (known as Movement 2016 last year) helps direct funding to movement-building efforts and local efforts in all 50 states that are focused on voter engagement. They focus on groups (501c3, 501c4, PACs, SuperPACs, etc) that organize year-round on local and national issues with key constituencies. They curate the best groups doing the most impactful work in the most important places.

One side does not fit all. Local organizations and local organizers know which strategies, messages, and issues play best in their communities. A campaign mantra is “Trust the field” and we, as outside activists and donors, need to trust the field.

  • Give now: National umbrella organizations or tables; state and local affiliates of those organizations in purple states, either 501c3 or 501c4. Consider adopting a state (see below).
  • Give later: State and local organizations in purple states, either 501c3 or 501c4.

3. ADOPT A STATE

One way to maximize your impact is an “adopt a state” strategy: giving to multiple entities, candidates, and organizations in one targeted state. You can choose one in the South (FL, GA, NC, VA), one in the Midwest (MI, OH, PA, WI), and/or one in the West (AZ, CO, NV). In each, you can create a comprehensive giving strategy for each state, focusing on 501c3 and 501c4 groups as well as state and local candidates.

For instance, in Wisconsin, you could give to:

  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin, running for re-election in 2018
  • Eventual Gubernatorial candidate (once primary is over)
  • Targeted state legislative candidates (once primaries are over)
  • Wisconsin Democratic Party
  • America Votes Wisconsin and their partner groups (501c4)
  • Wisconsin Voices and their partner groups (501c3)
  • Movement 2017 endorsed groups (focusing on turnout of African-American voters in Milwaukee, voter registration of students at UW campuses, rural voter persuasion, LGBTQ advocacy, etc)

Many purple states do not have the donor base of California or New York. Federal and statewide candidates are used to out of state fundraising but that is not the case for smaller organizations and local candidates. These investments have high return on investment.

 

What we're doing feels insufficient

The 2018 elections will shape our politics until 2032. Since the election of #NotMyPresident Trump, we have seen a huge wave of activism on the Left. Groups like Indivisible, SwingLeft, Flippable, and too many others to name have popped up.  Citizens are calling Members of Congress in unprecedented levels, shutting down the Capitol switchboard. The ACLU raised five times its annual budget in one weekend. Everyone is asking, What Can I Do?

The problem is, what we’re doing feels insufficient. We are so desperate to take action, so desperate to right the wrongs happening every day, that we waste time sending postcards to Paul Ryan in a futile effort to be heard. 

As part of asking, What Can I Do?, many people are also asking, Where Can I Give? We are inundated with candidates, organizations, new initiatives, politician’s pet projects and other vehicles for political investment. But there are few filters to determine the most impactful and timely investments. Below is a summary of my suggestions. 

A few general tips:

  1. Resist the urge to spread the love in order to maximize your giving impact. Pick one or two priorities (such as women in the Senate, purple state Governors, or immigrant rights) and 3-4 candidates/entities or organizations.
  2. Give to both national and state/local organizations as well as federal and down-ballot candidates.
  3. Save 10% of total giving for last-minute or urgent needs.
  4. Consider at least a 70/30 split on 501c3/other giving (501c4, candidates, PACs, etc). Consult with your accountant or financial advisor for larger 501c3 (tax deductible) gifts.

1. ELECTORAL INVESTMENTS

I use the term electoral broadly to include federal, state, and local candidates, party committees, and candidate-affiliated PACs and SuperPACs. I recommend choosing one electoral priority or state (see section three for additional information) to focus on and maximize investment.

2017 Governors and other state elections:

New Jersey Gubernatorial and state legislature: Embattled Governor Chris Christie (R) is term-limited. Former US Ambassador to Germany & Ex-Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D) has cleared the field thus far while the GOP has a crowded primary. The state legislature and other constitutional offices are also up for election. The Cook Political Report rates this race “Lean Democrat.”

Virginia Gubernatorial and state legislature: Incumbent Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) is term-limited. Current Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northum and former Rep. Tom Perriello are facing off in the Democratic primary. The GOP primary is led by former Bush RNC Chair Ed Gillespie but Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, was Trump’s state chairman and cannot be underestimated. Both Democratic candidates are currently polling ahead of the Republican candidates. Virginia has lax campaign finance laws for non-federal elections. Candidates and the Virginia Democratic Party can coordinate with allied organizations and there are no limits on individual or corporate giving. See below for more on allied organizations. The Cook Political Report rates this race “Toss-Up”.

Other constitutional offices including Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General are also up for election, along with the House of Delegates that is currently dominated by Republicans. Winning the Governor’s race and/or reclaiming the state legislature are our first opportunity to control the redistricting process since Reconstruction.

See below for more on state and local organizations in Virginia.

Ø  Give now: Either Gubernatorial candidate or the state party

Ø  Give later: Winner of Gubernatorial primary; targeted House of Delegates races; state party

2018 Governors and other state elections:

There will be Gubernatorial and state legislative elections in 36 states across the country – all are critical for redistricting, which will set the political landscape for a decade. Of these, at least 25 will be open. Many 2010 Tea Party Republicans are term-limited, giving Democrats numerous pick-up opportunities. Key open seats include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These races are still shaping up as candidates declare their intentions; many states have not yet set primary dates for 2018.

It is important to note that dynamics in Governor's races are very different than Senate. Democrats can compete anywhere with the right candidate. We do not yet know what the national narrative will be but Governors always run on more localized economic messages.

Most states also have other statewide offices up for election, including many that are crucial for redistricting such as Attorney General and Secretary of State. State legislative elections are excellent “bang for the buck” investments. State parties, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and in-state organizations create lists of targeted districts and candidates. Again, these races will shape up in the coming months as candidates declare and primaries are held.

Ø  Give now: Democratic incumbents (NY, OR, PA, RI); state parties

Ø  Give later: Gubernatorial candidates in purple states; targeted state legislative races; state parties; DGA; DLCC

2018 U.S. Senate:

The 2018 map is tough for Democrats and we are on defense, not offense. Senate Democrats must defend 25 seats, including two independents and several incumbents in deep red states, while Republicans have only eight to defend (and only one in a Clinton state, Nevada). There are 10 female incumbent Senators up for re-election in 2018, some of who are in red or purple states; you can support them through Electing Women Bay Area or WomenCount. Candidates in tough races need early support to try to scare off challengers. Endangered incumbents include (and this will change as races shape up): Tammy Baldwin (WI); Sherrod Brown (OH); Joe Donnelly (IN); Heidi Heitkamp (ND); Amy Klobuchar (MN); Joe Manchin (WV); Claire McCaskill (MO); Bill Nelson (FL); Debbie Stabenow (MI); and Jon Tester (MT).

Ø  Give now: Democratic incumbents, especially in purple states; state parties; DSCC

Ø  Give later: Democratic incumbents in targeted races; Democratic challengers/open seats; state parties; DSCC

2018 U.S. House:

Gerrymandered congressional districts have made re-taking control of the House more difficult – but not impossible. Democrats need 24 seats to take back the House. There are 23 House seats occupied by a Republican but won by Hillary Clinton; these are the top pick-up opportunities. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has an initial list of Red to Blue seats. Recruitment is critical for these swing districts; races will shape up in the coming months as candidates are recruited, primaries are held, and the national narrative shakes out.

Ø  Give now: Democratic incumbents, especially in swing districts; Democratic challengers/open seats; state parties; DCCC

Ø  Give later: Democratic incumbents in targeted races; Democratic challengers/open seats in targeted races; state parties; DCCC

Party Committees/SuperPACs:

The national party committees include the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA), and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC). The DSCC, DCCC, and DGA work directly with candidates and fund coordinated and independent expenditure campaigns on their behalf. The DLCC works with state legislative caucuses and coordinates multi-state polling, research, and best practices as well as fundraising. The DNC serves as the umbrella organization, amplifying the party’s message and supporting state parties. There has been tremendous attention to the recent DNC Chair’s race; ultimately, this person is a figurehead and he or she will not save the Democratic Party. Only we can do that, together, by exerting pressure and changes from the grassroots up.

While I believe some ongoing support is needed for national party committees and SuperPACs, I do not believe they are the most effective means for long-term impact. They are largely focused on paid TV ads, which have a very short shelf life and simply help enrich media consultants. These groups are often not held accountable post-election and leadership turnovers prevent a tough analysis from cycle to cycle. Money is better spent going directly to candidates and to state parties.

2. STATE AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS

Allied organizations play an important role in the progressive movement. We need to grow independent political power to hold elected officials accountable, move public opinion on key issues, reach out beyond super-voters and activists, work with under-represented communities, engage people who don’t see voting as vehicle for change, and organize beyond one election cycle.

Funding locally-led, field/grassroots driven organizations with leadership that is reflective of the New American Majority (people of color, young people, unmarried women) is crucial to long-term success nationally and in the states. Groups like State Voices, America Votes, the Bus Federation, Center for Popular Democracy, and others have multi-state affiliates and multi-issue strategies.

Many of these groups participate in state “tables” – coordinating entities nationally and in key states that provide financial, technical, and other resources; help reduce duplication of efforts; work on state legislation; and focus on voter registration, education, and mobilization efforts. On the 501c3 side, State Voices is the national/state entity; on the 501c4/501c6 (labor)/527 side, America Votes plays that convening role.

One side does not fit all. Local organizations and local organizers know which strategies, messages, and issues play best in their communities. A campaign mantra is “Trust the field” and we, as outside activists and donors, need to trust the field.

Ø  Give now: National umbrella organizations or tables; state and local affiliates of those organizations in purple states, either 501c3 or 501c4. Consider adopting a state (see below).

Ø  Give later: State and local organizations in purple states, either 501c3 or 501c4.

3. ADOPT A STATE

One way to maximize your impact is an “adopt a state” strategy: giving to multiple entities, candidates, and organizations in one targeted state. You can choose one in the South (FL, GA, NC, VA), one in the Midwest (MI, OH, PA, WI), and/or one in the West (AZ, CO, NV). In each, you can create a comprehensive giving strategy for each state, focusing on 501c3 and 501c4 groups as well as state and local candidates.

For instance, in Wisconsin, you could give to:

  1. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, running for re-election in 2018
  2. eventual Gubernatorial candidate (once primary is over)
  3. targeted state legislative candidates (once primaries are over)
  4. Wisconsin Democratic Party
  5. America Votes Wisconsin and their partner groups (501c4)
  6. Wisconsin Voices and their partner groups (501c3)

Many purple states do not have the donor base of California or New York. Federal and statewide candidates are used to out of state fundraising but that is not the case for smaller organizations and local candidates. These investments have high return on investment.

 

 

The 2018 elections will shape our politics until 2032. Since the election of #NotMyPresident Trump, we have seen a huge wave of activism on the Left. Groups like Indivisible, SwingLeft, Flippable, and too many others to name have popped up.  Citizens are calling Members of Congress in unprecedented levels, shutting down the Capitol switchboard. The ACLU raised five times its annual budget in one weekend. Everyone is asking, What Can I Do?

The problem is, what we’re doing feels insufficient. We are so desperate to take action, so desperate to right the wrongs happening every day, that we waste time sending postcards to Paul Ryan in a futile effort to be heard. 

Needed Investments in the Trump Era

I have spent the past week talking to friends, colleagues, donors, and progressive activists about where we go as a party and a movement. To my delight (and, I must admit, surprise) not one person said, I’m done. Across the board, people are ready to re-commit themselves to our progressive values.

As the Monday Morning Quarterbacking begins and debates rage about the working class voters vs. the Obama coalition vs. college-educated women, I think it is important to remember the bigger picture: this was not a mandate election. We must do a better job of talking to all of these groups – and they are not mutually exclusive. Hillary Clinton won 1.7 MILLION more votes than Trump. More people voted for Democratic congressional candidates than Republicans. The American electorate succumbed to fear and were uninspired by a demonized and imperfect candidate.

In the ruins of 2004, organizations like Media Matters, America Votes, and the Democracy Alliance emerged and helped change our political landscape. They laid the groundwork needed to take back the House in 2006 and elect Barack Obama in 2008. There is hope for a similar re-calibration of progressive organizations. There remain, however, too many groups with too much overlap and too many progressive groups led by old, white men.

I have broken down funding needs into several broad categories (and by no means expect one donor to help fund them all):

  1. Immediate Needs: Helping Those Most Impacted by President Trump
  2. Fighting Back and 2018 Investments
  3. Building Long-term Power

The organizations most crucial to our movement are desperate for funds. The first six months after a presidential election are always the hardest for non-profit fundraising (and I include 501c3, 501c4, 527s, etc in that catch-all). We need to fund these efforts now and for multiple cycles to come (ideally with multi-year grants, for their planning purposes).

I welcome feedback on the recommendations outlined below.

1.    Immediate Needs: Helping Those Most Impacted by President Trump

Hate crimes are on the rise. Families live in fear of deportation. IUD requests have risen 900% since Election Day. The most vulnerable among us will face an unprecedented set of challenges under a Trump presidency.

The Resistance: Black Lives Matter and DREAMer activists have been well trained in protest tactics. We need to expand this training so activists know how to protest effectively and safely. Activists also need training in secure communications as well as a bail fund. These are the people on the front lines and a small amount of funding can go a long way. Solidaire, a donor network with the purpose of supporting organizations focused on people of color, has supported this work in the past and can be a resource for more information.

The People: Here, I recommend supporting national organizations with a deep reach in numerous states as well as trusted local, direct-services organizations. People of color, immigrants, women, and other communities are already under siege. Immigrant rights organizations will be among those most targeted and most in need of funds, both to provide direct services as well as to fight bad legislation and executive actions. In Silicon Valley, this includes SIREN locally and then United We Dream, National Immigration Law Center, and MALDEF for national giving. Planned Parenthood health centers (especially those in deep red states) and other women’s service providers will see dramatic cuts in federal and some state funding. Their national 501c3, 501c4/PAC and local affiliates will need ongoing funding. Color of Change is a national grassroots organization well-suited for pushback within the black community.

2.    Fighting Back and 2018 Investments

The Supreme Court: Groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU will need to pivot immediately to fight a right-wing Supreme Court nominee. In the past, a coalition effort has formed with groups taking specific “lanes” for pushback and activation. These efforts will need substantial funding but exact vehicles are not yet clear.

Voting Rights: A Trump Presidency and Republican-controlled states will gut remaining voting protections and expanded voter access. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (who run the non-partisan election protection coalition) nationally and state-focused legal and grassroots organizations will need funding for this work. Organizations like the Bus Federation affiliates and Common Cause work on these issues at the state level.

The Media: Both an immediate and long-term need will be funding an independent media and investigative journalism. This includes media outlets as well as individual journalists. Peter Omidyar and the Democracy Fund have led on this work and there is an existing donor network for through Piper Fund to fight the corporatization of media as related to their money in politics work. Both will have suggestions for impactful grantees.

Candidates: There are 10 female incumbent Senators up for re-election in 2018, some of who are in red or purple states. Despite some policy disagreements with a few of them, they need our early support. Their votes are the difference between a Democratic majority or Mitch McConnell running rampant. The Electing Women Alliance and EMILY’s List continue to lead here.

There will also be 36 Gubernatorial elections, Attorney General races, and state legislative races across the country – all are critical for redistricting, which will set the political landscape for a decade. America Votes is leading these efforts.

Party Committee/SuperPACs: While I believe some ongoing support is needed for party committees and SuperPACs, I do not believe they are the most effective means for long-term impact. They are largely focused on paid TV ads, which have a very short shelf life and simply help enrich media consultants. I would use giving as an opportunity to pose the following questions:

  • What percentage of consultants and vendors are women? What percentage of the total respective budget (i.e., 5% of polling budget) goes to those vendors?
  • What percentage of consultants and vendors re people of color? What percentage of the total respective budget goes to those vendors?
  • When engaging female voters and voters of color, how are you ensuring authentic engagement?
  • How is you measuring impact in real-time? What are your plans for evaluation after the election?

These groups are often not held accountable post-election and leadership turnovers prevent a tough analysis from cycle to cycle. Clearly, the so-called “tried and true” tactics are not working and their strategy needs to change.

State and Local Organizations: Small organizations in battleground states and key 2018 targets need to keep their members energized and activated for national work as well as state legislative sessions in 2017. Many of these groups participate in state “tables” – coordinating entities nationally and in key states that provide financial, technical, and other resources; help reduce duplication of efforts; work on state legislation; and focus on voter registration, education, and mobilization efforts. On the 501c3 side, State Voices is the national/state entity; on the 501c4/501c6 (labor)/527 side, America Votes plays that convening role. I would recommend funding these groups nationally as well as in key states. Again, multi year grants are most helpful.

To that end, I suggest an “adopt a state” strategy: one in the south (GA, NC, VA), one in the Midwest (MI, OH, PA, WI), and one out West (AZ, NV). In each, create a comprehensive giving strategy for each state, focusing on 501c3 and 501c4 groups as well as state and local candidates. There are also state donor tables in many of these states that help vet organizations and provide the collective resources needed (voter files, data services, research, communications, etc).

Double Down on Women: Threaded throughout all of the above is the need to double-down on women’s organizations and women candidates. From Planned Parenthood and NARAL protecting choice and women’s health to sexual assault survivor assistance through groups like RAINN to creating the candidate pipeline with Emerge, EMILY’s List, and the Electing Women Alliance, this funding has never been more crucial. Federal and state policy fights on issues like paid family leave, equal pay, and raising the minimum wage will also need resources; the Rockefeller Family Fund helps coordinate giving in these areas.

Research: We can’t have the same consultants telling us what went wrong and why when they got it so wrong themselves (and I say that as someone who works closely with pollsters and other consultants and respects many of them). We need to seek out alternative research to help us understand 2016 so we prevent making the same mistakes again. This must include extensive focus groups of key voting blocs, alternative polling (online, door-to-door, etc) of those groups, new messaging playbooks, and the development of innovative policy ideas. Project New America (a client), the Roosevelt Institute, Demos, and others can lead here.

Silicon Valley is uniquely situated to support research and experimentation. We need to test old theories of engagement and be comfortable with failing up in learning new tactics. Groups like the Analyst Institute need resources that are not tied to a specific client in order to accurately gauge success. We also need to support innovative data companies like TargetSmart, Catalist, Blue Labs, and Civis Analytics.

3.    Long-term Investments

State and Local Organizations: This is a 2018 play with long-term implications. Funding locally-led, field/grassroots driven organizations with leadership that is reflective of the New American Majority (people of color, young people, unmarried women) is crucial to long-term success in the states. Again, groups like State Voices, America Votes, the Bus Federation, and others have multi-state affiliates and multi-issue strategies.

Cultural Organizing: Artists, musicians, comedians, actors, athletes, and other cultural leaders need resources to speak to their audiences effectively. We also need to directly support artists of all kinds directly. I am far from an expert in this area but groups like Revolutions Per Minute and Citizen Engagement Lab work with artists and will have ideas for what is needed.

California: We need California to remain the Blue Beacon for progressive policy. Too many Democratic state legislators and local electeds are Democrats in name only and are only shills for corporate policies. The 2018 Gubernatorial election along with 2020 redistricting provide opportunities to ensure long-term progressive victories. States truly are the laboratories of democracy and we need California to continue to push the envelope. The new California donor table coordinates these efforts.

Maybe it's because I'm a new Mom

I've become a Podcast devotee. I can quietly listen to something without that little screen serving as a Mom and baby distraction.

There are several new political podcasts. Here are a few I recommend:

  • Off Message: Glenn Thrush of Politico does excellent long-form interviews with key political figures.
  • Keepin' it 1600: Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, Obama White House alums (and former colleagues of mine on the Kerry campaign) offer funny insights into the week's news.
  • The Axe Files with David Axelrod: President Obama's former right-hand strategist interviews politicos and other prominent leaders.
  • Politico's 2016 Nerdcast: Not as informative as I had hoped but some good analysis. 
  • The Pollsters: Bi-partisan duo Margie Omero and Kristen Soltis Anderson discuss new polling in politics, business, pop culture, and the like. Funny and informative on a wonky topic.
  • The West Wing Weekly: a new-ish podcast devoted to re-capping episodes of The West Wing with former castmate Joshua Malina and superfan Hrishikesh Hirway; often has other cast members and writers featured. 

It's not just Hillary

In all the debate and hoopla over playing the women's card and voting for Hillary because she's a woman, it's easy to lose sight of key down-ballot races. 

I'm fortunate to work with Electing Women Silicon Valley, part of the Electing Women Alliance. In 2016, we're focused on electing more women to the U.S. Senate. There are an unprecendented number of qualified women running this cycle -- 10 total -- representing some of the most competitive races in the country. Many are also women of color. EMILY's List and others also work to raise money for these incredible candidates. 

Below are some additional articles:

 

Millennial Donors

There's a fascinating new study from NextGenDonors about Millennial donors. It highlights preferences for giving as well as differences between those who created vs. inherited their wealth. As young people inherit $40 trillion in wealth and continue to become the next generation of self-made millionaires, understanding their unique characteristics becomes increasingly important.