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.

Before Giving Tuesday

With end of the year giving on our mind and Giving Tuesday just a few days away, I wanted to pass on some advice for how to maximize your donations and impact.

Many philanthropists have monthly or annual commitments that they fulfill towards the end of the year. It’s a good time to reflect on why and how you give. Shameless plug: you can complete my Giving Assessment (either just to start a conversation with your family or to take a deeper dive with my help) here.

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Where to Invest Now: Political Giving in the Trump Era

It’s time to take a breath. The special elections and Virginia primaries added a sense of urgency to what is typically a sleepy political season. The 24-minute news cycle, egged on by the unhinged Tweets of #NotMyPresident Trump, also add to our anxiety.

But we do need to pause and take stock of where we are and what still needs to be done going forward. Potential political investments fall into three categories: the Resistance; electoral investments and related efforts; and long-term power building in the states.

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Where to give now

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.

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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. 

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