Show me the Money

June 29, 2008

You want to become president? You’d better have lots of money. Before the Dean campaign came along most of the money came from a few large donors. If you collected a lot of money from your well to do buddies you became a Pioneer or a Ranger. This, in turn, usually bought you some favors. Want to be an ambassador or have government regulation in your favor? Just show me the money. 


When Joe Trippi took over the Dean campaign he knew that they needed money to win. It was time to think outside of the box. When given the tools, voters were organizing themselves on Meetup. Why not let them know what the campaign needed when it came to funding and trust the voters to help achieve that goal? Jerry Lewis was in a studio every year asking for money for muscular dystrophy research while standing beside a thermometer with the temperature climbing as money poured in. Why couldn’t the campaign use a variation of that idea to motivate voters. They could visually see what they were helping to accomplish. They could feel like part of the team as they did at the Meetups. Larry Biddle from the finance department came up with the solution, a baseball bat. What is more american than baseball?

A goal was set. Not too high, because they needed to reach it but not too low because they needed to make an impression. It was $4.5 million. In the end they raised $7.2 million and changed the face of campaign financing. All of this money was raised by small donors. The average check was for $50 or less. No Rangers here and also no one that the campaign was beholden to.  Another breakthrough was that never before had fundraising goals gone public. Sometimes you need to take a chance to make an impact. 


Basically, what it comes down to is that in order to raise money for campaigns a candidate needs to court their supporters, all of them. Hillary Clinton didn’t and she lost the nomination and is $20 million in debt. Obama embraced Dean’s model and motto of change and he has the nomination.