Campaign Finance Reform Would Help Nonprofits

As we discussed in our previous post, there are a number of ways that nonprofits can successfully fundraise during election season. While campaign solicitations inundate emails and people everywhere tire of institutional messaging, nonprofits can still artfully reach their target demographics, raising the money they need to succeed.

But let’s do a thought experiment – what if the competition from political campaigns didn’t exist? What if the more than $1 billion that campaigns and third-party Super PACs have collectively raised so far for election 2016 didn’t go toward 16 months-worth of mudslinging campaign ads, and was instead allocated for other purposes – say, for gifts to charitable organizations?

The U.S. presidential election cycle is unique in the world, where many nations have publicly funded campaigns that do not require enormous fundraising efforts in order for candidates and/or parties to run competitive campaigns. In Britain, nation-wide general elections last three weeks. During the last one, the two primary British parties – Labour and the Tories – collectively spent £25 million, or $37 million. This is a dramatically lower figure than what we see in U.S. general elections, where candidates, parties, and Super PACs have already spent 27 times that amount. And we’re not even to the general election yet!

In the United States, high profile figures across the spectrum have discussed the merits of campaign finance reform. From reining in the influence of dark money to democratizing the level of financial support that average citizens can offer to campaigns, there are a lot of benefits to discuss.

Another big-time benefit? Freeing up money for charitable causes.

Not only do political campaigns distract the public from all the ways that donors can make a difference right now by supporting nonprofits fighting important battles, but it saps available philanthropic dollars by cornering the public’s resources set aside for making donations. With well over $1 billion already poured into election war chests, campaigns and third-party organizations are spending immense sums of money on trying to influence people, when that same money could be used by nonprofits to immediately help people or in some way improve the lives of the U.S. public.

There is certainly a lot at stake in elections, and it would be disingenuous to imply that all politicians raising money and angling for public support aren’t genuinely interested in the Social Good. But, looking out at the world, there are cheaper alternatives, and by pursuing one we as a country we can augment the resource pool for the 1.5 million nonprofits operating inside the United States. The media industry may lose its sports spectacle-esque cash cow, but nonprofit pros would be better equipped to follow through on their important missions.

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