This is my regular guide to the most effective ways to contribute to Democratic electoral victories.
This year, I'm posting it well in advance of any specific contests. That's because I've come to realize that the two organizations I'm going to recommend below are so much more effective than any other group or campaign in terms of the "bang" (net Democratic votes gained in the most important contests) they'll deliver for every buck you contribute, that there's no reason to wait until later in the year for specific races to emerge.
Here are my two and only two recommended political action groups for 2022 and the foreseeable future. (But I'll list several secondary possibilities at the end of this post.)
This community affiliate of the AFL-CIO is one of the rare groups that has success persuading voters to cross the aisle. It is also one of the rare Democratic groups that can connect powerfully with working class people, a demographic whose wild swings decided the last two elections.
As a kind of virtual union for workers everywhere, they don't just blast out messaging cold turkey. Rather, they engage voters in a gradual process that begins, not with politics but with providing information in areas important to them, such as how to file for unemployment benefits, or get a Covid test, and so forth, building a relationship with them before saying a word about elections.
Because of this relationship, they are also unusually good at getting voters out to the polls not just in the year they first make contact with them, but year after year after that.
A non-public analysis I learned about estimated that the number of Democratic votes this group can gain for every $X it receives in contributions far exceeds that of any other group, campaign, or PAC you could give to. Except perhaps for:
The Center for Voter Information and the Voter Participation Center are essentially the same organization, with the only big difference being their tax status. Their websites are pretty bare bones and low key, but they were ranked #1 and #2 by a Stanford based group that took a data-driven approach to determining the most effective place to steer political donations for 2020.
The VPC and CVI register voters and then shepherd them through the process of voting by mail, entirely by mail, and they've applied the scientific method over the years to home in on the most effective ways to do it. How should the envelopes look? What's the best time of year to do the mailings? Who should they be sent to? How many times should you re-mail someone who's not responding before you give up on them? The VPC/CVI has spent years experimenting to find the best answers.
Finally, their process is completely scalable, because it doesn't depend on human resources. Their process is entirely computerized and automated, so their only limit is how much money they can raise to pay the postage for more mailings.
The VPC is a non-partisan non-profit, which means your contributions will be tax deductible. It also means that they are not allowed to distinguish between the parties in their registration and GOTV efforts, but since they target only the three most underrepresented voter demographics (people of color, unmarried women, and the young) their overwhelming effect is to help Democratic candidates and causes, since those groups tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
The CVI does the same thing as the VPC, except that they can include partisan factors in their targeting to only register and shepherd people who are likely to vote Democratic. However, that means that contributions to them are not tax deductible.
What about donating time and effort?
The best help you can give Working America and the CVI/VPC is to contribute money to their very efficient work, ideally by setting up a regular monthly donation. But what if you can't afford to give anything, or are already giving money but want to also help in a way that feels more personal or palpable?
In those cases, I would first look into volunteer opportunities with Working America. They're limited due to the very specialized approach that Working America takes, and I don't actually know how efficient and effective the volunteer part of their programs is compared to similar efforts by other organizations, but I think this is the best bet, due to Working America's overall effectiveness.
If Working America doesn't pan out, then there are many other possibilities: Postcards to Voters and Vote Forward for writing personal letters to voters, Swing Left or Indivisible for phone banking and canvassing, Spread the Vote and Fair Fight for fighting voter suppression, Black PAC and NextGen America for reaching specific voter demographics, Run For Something and 314 Action for feeding the candidate pipeline with new blood, and finally, Tech For Campaigns (especially if you're a tech worker with time and expertise to offer).
My top recommendations by far are Working America and the Center for Voter Information or Voter Participation Center, but the most important thing is that we all do something. And it doesn't have to be much. As with voting, it's not so much what any single vote can do, as how much we can accomplish if enough of us do it.
I highly recommend "Letters From An American", the blog posts of historian Heather Cox Richardson that you can follow on Facebook or by email. Her almost daily posts only take three minutes to read, but in those three minutes, you'll get her take on the most important events of the day from a historical point of view. This is the kind of perspective that's often missing from the daily torrent of clickable news — and which is therefore all the more important at this critical point in the history of the country we love.