What We Can Do, 2024

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This is my regular guide to the most effective ways to contribute to Democratic electoral victories. I used to recommend specific candidates in these posts, but I've come to realize that it's better to give to organizations with more effective and modern approaches to reaching potential voters. Campaigns tend to spend most of their money on TV ads, which yield diminishing returns, especially as they get closer to Election Day. The groups I recommend figure out, better than I could, which campaigns around the country are the most important to support, and then they do a better job of boosting them than the campaigns themselves can do.

The groups I recommend have the following three characteristics in common:

  1. They do their work year-round, not just during election seasons.
  2. They build relationships with the people they reach, so their work doesn't just affect the next election, but carries on into the future.
  3. They base their work on sophisticated data analyses that help them gain the most Democratic votes for the contributions they receive.

Logo for the organization, Working America

This community affiliate of the AFL-CIO fills an important need in this country: they serve as a virtual union for workers that don't have unions at their jobs. Though they can't collectively bargain with employers for their members, what they do is organize them to effect electoral changes in this country that are beneficial to working people.

Working America reaches a demographic that, frankly, the Democratic Party has not been communicating very well with in recent years, which makes their work all the more valuable and even essential.

Logo for the organization, Center For Voter Informationor
Logo for the organization, Voter Participation Center

Both the Center for Voter Information and the Voter Participation Center register voters that belong to three groups that are underrepresented in the voter rolls: young people, people of color, and unmarried women. These are groups that tend to vote Democratic, and the VPC and CVI are so effective at getting them registered and voting that they were ranked #1 and #2 by a Stanford-based group that took a data-driven approach to determining the most effective places to steer political donations for 2020.

Donations to the Voter Participation Center are tax-deductible, while donations to the Center For Voter Participation are not, due to differences in how they go about the basic mission described above.

I can't describe the work that Galvanize USA does any better than they do in their online vision statement:

We've talked with women across the country—particularly in rural, small town, and suburban communities—who tell us they feel alone in their beliefs, sometimes struggle to say what they think when it comes to issues they care about, and are unsure of how they can make a difference. They tell us they avoid talking about politics for fear of the conflict it will create in their homes and their lives. The division and polarization so prevalent in politics today is exacerbating this concern and causing more and more women to step back from civic engagement. This has serious implications for our democracy.

The Galvanize USA community is built on supportive, honest connection. Our research-driven programming allows us to understand the challenges that can prevent us from building durable change in this country and to create the solutions we need. We share tips and tools as we navigate busy lives, put politics into context, and build each other up so that we can have brave conversations that move us all forward. Our community supports a healthy participation in our democracy so that together, we can achieve our vision of an America that works for everyone.

I highly recommend that you donate to one or more of these organizations, and that you make it a monthly donation. It doesn't have to be much. As with voting, it's not about how much a single vote can do, but what we can accomplish if enough of us do it. There are billionaires donating millions of dollars to make the world better for themselves. How about if a million of us donate $10 a month (less than we might spend per month on coffee, a streaming service, or a single restaurant meal) to make the world better for everybody?

Other ways to help

If you can't afford to donate money, or if you want to take personal action in addition to donating, here's what I've heard about the value of common get-out-the-vote activities, from people who have studied the stats about how effective they are:

  1. Door-to-door canvassing is the most effective method by far. Many people are reluctant to try this, because they think they'll be asked to argue with political opponents about the issues and they don't feel qualified to do that. But actually, door-to-door canvassing (as well as phone banking, described next) is not about that at all. It is simply about identifying potential Democratic voters and then getting them out to the polls on Election Day. If you encounter a Republican, you just note that fact and take your leave politely, and there's value in identifying the Republicans, because then, they won't be visited again.
  2. The next most effective method is phone banking, if you can't do a lot of walking, or if you want to help get out the vote in some other locale. Most people who have just voted for the first time, when asked why they decided to start voting, says that it's because somebody simply asked them to.
  3. The writing of letters and postcards to potential Democratic voters in key states is not as effective as door-to-door canvassing or phone banking, but it can be helpful in some cases, if it's well targeted and managed.

If you'd like to find some kind of work to do on the upcoming election, here are three places to start:

  1. Working America, a group that I listed above as one of the best organizations to donate to, also organizes volunteer efforts to help increase their membership, which they then educate, inform, and encourage to vote in ways that benefit the workers of America.
  2. Focus Action Network looks for urgent, high leverage work that needs doing and then organizes its volunteers to meet that need. So the kind of work that's done can vary a lot, depending on what they identify as the biggest unmet needs in any election cycle.
  3. If the two groups above don't have any work that you're able to do, then you can try Swing Left, which organizes numerous actions all over the country. You can enter your zip code to find all the opportunities in your area.

These are my recommendations for the best organizations to give to, or failing that (or in addition to that), which common get-out-the-vote activities are most effective and how to find them. I have no relationship with any of the organizations I've listed; I don't gain anything from donations made to them except the satisfaction of knowing that Democratic money is being spent in the best possible ways.

Whatever you decide to do, whether you take my specific recommendations or not, I hope you'll decide to do something. Because, again, the most important thing is not how much we give or where we give it, but what we can accomplish if enough of us give what we can.