Financing Ballot Initiative Petition Drives

March 8, 2019 — Philip Radford

, Financing Ballot Initiative Petition Drives

Membership Drive, a Progressive Power Lab project, ran a test answer the question: how do we continuously finance ballot initiative petition drives in an era of boom and bust electoral funding where donor money always comes late in the election season? The result: the team pioneered a method to raise money while collecting petitions signatures that could generate recurring gifts to fund ballot initiative petition drives in perpetuity for years to come.

The team tested three techniques: using petitions as leads to telemarket and ask for donations, training petition gatherers to ask for a small donation after people signed the petition, and positioning fundraising canvassers to approach people immediately after they had signed a petition. This third approach proved to be the most successful.

In the third approach, petitioners worked in tandem with fundraising canvassers in the field. Ballot initiative petition gatherers were trained to collect signatures to put the initiative on the ballot, and one additional simple sentence to hand the signers off to a canvasser nearby. The canvasser would then sign the petition signers up as monthly donors.

By the last three days of the pilot, the team was averaging .53 monthly members per hour, signing up 13% of the people with whom they spoke. These numbers significantly surpassed the non-profit industry norm of .24 monthly members per hour with a 5-7% ‘yes rate.’

While these new donors would not immediately fund the current petition drive, the recurring revenue could be used for future ballot initiative petition drives, creating a funding engine for all future petition drives.

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