I’ve long been sceptical about the scope for online fundraising in British politics. That’s partly because I’ve seen a sequence of American political consultants come to the UK, say they know much better than Brits, promise lots and then raise not very much – across the political spectrum. I’ve also seen a sequence of people from Britain go, “Oooh! American! Shiny! Must be better!”, promise lots and then raise not very much – again, across the political spectrum.
Having been responsible for (along with Ashley Lumsden and Martin Tod) the first candidate website in the UK to take credit card donations, it’s an area I’ve been involved in and watching closely for a long time. Regular readers of this site, for example, will have often seen me talk in the past about some of the differences in politics and culture between the US and Britain which help explain these different fundraising experiences, such as the way in the US people often given money when in the equivalent scenarios in the UK they give time.
Twice my views on this topic have been dented – once by Boris Johnson’s bid for London Mayor with its impressive online fundraising and once by Evan Harris, whose constituency campaign in 2010 raised over £6,000 online.
And now there is a third dent, and on the three dents and you’re out basis that’s time to revise some of my views.
Impressive online fundraising by Yes to Fairer Votes
This third dent comes courtesy of the Yes2AV campaign and its successful online fund-raising. Yes to Fairer Votes raised over £35,000 from 1,400 individuals in small online donations over the last week, bringing its total from online donations to over £150,000 from just under 5,000 individuals. The average online contribution is £27.05.
With direct mail and telephone fundraising raising approaching £100,000, that is nearly £250,000 raised – of which the majority has come online.
The size of the donor base compares very well to only around 1,000 donors to the No campaign (based on what they published a couple of weeks ago) and it looks to be coming from genuinely cross-party sources, again in contrast to the No campaign which is 90% funded by Conservative donors.
So three dents and I’m out. Time to revise my views on online political fundraising. Those lessons can be digested later, but in the meantime, don’t forget that what matters in the end is votes in the ballot box – so if you haven’t already, do get in touch with your local party about Yes campaigning or visit www.yestofairervotes.org.