Tips for 2016

I’ve heard questions from some of you about ways to best invest funds to engage the New American Majority in the 2016 election. I’ve shared answers informally, and I thought some of these ideas and strategies could be useful to others in this group. Here are a few tips for getting your dollars to the right place.


Be ready

Campaigns will likely contact you asking for donations. Here are a few questions to help you determine if your giving-dollar would be used in ways we care about.

  • Which demographic groups are you targeting? How many voters from each group will you need to win?  

  • What’s your total budget? How much are you allocating to persuading undecided voters? How much are you allocating to mobilization?

  • What’s your community engagement strategy? How will you work on the ground? Are you working with community organizations to register voters?

  • Have you hired culturally competent staff? Any bilingual staff?

  • Are you polling for understanding of voter views/concerns within different racial demographic groups?


Be savvy

Reach out to groups on the ground to find out where there’s need and who’s out there meeting it.  Because organizations doing critical work are often smaller community-based organizations, it can be tricky to ferret out each group’s effectiveness. A savvy approach for us has been to work with “intermediary organizations” who vet groups on the ground and provide them with technical assistance. Below are intermediary organizations who fundraise, provide technical assistance, vet and coordinate smaller organizations to make sure donor dollars are well spent.


Southern Elections Fund

Works to expand Black voter registration, turnout, and candidates.

Contact: Marvin Randolph, President

Contact information:


Black Civic Engagement Fund

Develops and coordinates resources for investment in national and local organizations focused on engaging Black communities for greater voter participation.

Contact: Cietta Kiandoli, Director

Contact information:


Center for Community Change Action

Carrying out a large-scale voter engagement effort in three states (CO, NV, and FL) where Latino and Asian American/Pacific Islander immigrants can make the difference in election outcomes.

Contact: Deepak Pateriya, Chief of Staff

Contact Information:  

Provides technical assistance to community organizations doing voter work and provides strategic advice and coordination to coalitions of groups conducting large-scale electoral activities.

Contact: Andy Wong, President

Contact Information:


Movement 2016  

Maintains a website with information on the best local progressive grassroots voter organizations in most states - mainly in communities of color.

Contact: Billy Wimsatt, Founder & Executive Director

Contact Information:


Latino Engagement Fund

Provides incentives, collaboration and coordination for organizations serving the Latino community, and provides donors with the tools and services to create impact.

Contact: Dave Montez

Contact Information:



2016 in Focus

Democracy in Color produces periodic articles and podcasts to provide a needed narrative for re-thinking American politics “in color”. As we are in the heat of the 2016 election, I’ve selected a few posts and podcasts that offer a New American Majority analysis of Democratic campaign strategies, polling and the path to victory. I thought you might find them of interest.

  • 97 Days Until the Election: What Should You Do? A look at some of the organizations, methods, and tactics you can work with to help achieve a New American Majority-powered victory in November.

  • How to Read a Poll  In this Facebook Live session, Steve discusses how to understand what polls are trying to tell you.

  • Where we Stand This piece came out in July. It discussed the state of the race at that time. Many of the points still apply. Steve highlights how the race is turning into a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.

  • The Best of Steve Phillips and Brown is the New White Many of you have Steve’s book, Brown is the New White. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it, or if you want to hear a discussion of the core ideas, this podcast is a great way to learn more.

  • Fighting for Ohio: The Swing State of Swing States This podcast is a discussion with David Pepper, Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party and Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland-based civil rights attorney, on how Democratic Party politics in Ohio are adjusting to the New American Majority.  




What Donors are Doing

Since our last newsletter, this community continues to take the initiative to make an impact. Here is some of what you have been up to:

Leveraging  our Influence

A number of you who have relationships with Senate Majority PAC contacted them to introduce them to this effort and the report cards. This is a great example of how we can collectively use our relationships to move the ball forward.

Shared Talking Points for Meetings with Political Leaders

When Conway Collis was planning his trip to the DCCC annual weekend in Napa, he reached out to see if there were high priority points it would be helpful to raise. Going forward more of us might want to plan together for these kinds of gatherings.

Growing the Group

A number of you have taken the initiative to introduce this effort to other donors with shared interests. Deborah Schneider, Arnold Hiatt, Cookie Parker, and Tom Unterman have all introduced the group to additional donors.

Sharing Ideas and Tools with Other Political Actors

Karen Grove introduced the report card to the head of the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. They are now exploring using the report card tools in their endorsement process.  They are a powerful organization that can have a big impact on how California elections are conducted.

Thanks for all that you do to make a difference in this effort and beyond.


Black Voters Matter

In June, Steve penned a piece in The Nation, Are Black Voters Invisible to Democrats?” His answer was an unsettling, yes. He described $200 million in announced spending by progressive organizations, where none had been dedicated to African American voter turnout. Negative TV ads, aimed at a relatively small population of swing voters, were slated to receive the bulk of the funds. A look at the graphic in the article will quickly show you the funding imbalance.

The article ignited a conversation and, fortunately, progress.  By early July, NEA Executive Director John Stocks helped Steve convened the major independent organizations to begin to get an overview and clarity around who was doing what in terms of Black voter mobilization.  As a result of those conversations, more than $20 million is slated for African American registration and mobilization in several strategic states.  

The importance of this work to winning this election cycle was described by Marvin Randolph, President of the Southern Elections Fund and the country’s leading expert in Black voter mobilization and the architect of the NAACP’s 2012 program that registered nearly 400,000 Black voters.  “We call it The Gap,” described Randolph of SEF. “It’s the difference between Black voter turnout when Obama is on the ticket, versus when he’s not”. The difference is about one million voters. As Randolph explains, “It takes about $12-$18 to register a Black voter, and around $8-$12, to turn that voter out. That’s roughly $30 per vote, and that’s significantly less than what it takes to turn out a swing voter.”

While $20 million for Black voter work is significantly more than $0, it’s still short of what a truly data-driven investment portfolio should look like.  African Americans, 90% of whom vote Democratic, are among the most valuable resources for the progressive movement, and they make up 23% of all Democratic voters (more than white men in 2012).  An optimal portfolio would allocate more than 20% of its funds to that precious resource. Since Democrats will spend close to $2 billion this cycle the optimal number for reaching Black voters would be closer to $400 million than to the $20 million identified so far. (Note: This $20 million only includes amounts coming from entities independent of Democratic candidate’s campaigns, so the total number is will ultimately be larger, but the above numbers give a sense of the order of magnitudes involved.)  Significantly increasing these investments needs to be a top priority of the progressive movement going forward.


What Donors Are Doing

Since we released the first round of report cards, this donor community has been very creative about finding ways to advance the work.  You have done so much, even without a coordinated strategy!  

Donors are spreading the word about our report cards (and related tools)

  • Cathy Carlson spoke to the ED of the DSCC, Senator Schatz, and other donors.
  • Paul Egerman spoke to reps from the Senate Independent Expenditure and sent a link.
  • Weston Milliken, and his advisor Eddy Morales, asked their funding recipients, the Democratic campaign committees, about their consultant diversity numbers and how it’s tracked. 
  • Margery Loeb shared our list of questions with the Texas State Democratic Party, who in turn passed them on to candidates they are working with.
  • Kaitlyn Krieger, Jason Franklin, English Sall, and Alexandra Russell shared our report card tools with funders focused on specific states. 
  • Alexandra Russell, Weston Milliken and Eddy Morales, have shared information with other donors and donor advisors. 
  • Karla Jones used the report cards to decide which Senate candidates to give to.  And she let them know that the report card informed her decisions.

Connecting Donors to Options for Giving to Community-Based Groups

Many of us believe that it is critical to give outside of campaigns and committees to groups on the ground in communities who are doing voter work.  

  • Nancy Parrish worked with me to identify a giving option for funders she knows who would like to give to voter registration.

Allowing Your Names to be Used Publicly

There is much we can do privately as donors, but sometimes it helps the cause to share our names publicly.  Several of you agreed to be a media contact when we released the first report cards (it turned out the media did not ask for this).  And a number of you also agreed to be in a follow-up press release and series of tweets.

I know I am leaving some people out.  Thanks also to the people who helped shape this project in the early stages and to all who provide much-appreciated words of encouragement!

Please keep the updates, action, and feedback coming. We’ve got energy and momentum on this issue, let’s build on it!

Our Partners

From time to time, you’ll hear me mention these partner organizations that play critical roles in making sure that voters of color are engaged so that Democrats win. This first newsletter feels like the right time to introduce them to you. 

Inclusv. They focus on increasing diversity in professional staffing at every level of political engagement. 

American Majority Project Research Institute (AMPRI). They provide multidisciplinary research on engaging voters of color. They provide technical assistance to community organizations doing voter work and provide strategic advice and coordination to coalitions of groups conducting large-scale electoral activities. 

Southern Elections Fund. They focus on expanding the participation of African American voters, expanding the electorate, and developing new leaders of color. 

PowerPAC+. They are a leading voice on the role of race in modern American politics. PowerPAC+ is the sponsor of Democracy in Color, a media platform by and for the New American Majority and sister organization to



Report Cards -- Initial Impacts

The report cards are a tool to bring improvements and transparency to Democratic campaigns and committees.  Change will take time, but we saw a number of immediate responses after we released our first round of report cards:

  • Campaigns began to engage more deeply and seriously with us.  Immediately after the report cards were released, three campaigns initiated additional contact with us.  One campaign volunteered significantly more information.
  • Strickland campaign stated that they would like to treat the first report card as a baseline they can improve against.
  • Bennet campaign requested a list of community groups.
  • McGinty campaign has now created a community coalition of people of color groups to advise the campaign.
  • Several campaigns significantly improved their work with voters of color during the time we were working with them on the report cards.

Can Strickland Campaign Become More of a “Champion for Community Issues”?

One key factor in our report card grade was whether the candidate was considered a “Champion for Community Issues”. This was an area of weakness in campaigns--four of the five candidates scored only 2 out of 5 stars on this factor. 

Being a champion for “community issues,” the issues that matter most to those least likely to vote, is one of the most effective ways for a Democratic Senate candidate to increase turnout in a Presidential election year.  It’s how the candidate cuts through the noise and gives people a reason to vote who would not otherwise do so.  That most of the candidates got such a low score in this category is very troubling.

Governor Strickland is taking some steps that may raise his campaign’s score.  He is conducting listening sessions in the African American and immigrant communities.  His campaign plans to use these meetings to help shape positions and stands.

We’re eager to see whether his listening sessions result in a better score from community groups when we do our follow-up report cards. (We develop the score by getting input from community groups that seek to turn out less frequent voters in communities of color.) Will they feel he’s become a better advocate for issues their communities care about? We’ll keep you posted.