Fundraising and campaigning (part 4)

In a previous post, I asked, “how are [nonprofit] fundraising and [political] campaigning related?”

A popular image is that members of the House, who have to run for re-election every two years, which is to say constantly, are judged by their constituencies for how much pork they bring back to their districts. This brings up an interesting parallel with nonprofits – if we think of donors as voters, how do they hold nonprofits accountable, or not?

The easy answer is that the information markets in the nonprofit world don’t function very well, because on some level, donors don’t hold nonprofits accountable – at least not in the sense of “throwing the bums out” when they don’t perform.

But it’s interesting that criteria for political anger and criteria for donor motivations to give can both be nebulous, in their own ways. What do voters want from politicians? That they bring home the pork? That they say the right things? That they have similar ideologies as voters? That you’d want to have a beer with them? The machinery of governing is so opaque, and how it’s actually connected with an individual politician’s performance (I’m thinking of legislators rather than the President here) is so unclear, that the mechanism of accountability, though stark (you win an election or you lose it), is also strangely arbitrary. Sounds a bit like concerns about most nonprofits not being able to show their impact to donors.

And yet people vote, and give to charity (I use that word intentionally). So clearly something else is going on besides holding politicians and nonprofits accountable on the basis of causal relations between individual efforts and impact.

Is it a proximity or halo effect (we work on this issue, so we must have something to do with it, even if no one can say exactly what or now)?

What about the role of parties in politics? Does the halo effect in politics come from that? Parties create a group identity or team affiliation that politicians can use as a proxy for their own impact. Nonprofits don’t have that, do they? What would it look like if they did?

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