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Celebrities are Making Crowdfunding Popular. Here’s Why that’s Good for Democracy

The Citizens United vs. Election Commission judgment in 2010 enabled political donations by individuals, corporations and unions to contribute unlimited funds to political and non-profit organizations. However, 78% of Americans want the ruling overturnedeven though voters, academics, and broadminded elected officials acknowledge the fact that political inequality remains a problem, but not due to lack of campaign finance. While many political and advocacy campaigns rely on celebrities and well known people to crowdfund, an increasingly varied subset of Americans make political contributions and participate in our democracy. The conceot of crowdfunding has re-invigorated the electorate and enhanced opportunities for hitherto sidelined Americans who are low-income, low-education or young. Crowdfunding enables funding of ventures by raising numerous small money contributions. Today as 62% of Americans get their news from social media apps and sites, fundraising professionals increasingly rely on digital channels such as Twitterand Facebook, to target and attract donors and aggregate small money contributions. Ultimately, these micro-donations add up and make a huge different to the outcomes of close elections.

Pioneering Strategies

President Obama’s campaign in 2012 pioneered effective crowdfunding strategies at national level raised $631 million from individual donations, and $214 million from small contributors. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016 raised $218 million online with $27 as average individual contribution. Apart from political candidates, crowdfunding encourages diverse advocacy organizations to express issues by going viral, if their message is compelling. Recently, effective crowdfunding platforms, like CrowdPAC, Kickstarter, IndieGogo, have been launched to amplify campaign outreach by sending mass updates to any person contributing earlier through their platform. Crowdfunding is now an honest metric to judge whether or not they have the popular support. Alyssa Milano is an effective celebrity influencer with 3.15 million followers on her personal twitter account and helped Jon Ossoff, the former candidate in the recent special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, raise $23.6 million.

Does Anyone Care?

Earlier, political campaigns, non-profits and other organizations depended only on bigger individual contributions while the interest groups and candidates failed to address grassroots level concerns. Employing digital grassroots fundraising strategies, crowdfunding has re-built community relations, with our civic and social communities becoming increasingly intertwined. Effective campaigns now meet potential donors through their favored methods of communication at their preferred social channels. Thus campaigns invest more resources into engaging celebs and social influencers to magnify crowdfunding efforts on social media. These celebs and social influencers can vary from a civic leader, celebrity or even a  well-known face a with a strong following in a particular community. That is very effective for initiatives such as issue campaigns or local elections devoid of partisan affiliation.

Celebrities as Social Influencers

In an age when social media content becomes viral and people suffer from a very short attention span, from a few hours to a few days, we understand why campaigns and campaigners invest much energy and time into building relations with social influencers and stars and are very methodical about posting of fundraising links online. This is an significant distinction for all progressives as many view Donald Trump’s election as a protest against mainstream media and the Hollywood elite. Should the Hollywood folk stay out of politics in general? The answer is ‘NO’ as their efforts ensure effective crowdfunding, which encourages more diverse groups of contributors to make their voices, heard. Without drastic campaign finance reforms, our collective pursuit for political equality can only be executed by engaging large number of Americans in the grassroots political process.

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