Monday, August 18, 2008

On Fundraising

Reading an article on Gerard Kennedy, I was struck by this sentence:
He also became disenchanted that the party renewal Mr. Dion had pledged to promote wasn't happening.

I'm not even sure I buy the above as true, so this post isn't about stirring the pot. However, I've always believed, and this is one of the reasons I supported him and joined the party, that Kennedy "gets it" when he speaks of party renewal. That stance has irked some people, entrenched interests never react particularly well to talk of insurgencies, or criticisms. But, in the final analysis, it speaks to the notions of entitlement, it understands that the Liberals tend to be lacking, relative to other parties, when it comes to grassroots support.

Which leads us to fundraising. The new fundraising rules are actually a blessing in disguise for the Liberals, if you adopt the long view. These rules are clearly hurting the Liberals in the immediate, but ultimately they will provide the path to renewal that needs to occur. The new system demands grassroots support, it relies on average Canadians, donating small amounts, to make a party fiscally viable. That reality translates to a need to reach out to the rank and file, build the party from the ground up. Within that, it then necessitates a better dialogue, or engagement, between the party appartus and its supporters.

We already see the seeds of a new dynamic, when you consider the Victory Fund, which involves direct interaction with participants and their leadership. Still in the embryo stage, it is easy to see how the need to attract donors will only be successful if people feel plugged in to the process. Under the old rules, the Liberals could rely on heavyweights to compete, and this reliance is partially responsible for the party appearing top heavy. That relationship has evaporated, which means in the end, there will be a transfer of power to the "person on the street" if the Liberals are to thrive.

When the dust settles, Kennedy's want may come about, not voluntarily, but because of circumstance, because party prosperity may depend on it. In a few years, I have a feeling we may look back on the new fundraising rules as the best thing that could have happened to the Liberal Party.


Mike said...

Sounds like buyer's remorse to me.

I don't vote and didn't support the Liberals, but I am politically astute enough to know that if Kennedy himself had walked over to Bob Rae or Michael Ignatief, the Liberals would be in power right now.

C'est la vie eh?

Anonymous said...

I think you are correct in your long view. I personally think that is what happened to the Democrats in the US. It took them a long while to learn the lessons of political fundraising, but they now find themselves in a good position.

I had just hoped it would happen faster for the Liberals in Canada. Alas it did not, but perhaps they will learn. In a way, this article and Kennedy's reemergence seems to be a validation that more are "getting it" these days.

Steve V said...


I don't disagree, although there are a million theoreticals attached to another outcome.


Remember when the Libs paid for Trippi to come up here and educate? Not much came of that, but I think now people are coming to realize that it is a must.

JimmE said...

If you're so all fired "politically astute" why do you not vote?
Better than the rest of us? Do your spider senses tingle too much? Or are you just EFFING Lazy?
To quote THE DUDE's Bowling partner Walter Sobchak:
"-- I did not watch my buddies die face down in the muck ..."
If you do not participate, your opinion ain't worth Jack Squat.

Anonymous said...

Renewal takes time....and unfortunately with Harper at the helm we just don't have that kind of time.

He's making those "scary" changes as we speak....

Steve V said...

"Renewal takes time....and unfortunately with Harper at the helm we just don't have that kind of time."

Of course we have that time, especially when it helps get back to power in the first place. Why people don't grasp that simple fact is frankly beyond me.

Anonymous said...

It's going to be hard for the LPC to ever get a solid grassroots funding footing simply due to the fact that we are big tent party that tends to take pragmatic views on a whole host of issues.

The CPC and Republican party down south have always tended to out raise their opponents at a individual grassroots level due to their hard-line on such issues as abortion, crime etc, which tend to fire up a segment of the population

The reason the Democratic party has seen a resurgence in fund raising is simply due to the power of one individual, backed by brilliant plan to tap into excitement created by this individual.

So at this point, individuals will only donate to the LPC because of their support for one of the parties very few hardline principled positions (green tax shift), or their hatred of the CPC.

And no one is donating simply because of Mr. Dion. (or Mr. Harper for that matter I hope).


Steve V said...


That isn't the case at all in America, and hasn't been since Dean changed the playbook. It isn't just Obama, Dean did it, Kerry did it, Edwards did it and yes, Hillary did it. Congressional Dems, Senate Dems, local Dems.

I think the "big tent" thing is a copout, because the Dems are a bigger tent than the Libs, there is no far left option. Sorry, I just don't buy any of this, it sounds like excuses.

Anonymous said...

You responded as I was going to, Steve. The Democrats have just learned to use data and effective strategies to raise money. It is not just Obama - he has been highly successful in his own right but the successes started before he came along (as you explained).

What I'm curious about is whether the Dems down south are also learning how to register and retain new voters. That seems to be a major beneath the surface push now . . . saw an excellent article about it today, how the Obama and Democrats are working to build upon their primary turn-out successes and turn those voters into sure voters in the fall though they may have spotty or non-existent voting records in past elections.

My sense is that is what the conservatives are attempting to do here, and that the by-elections are the ways the conservatives are testing and advancing their methods. I think Vancouver-Quadra was an example of that, and what I suspect is happening in Gelph. It would fit the "no need to have our candidate out in public too often" approach. Instead they are working at having them available only to targeted, friendly voters in a very systematic pattern probably including targeted mailings, working through key friendly support groups, etc (sort of the Amway approach to gaining new supporters).

Point being the Liberals do need to fast track the funding learning curve, because the battleground may be advancing to other novel approaches such as prodding voters with very targeted, customized messages based upon data gathered.

Mike said...


Gosh, what an insightful comment...

I choose not to vote because I am a libertarian and a market anarchist. I feel that cooperating with a system I fundamentally disagree with only enpowers and encourages it so I choose not to do so.

And I take it the other way voted last time and must live by your decision. You are personally responsible for all of this so it is you that should not now be complaining.

I, on the other hand, can complain all I want since I am in no way culpable.

But feel free to continue to show your love of freedom and democracy by trying to shut me up and silence my dissent.