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Show me the money!

What is the upper range of fundraising possibilities at the GPC and how do we get there?

What I am about to discuss here will likely be significantly different than what you are used to if you have been a Green Party member long enough to receive the plethora of fundraising emails. There are volumes and volumes of money available to the party and you will not find a more generous tax break for a donation than 75% of taxable income as is available to political parties.

One of the keys is that members and supporters have to be motivated by much more than guilt. Many people think “the planet is falling apart” or “democracy is non-existent” or “the social fabric of society keeps deteriorating”. “I don’t know what to do about it so I’ll relieve myself of some guilt and donate some money to the Greens and the party can figure out what to do with it.” Sometimes they donate to the GPC, sometimes to the Provincial party, sometimes to a local riding association or a candidate and they assume that since we are all on the same page, we’ll figure out what to do with their money, not knowing that provincial and federal parties can’t exchange funds.

Members will be motivated to donate if the party actually follows its Constitution

It needs a cleanup but the highest Principles are still valid and should be the driving force for all of our activity. They will donate in droves if we facilitate a grassroots structure that truly gives local EDAs independence for bringing the Green message to their locality or region. People with excellent skills have come and gone but we have to start somewhere to allow them to develop their association themselves without relying on a ‘mobilizer’. Responsibility for candidate recruitment and support needs to go back to the EDA and out of the hands of a central office. Members will also be pleased to donate when there is a true continuous policy development process whereby their expertise and passion is respected. If the party is truly transparent and the information about how the party is running is apparent and plentiful, they will be comfortable donating. The absence of virtually any of this in the GPC currently explains a lot about the constant drop in donations.

Through a series of incremental decisions over the last number of years, the party is set up more like an NGO than a political party that purports to be grassroots. Staff fundraisers at the GPC have mostly been professionals from the NGO sector. Quite frankly, this fit very well for the version of the GPC during Elizabeth May’s first tenure as leader. She came from the Sierra Club, brought Debra Eindiguer with her from there and they both worked hard to mold the GPC in that Sierra Club/NGO/we’ll-do-everything-for-you image. The basic gist of the fundraising emails is “Send us money and Central will do all the work for you, (like an NGO). Here’s what we have been doing on your behalf.” Those at the central hub of the party have completely forgotten, aren’t aware, or have no interest in seeing the party as a member driven organization.

A disastrous switch in Governance Model

When we changed to the Policy Governance/Carver Model in 2016, Federal Council was effectively cut out of the running of the party as this model puts all operations in the hands of a paid staff. All Council was supposed to do was to create policy and grassroots activity took a major nose-dive. Most of the money fundraised over the last number of years went to increased staff costs and a decreasing amount of money, percentage-wise went towards building a campaign fund. When I was President of Federal Council in 2012-13, there were 12 staff. Recently, it got as high as 38 and truthfully, what was different? Not much. In 2012, we still fundraised, organized, and prepared for campaigns. With 38 staff, we couldn’t even pull off a General Meeting until the meeting was forced by EDA CEOs. We don’t have a substantially bigger caucus. I’ll bet that we have less EDAs and certainly less active EDAs than we did 10 years ago, and I’d be surprised if we raised much more money that we did when we had 12 staff.

Like many members, I am skeptical about how the Central Party handles the money as there is no direct oversight by the membership. When have you seen a proper financial report or budget as a donating member? My recommendation is that as many funds as possible go to the EDAs and then EDAs decide collectively how much money to recommend for EDAs to transfer to the Central office. There wasn’t even a proper financial report at the last General Meeting, which was completed almost 4 years after the previous one in 2018.

Working together throughout the GPC

Fundraising within the party has a bit of a competitive feel and at times a cooperative feel. Many Greens are also members of their Provincial Green party who need funds as well. I was surprised to get fundraising calls from the Green Party of Ontario during the Federal election campaign. Overall, I would say that most of the time the federal party has been very supportive and sensitive to the needs of the provincial Greens during the runup to their elections. The Global Greens is also reliant on donations and this is not something that has been promoted at all in the Green Party of Canada.

Internally, there is a bit of competition between EDAs and the Central Office and that needs to be smoothed out. I have discussed this in the Grassroots blog but offer a few more details here for consideration. I like the formula that was used many years ago, when we considered Regions and EDAs more important than we do now. The basic formula at one point was ⅓ each for EDAs, Regions and Central. For more about the revitalization and roles of Regions please read the Regions blog [coming soon]. The actual mathematical formula isn’t important right now, but wherever the money comes in there would be transfers to rectify the formula, probably bi-annually. This would create the double benefit of 1) no internal competition and 2) create the incentive for all units to fundraise cooperatively in unison. The Central Party should still send out fundraising emails of course because not everybody has an EDA in their riding and not all donors are members.

But what will actually inspire members to donate?

There has been such a stifling of the grassroots that I believe an explosion of money will come into the party once members are able to actually do productive party building activities themselves instead of leaving that all to the leaders and staff. I hope that in this series of blogs that the question of how members can feel engaged, productive, and appreciated in the party is addressed. Members of other parties and those disaffected with politics in general, i.e. future GPC members, will take notice and will be Green with envy of a member-driven party where their say and input and passion is important. Honestly, many are not impressed with their own chosen party as their voices are equally stifled and they are encouraged by their own party to merely stop somebody else’s party rather than to promote their own. There is a huge opportunity for the GPC to rise above that negative messaging fray.

Once members are properly organized and motivated to grow the party via active political participation, there are many different techniques that can be employed. All of these methods will all be successful if members have a very positive feeling about their party. I like the idea of country-wide or region-wide events. Zoom has opened up a plethora of opportunities for connection that are not currently being fully taken advantage of by the party. I have confidence that an engaged membership will come up with far better ideas than a professional who comes from the NGO sector sending out blast emails with catchy wording.

The most important thing you have to do in fundraising is ask. Once a quarter there should be a major push to call through membership lists locally and to listen to them and then yes, ask them to become monthly donors - one on one. This will be far more successful with regional and local fundraising one-on-one techniques versus some nameless faceless recent hire from the NGO sector pumping out creative emails.

Conversations build community and trust

Something like a survey asking them what their priorities are would also work as a tactic to inspire a good feeling amongst members, but the difference is we would actually email them back the results of that survey so that they can see how their views compare with others in the party. Right now, surveys feel more like a mining exercise for staff to figure out how to pull more money out of us, with no regard or respect for member abilities, passion and skills.

A Committee of members representing each region can guide the fundraising efforts across the country by organizing events and providing excellent tools for EDAs. This can include specific asks with targets, calling parties and social interaction. Proper planning instead of the usual crisis management would see events scheduled on a regular and predicable basis and long in advance.

If you are wondering who is going to do all of this, it will start slowly but once we change the culture to respecting members, it will pick up steam. There are thousands, probably tens of thousands of ex-members alone who would come back to volunteer and donate if the party became what they were told it was about when they first joined.

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