When, Why, and How to Use Political Data

Many prospective donors don’t give to charity exclusively.  Some also support the democratic process by donating to elected officials, campaigns, and policy platforms.  Every election cycle, tens of thousands of individuals pledge funds ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars to support their candidates. With iWave’s Canadian Political Contributions and US Political Giving database, you can access these giving records in a user-friendly search platform.

Generally, political giving suggests a propensity for giving.  If an individual is happy to part with their wealth to support a political cause they believe in, they may be willing to do the same for a charitable cause.  Then your supporting research and fundraising efforts really come into play.

If you have not used political data in your research before, there are some key things to be aware of.  To help, here are some best practices to get the most out of the Political tab in iWave.

Best Practice — Search by contribution amount to identify high capacity donors.

This is a simple best practice you can employ right off the bat.  If you are prospecting for new wealthy donors, consider starting with political giving.  You may identify high net worth individuals in your city, state, or region who you could further research to determine their “fit” as a potential donor.

Best Practice — Use searches by political party and lobby groups to identify donors share an interest in your cause.

For many organizations, donations research is key in determining affinity, or a connection to a specific cause.  If your mission is political in nature, you may find supporters from various points on the political spectrum.  Once common interest is established, it will be much easier to align those interests with your organization’s mission.

Best Practice — Know the restrictions on political data.

According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) privacy regulations, US political giving data found within iWave cannot be used for any commercial purposes — including the solicitation of political or charitable donations.

iWave offers third-party political giving data at no charge to provide context for our clients’ fundraising efforts, but not for their direct use in soliciting contributions of any kind. To learn more about this restriction, please visit the FEC’s page on Sale and Use of Campaign Information.

Confused?  Essentially, a good rule of thumb is don’t rely on political data to help inform your major gift ask.  This goes against FEC regulations.  Rather, use political data to point you in the right direction. Then turn to other sources of data (such as real estate or charitable giving records) to substantiate your ask.

Looking for more information about best practices for political giving research?  Don’t miss this free webinar recording on political data from iWave and Rachel Dakarian of the Helen Brown Group.

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About the author: Ryan McCarvill is iWave’s Content Manager.  He joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.    

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