Across the globe, contesting for political positions involves key strategies, proper planning and execution. Consequently, funding such operations remains a germane consideration, as a result, political candidates/political parties employ diverse means and as well, solicit for donations from individuals who believe in their vision. For years, this has been the traditional method of funding political operations until the early 2000s when political candidates began to place much focus on the digital space.
In the early 2000s, only the most online-informed political candidates leveraged on the digital space for political operations. Campaign websites nonetheless had been in plain sight since the mid-90s, however, for local candidates, the digital space turned out not to be an investment-worthy of exercising much time and resources on.
Today, in the age of digitization, online political crowdfunding is gradually becoming prevalent. With the advent of technological innovation, it has lowered the costs associated with the essential investments required to run political campaigns. Particularly, online fundraising has become a tool for political parties to secure funding, from a wide range of supporters, releasing the dependence level from a few big contributors.
Political crowdfunding is viewed as a process whereby many individuals donate small amounts of money to a political initiative, very often a political party. This is majorly done through digital means. The concept intensified in the 2008 US Presidential Elections, when the campaign of Democratic Party candidate – Barack Obama employed unique online tools and continually provided perks (such as lotteries and other rewards), raising USD 137 million from small donations (De Buysere et al, 2012), with the total number of donors estimated at 3.9 million (Luo 2008). In his re-election in 2012, it is estimated that Obama’s campaign raised USD 214 million through small donations (Marom 2012). As a result of this trend, an emerging number of political campaigns in countries such as Austria, Czech Rep., India, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom have attempted common strategies.
From the foregoing, political crowdfunding employed through digital means is in no doubt becoming a powerful tool used in carrying out political campaigns and operations across the globe hence, a study of this nature on its rationale, advantages and other pivotal considerations relating to online political crowdfunding.
Barrack Obama’s Campaign
The 2008 United States Presidential election won by Barack Obama offers a fascinating global benchmark on how to carry out an electoral campaign. It established the relevance of online political crowdfunding not only as a technological method of raising funds but also as a tool that strengthens democratic systems putting into consideration the level of citizens’ participation and the decision of majority becoming binding.
In the 2008 US Democratic primary, the Federal Election Commission (2013) records that Barack Obama raised over 200 million dollars in micro-donations. Through Barack Obama’s campaign site – My.BarackObama.com, voters were registered and offered a range of instruments to network with other voters and independently take part in campaigning. The campaign pages also actively supported fundraising. The Obama campaign was as a result, able to have a huge number of volunteers and as well, developed a creative interest amongst online activists.
Amongst other top contestants in the 2008 US Presidential election, Barack Obama pulled the highest number of votes. This feat among other factors was hinged on his popularity amongst the electorates. This was not however only ascertained by the number of supporters he gained during the campaign leading to the election but also by the number of donors estimated to be 3.9million who showed commitment using unique online tools. It is pertinent to highlight that online political crowdfunding transcends from its monetary significance. It goes a step further to test the viability of a political candidate in the political arena. This, in turn, brings to light the level of support a political candidate has even before establishing a formal campaign. This was evident in Barack Obama’s campaign crowdfunding method in the 2008 Presidential election when he emerged as the winner and his re-election in 2012 as the 44th President of the United States.
De Buysere, K., Gajda, O., Kleverlaan, R. and Marom, D., ‘A framework for European crowdfunding’, European Crowdfunding Network, 29 October 2012, <https://eurocrowd.org/2012/10/29/european_crowdfunding_framework/>, accessed January 2020.
Luo, M., ‘Obama hauls in a record $750 million for campaign’, New York Times, 4 December 2008, <https://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/05/us/politics/ 05donate.html>, accessed January 2020.
Marom, D., ‘A framework for political crowdfunding: lessons from President Obama’, Crowdsourcing Week, 15 November 2012, <https:// crowdsourcingweek.com/blog/a-framework-for-political-crowdfunding lessons-from-president-obama>, accessed January 2020.