Plugging Infrastructure Gaps

by: Adam Bink

Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 19:00


This is part of a series of on-the-ground coverage with the No On 1 campaign in Maine, generously funded in part by you and with the support of the New Organizing Institute's National LGBT Blogger and Citizen Journalist Initiative. For other posts in this series, click here.

Back in college, I did a lot of organizing around the 2004 Presidential election. In particular, I organized large out-of-state canvass trips to Pennsylvania and Ohio for America Coming Together. The logistical barriers were enormous in terms of cars, class schedules, and so forth, but none as large as money.

At the University of Rochester, like many colleges, everything revolved around "Flex" money, which was money you or your parents/guardians put on your ID card. Flex purchased you anything from textbooks to food to concert tickets on campus. It was frequently the only kind of currency any student had. We set up tables to sell anti-Bush merchandise to raise money for our trips, and the first question out of students' mouths were whether we accepted Flex or not. If not, the population to which we could sell literally plummeted.

Because political travel out of state wasn't a U of R-sanctioned activity, we could not raise money for our trips via Flex. Students did not have checkbooks, many did not have credit cards. Many had parents willing to donate online, but we had no place to accept such a donation. Sending checks in the mail took time. I'm not even sure if PayPal was around then, but it was unheard of. Fundraising was an enormous barrier.

I'm writing about all of this because ActBlue, partnering with TravelForChange.org (the organization that helped Obama volunteers travel to swing states last year), has a new tool that allows you to create a personal fundraising page to cover your travel expenses to Maine. This may seem simple, but I actually consider it an amazing leap forward. Much of the population willing to travel are young people, particularly college students willing to miss a week of class, and more spontaneous (no children, fewer hard commitments, etc.) In my organizing experience, young people have the most willingness to go, but the fewest resources in terms of finances to support travel. This helps break down that barrier. And it's not just for young people. You can set up a page and blast it around to friends, family, etc, utilizing Facebook and other means we didn't have five years ago. TFC.org cuts you a check, and that's that. No questions asked. Spend it on gas, food, interstate tolls, any other travel expenses. You can also do a joint page with friends if you want to carpool.

Here's Shai Sachs (of MyDD fame) and Ben Gonzalez, both of whom came up to volunteer. Ben explains how he used TFC/ActBlue to raise money to support his travel here from Southern California.

Talking with campaign staff here, the biggest need we have for the remainder of the campaign is volunteers. The polls are still tight. We're two weeks out today. If you're up for coming to Maine, but need a little financial help, get in touch with either myself (adambink at gmail dot com) or fill out the form here to get started.

Adam Bink :: Plugging Infrastructure Gaps

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