A sketched picture of James' head

James Smith

Building a better future out of code

Crowdfunding the election campaign

Posted by

After rather a long delay, I’ve finally got my crowdfunding campaign launched for the election. This is a big part of the whole thing, and not just because it raises the money I need to do this right.

  1. It shows that it’s possible to stand without rich donors bankrolling you. Limiting party donations to individuals only (and only up to £5000) is part of our manifesto, so it’s important to show that it can work!

  2. It helps our transparency agenda; we’ll be publishing the details of all our donors (not just those we have to) in our open accounts, so everyone can see who’s backing us.

What’s it for?

I’m raising money for the following:

  • £500 for the election deposit. This is the initial goal set on the campaign, and that means I can stand. We’ve already hit it, so the game is afoot!
  • Around £1500 for leaflets. The Royal Mail will deliver a leaflet to every home for free for each candidate, but we need to print them. This gets us 50,000 leaflets, one for every home in the constituency.
  • Another £500 for fliers to hand out in the high street. This is less essential, but it would be good if we could do it. The figure here is a bit of a guess though, I’ve not got quotes yet.
  • £500 for “other” expenditure. We’ve got various costs for renting rooms, advertising on Facebook (though that’s pretty ineffective), and so on. This is a very vague figure, and if we don’t use it all, money will go to central party funds for other campaign costs.

So, all in all, that’s why the stretch goal on the crowdfunding campaign is £3000. We need £2000 to scrape by as a useful campaign, but the more we have the more we can do!

Bear in mind that all this will be published openly in our accounts, which are 100% transparent, so there’s no danger of your money being funnelled offshore to my swiss bank account, or something.

How to crowdfunding

When I first started looking at crowdfunding last summer, it was all a bit vague. The Electoral Commission weren’t quite sure, and none of the crowdfunding sites had really done it before. Since then, however, as I’ve been busy doing other things, it’s all changed. Crowdfunder have put the work in to supporting political campaigns, and have even written a handy guide on how to do it.

They’ve got a massive number of political campaigns on there now, covering all the main parties, so it was a no-brainer to use their expertise.

What we did

I delayed a long time because I thought I had to have a video to promote it, and that was tough to get together. Eventually time just got so short that I went ahead and launched with the minimum viable campaign. I’ll add a video later to push up donations; we need to record one anyway, so it all helps.

We chose non-physical perks only, due to fulfilment demands which would probably cause a lot of trouble, and because I wasn’t sure of the rules around donations when part of it is a purchase (of a mug, say).

The perk design was tricky - I really wanted to avoid cash-for-access. I’ve seen a whole load of supposedly progressive fundraising campaigns where a reward is to go to the pub with the party leader, or candidate, or something. I’m not 100% sure how this is different from rich Tory donors getting to go shoe shopping with Theresa May, so I really wanted to stay away from it.

Instead, I chose high-level rewards that do involve personal contact, but in a public and open setting; for instance, you can come on our podcast, or have me come and talk about the future of democracy at an event of your choice which we’ll publish online after.

Finally, the target. Crowdfunder recommend having a minimum goal and using stretch goals for the ideal amount. So that I knew I’d be able to stand, I chose the deposit amount, £500, as the initial goal, and have set a stretch goal for the £3k we want to get. I’m not 100% sure that’s the right way to have done it, as now we’ve raised over £600, we look like we’re done, which we’re very much not. I don’t know really.


So, the crowdfunding is now live, and will run for another 3 weeks. If you’re reading these blogs, and finding my journey interesting, I really need your help to make this happen. We’ve got enough to stand; now we need to raise enough to get a leaflet through every letterbox. If we don’t do that, we might as well not bother.

So, please give generously, tell your friends, and spread the word. It’s down to you.


Add a comment