Put Your Money Where Your Politics Are

Ilana Goldman: Women are expected to have more influence on the 2008 election than probably any prior election, but they still haven't reached their potential as donors.
This post, written by Ilana Goldman, originally appeared on The Huffington Post

With Presidential primaries eight months away, candidates have been aggressively pursuing women donors: Hillary Clinton has hosted women-targeted fundraising events from coast to coast; not to be outdone, Barack Obama's wife Michelle has launched a "Women for Obama" initiative. And Elizabeth Edwards has already established her own strong women's following to support her husband's run for office.

These campaigns are all on the right track. Women donors -- and could-be donors -- are an enormous resource that has only begun to be tapped. But while the potential to raise money from women is enormous, there are also challenges, according to a new study my organization released earlier this week that examined trends in women's political giving. Raising women's giving and influence as political donors will require a new awareness among women and political fundraisers alike.

Women have yet to reach their potential as donors; while they are a majority of voters, they contributed only 29% of political donations to candidates in the 2006 elections. The Washington Post recently reported that women made up roughly 36 percent of Clinton's total contributions and about 30 percent of Obama's. And while women make up a significant percentage of small donors, they account for just over a quarter of large contributions of $1,000 or more (single or combined) -- a statistic that hasn't changed in a decade.

What accounts for this "gender gap" in political donations? It's not that women don't have the means to give: women today control half the nation's wealth and are responsible for more than $7 trillion in consumer and business spending. Nor can it be said that women don't care about political issues and the future of the country. We do. We vote in greater numbers than men. We also volunteer as much or more in our communities. And when it comes to giving to charitable causes, women give to twice as many organizations as men.

Yet women's political passion isn't translating to political giving. It should.

For better or worse, fundraising dollars today can make or break a campaign. A candidate's full coffers allow them to speak to the voters directly, whether it's a few hundred dollars invested in flyers for the local town council election or millions spent in TV ad dollars for a hotly contested Senate seat. How much money candidates raise can determine how effectively they get their message and priorities out to us, the voters.
Ilana Goldman is president of Women’s Campaign Forum (WCF). WCF is a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) membership organization dedicated to ensuring that pro-choice women become leaders in politics. WCF proudly recruits women to become active participants in public life, trains women to be more effective political forces and endorses talented women candidates for public office. As a membership organization with a sister foundation and affiliated Political Action Committee, WCF has deep capacity to support the public leadership of women nationwide.
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