Fast Talk: The Democrats’ ATM

Matt Debergalis

CoFounder, ActBlue
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Matt DeBergalis, 29, created ActBlue to be the “PayPal of political giving” in which anyone can become a Democratic fund-raiser by creating an online page and tapping his or her own social network. The site raised $17 million for the 2006 Congressional races through donations ranging from a buck to five figures.

“Thirty years ago, Republicans began to invest heavily in lasting institutional assets–they built news institutions, think tanks, talk radio, and a direct-mail strategy that’s grown to become a monster at raising money. All of these things were deliberate choices. The Democrats didn’t do this. The Republicans don’t need to innovate quite as badly as we’ve had to because they had all of this.

We felt there were better ways to organize groups of people and get them to take action, rather than do all top-down organizing the way a campaign typically does. So we use existing social relationships, whether they are coworkers or friends asking each other to donate, or communities built around email lists or blogs. We don’t comment on the fund-raising numbers of the campaigns who use our site, but when Edwards announced that his wife’s cancer had unfortunately come back, news reports said donations on ActBlue increased $100,000 in the five hours after the press conference. This approach actually works better for the Democratic Party than the Republicans. It just seems to fit more with how we communicate and talk and participate.”DS