The presidential election is mere weeks away and the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a crushing blow to Democrats. It was also incredibly galvanizing: In the days following her death, more than $160 million was raised on progressive platform ActBlue. But unless you’re a political wunderkind, it can be hard to figure out if you’re donating strategically, and how to get the most bang for your buck.
Blueprint, a platform launched in May by progressive group Swing Left, does the hard part of strategizing for you. When you sign up, you answer a few initial questions about your priorities, and the platform splits your donation accordingly. But the real innovation is what happens next: Blueprint creates a custom, quarterly investment portfolio based on your donation, allowing you to follow your political donations like you would an investment portfolio. It gives even small-dollar donors the ability to be more strategic with their money, making Blueprint the winner of our Innovation by Design Awards in the Finance category.
Up until now, if you wanted guidance on how to donate, you needed to have serious money to burn, according to Catherine Vaughan, Swing Left co-executive director, because you had to literally hire a consultant. And if you want to give a smaller amount, say $50, you’d have to do your own research on everything from how campaigns spent money to where the tightest races were. Even then, it was hard to know what happened to your donation, and what its impact was. Donate too late in the game and a campaign might not be able use it to hire staff. Donate to a “viral” campaign already flush with cash, like Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 senate run against Ted Cruz, and your money might have been better spent on races with less cash on hand, says Vaughan.
Blueprint set out to solve for those issues. Users can click on different buckets in the portfolio for details on the state legislative races, Senate races, and civic issues they’re funding that quarter. “[You can] spend a couple minutes on the website and understand why your money would be well invested in this portfolio at this time,” explains Mary-Lynn Cesar, head of Blueprint.
Blueprint users can contribute any amount of money and choose from nine issues to prioritize, like voting rights, reproductive rights, and affordable healthcare. (To date, it’s raised $3.86 million from more than 4,000 users.) The platform also considers things like geography, whether it’s a swing state, and voter suppression and evaluates organization scale, programming, and track records. That’s a lot of sleuthing to do on your own.
“Information in the political space is often wielded as a weapon,” says Vaughan.
“[But] really good design can structure information in ways that it’s digestible and actually empowers people to make decisions. There’s a perception that you need to know everything about every politician and be totally up to date. That can keep people out of participating in this process. We’re trying to work with design and innovate so that information is actually enticing and inviting.”
See more honorees from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards here.