Organizing for Action is a non-profit advocacy organization borne out of the Obama campaign infrastructure. Headed by veteran staff of Obama’s reelection, the organization’s mission is to use the resources that reelected Obama to promote his policy agenda. As a 501 c(4), it can accept unlimited donations. According to its 1st Quarter financials, however, it is struggling to attract the same big donors that fueled Obama’s reelection.
OFA raised $4.8 million in the first three months of 2013. This is a fraction of what the Obama campaign would raise each quarter, even though OFA can accept unlimited donations. OFA certainly tried to maximize this fundraising advantage. For a $500,000 contribution, donors would receive a seat on a “national advisory board” and attend quarterly meetings at the White House. The top donation to the group, however, was half this amount, $250,000 from activist Peter Munger.
Last month OFA held a founders’ summit in DC, which featured President Obama. The event was open to donors giving at least $50,000 to the group. In the 1st Quarter, however, only 16 donors gave this amount. In all, just over 1,400 donors gave more than $250.
The underwhelming haul can’t just be attributed to a post-election lull, either. In January alone, the RNC raised almost $7 million and the DNC raised over $4 million. In addition, President Obama has aggressively pushed several high-profile agenda items. Supporting these is OFA’s reason for existing and should have fueled significant contributions.
OFA’s larger challenge is that a campaign structure to support on individual candidate doesn’t necessarily translate to particular policies. Voters support a candidate for a variety of reasons, often irrespective of policies. Even when a voter completely agrees on an issue, it doesn’t always mean they will take action on that issue.
Deciding to take action in the climax of a national election is much different than taking action outside of the political frenzy, when daily life has returned.
Another challenge for OFA is that, inevitably, base activists will turn their attention to other campaigns. Second term Presidents inevitably shrink from the domestic policy debate, as party activists focus on midterm elections and the next nominee for the White House.
OFA’s struggles attracting big donors suggests this process has already started.