Movement Voter Project (MVP) works to create sustainable progressive power at all levels of government by funding local groups that get out unlikely voters in key states and districts – especially groups that organize young people and communities of color. We work at the intersection of community organizing and electoral politics, by lifting up the most powerful ground organizing in the country, altering the relationship of power between funders and grassroots movements, and moving donors to embrace a new model of funding organizing first and foremost.
There are thousands of grassroots organizations and networks working towards building a true democracy – and to move the U.S. forward on issues of economic fairness, racial justice, immigrants rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, access to healthcare, and environmental sustainability. But not nearly enough direct funding or individual donations go to these groups. In the meantime, over a billion dollars is spent each election cycle on TV ads and consultants. Movement Voter Project is here to change that!
At MVP, we believe in organizing and organizers. We know that the way to win is by working at the intersections of social movements, grassroots communities, and elections to ensure that the 2018 WAVE – and the 2020 WAVE after that – are as gigantic as possible and build long-term progressive power. Our job is to:
EMPOWER donors – from grassroots donors to major donors to foundations – to embrace the impacts of their resources beyond elections. We connect them to the most effective grassroots voter organizations in the country that are mobilizing their communities in critical battleground states and districts where we must win in 2018, 2019, 2020, and beyond.
MOVE resources to directly impacted communities. We recommend both 501(c)(3) non-partisan groups and explicitly progressive 501(c)(4), 527, PAC, State PAC, or Super PAC groups that work in communities representing the true diversity of the American people: in communities of color; among working class, rural, low-income, LGBTQ, elderly and young/new voters and voters with disabilities, among students, renters, veterans, new Americans, those for whom English is a second language or isn’t spoken at all, and others who may have additional barriers or may need additional support to have their voices heard in the civic process.
CREATE new opportunities to fund the impossible and possible. We seed exciting, new, under-the-radar projects and get them on the map. We also work with movements, organizers, and leaders nationally and locally to develop electoral interventions in ways that work for them.
There are four main concepts that MVP uses as a lens in our work: targeting overlays, investment gaps, catalytic opportunities, and ecosystem portfolios:
Targeting overlays: Places where we can impact several key races with the same money (ie. investments in groups working in a swing US House district in Florida will also impact turnout for the Senate AND the Governor AND redistricting AND structural reforms on the ballot AND lay a foundation for 2020 – whereas investing in a House race in California is unlikely to impact any other nationally significant races).
Investment gaps: States or places that are especially underinvested in where money makes a more impactful difference. Think of these as undervalued stocks (ie. we believe that Wisconsin right now is particularly underinvested in vis-a-vis its strategic importance in the Senate, Governor, redistricting, and most importantly in rebuilding the blue wall to stop Trump in 2020). Despite all of these factors, most of the big money is skipping over Wisconsin – and to some extent Michigan and Pennsylvania as well… which is problematic considering that we lost those three states collectively by 77,000 votes – and could easily lose them again in 2020 by the same margins unless we make a major multi-year investment… so that would be an example of a gap).
Catalytic opportunities: We love to look for opportunities to help our donors make not only an additive difference but a catalytic difference. For example, we love to move the first investments – or at least very early seed investments – to completely new groups that fill important gaps (ie. we pledged the first $100,000 last summer as a challenge to relaunch Ohio Voice – which has used our initial match to raise over $1 million to date. On a smaller scale, we moved the first $10,000 to launch North Dakota Native Vote which is the only Native American electoral group of its kind in ND – a pivotal 2018 Senate battleground state which has been completely ignored).
Ecosystem portfolios: Progressives win when all of our communities are mobilizing. We all mobilize when we are respected and engaged and empowered inside our own institutions. We often map many more local groups within states than other advisors because we think moving multiple parallel investments into a community allows an entire ecosystem to thrive and to build mutual trust.
In early 2016, we spent six months consulting with over 50 experts, developing a list of local movement-building efforts – a list that continues to grow and be refined. Specifically, we sought organizations that were: Trusted messengers who organize year-round on local and national issues that have deep salience to their local constituencies, rooted in the communities they serve and organize, committed to voter engagement, experienced in deploying proven high-touch, face-to- face voter organizing techniques at scale, collaborative, and known to “play well with others” organizationally.
During that year, we invested $188,000 in four small New Hampshire organizations who contacted 85,000 voters and definitively swung a US Senate race, electing Maggie Hassan by 1,027 votes and delivering Democrats a 48th seat in the US Senate. Also in 2016, we invested $360,000 into eight organizations that helped swing the North Carolina Governor’s race by 4,716 votes. We helped swing control of the Nevada State Senate by 1,036 votes, yielding a harvest of policy wins from climate to criminal justice.
On November 9, 2016 we were in shock, but immediately started organizing for 2018 and 2020. But we quickly realized that movements need money now. And in addition to local groups, there is a gap in funding scrappy national networks that, despite often bare-bone budgets, are creating real resistance and advancing real change, on any number of crucial fronts, at this very crucial moment.
In 2017, we invested big in Virginia where one of our partners came one vote shy of breaking GOP control of the Virginia House of Delegates (Gosh darnit!! – if only we’d invested a little more in that race!). And we’ve been winning down ballot too: from Tampa, where our local partner elected the first Puerto Rican City Councilor by 65 voters to the Charlotteville where our local partner helped elect the first African-American woman Mayor, a progressive champ, by 155 votes, among many state and local victories.
Our proudest victory thus far was in Alabama, where we played an especially unique role in seeding, helping to incubate, and moving over $200,000 from 300 donors to two of the major independent locally-driven Black-led GOTV efforts: #WokeVote and #BlackVotersMatter (which in turn supported 35 groups in 17 counties). These groups drove historic black turnout to flip yet another US Senate race – putting Democrats in striking range of re-taking the Senate. Additionally, MVP moved money to support less-known, but critically important Latinx organizing in Alabama.
In addition to these monumental electoral victories, MVP has been the first funder to seed or incubate more than 30 gap-filling organizations in key states. Groups like: North Dakota Native Vote, Lancaster Stands Up (Pennsylvania), Florida Student Power Network, and Faith Organizers Alliance (the major African-American voter engagement group in Nevada).