We Did It! Second Place in Kerry’s March Madness contest!

Election 2004 | Fundraising
Out of what appears to be eight thousand online fundraisers in John Kerry’s March Madness campaign, I finished second. How improbable! No matter, I won a three-day pass to the convention! (the fourth day I’ll go sailing).

(The Kerry website posted the results on April 20th, listing “Jon G. of Boston [sic], MA” as the second-place winner. Dick Bell has promised to, but has not yet, as of April 30th, posted my full name and proper location.)

The Contest

I first heard of John Kerry’s March Madness contest when my friend Emily sent me an email about it, almost a month ago on the ides of March. I was looking to raise money for John Kerry at my birthday party, inspired by a similar thing that my co-worker Debbie Block-Schwenk was doing. And Debbie and I hadn’t crossed paths at work very much at the time; she first mentioned the party to me when we met by chance at my first Kerry Meetup. Which I may have bailed on had if I hadn’t met old classmate Jamie on the train, and I had seen her once at reunions.

The March Madness contest was based on the Kerry campaign’s new online KerryCore system for bundling donations. I put up my own KerryCore page, which had the magic link to the KerryCore website, and encouraged party attendees to give through that site. I eventually suggested a number of improvements to KerryCore in a proposal, Social Network Fundraising, but I was just happy to have the link so that I wouldn’t have to deal with a bunch of checks on my birthday party. All I did was ask for $28 for my 28th birthday. Many people gave that amount, but there are several more who went above and beyond that, and I want to highlight them here:

The Donors

So, then the donations started rolling in. Martin Kemp gave even though we hadn’t been in touch very much since Princeton (he was a year behind me). My Mom and Dad pitched in some to get the ball rolling (they were seen at the $2000 NYC Kerry Gala, but they got the tickets courtesy of my Mom’s boss). Some guy named Christian Rowley gave in my name, even though I have no idea who he is and he has yet to respond to me as to how he found my set.

The week before my birthday I sent out a reminder emial. Debbie came along and doubled what was already in my pot, “maxing out” her contributions to John Kerry. Wow! I hadn’t even stayed for her whole party (a couple of weeks before mine), as I had to run away from the party in JP and meet my friends at some other party up in Davis Square. Some more big dollars came in from Jamie, who I’d just seen for the first time in years. The next week, Karen at work, thinking of the future for her adorable little children, dropped a nice big chunk to set me over a grand. Wow! The next morning Alex’s mom came through BIG TIME– you can look it up in the Open Secrets database of FEC filings (but only if you know who Alex’s mom is. Besides, it’s not there yet).

The day of my birthday, April 1st, my neighor and Joel gave me a power-of-2 number, which was fitting as he is another software engineer. And the donation I was most waiting for– Susel’s. Susel was firmly in the Kerry camp (she went to the Moby party) back when I was in non-campaign-involvement for most of the fall. And she had already given much money on her own, she saw little value in bundling through me. But she came through! More importantly, she’s a Texan. And she’s always the life of the party, which commenced at Boston Beer Works in the Fenway at some point in the evening of an absolute horrendous rainstorm. Most of the people had already given, so I didn’t press. A couple of avowed independents came– I asked them to make donations to Internatonal Rescue Committee, and send them through my cousin Melissa, who was there as well to toss down some “Bluebeery Ales” of Beer Works.

Down to the wire

By this time I forgot about the whole March Madness contest (it was April after all). I was pushing my Social Network Fundraising on the various Kerry email lists, without much luck. So I kept pestering Jeremy at Kerry/Boston HQ whether he could give me any idea whether I was anywhere near the leaderboard; bu Thursday morning he responded:

Today is the last day for our March Madness contest. Results will be tallied at the close of business today. If the contest ended right now you would finish in third place – a mere $510 out of first. Send out one more email!

One more email! Passes to the convention! I sent out another email quickly that morning, even tagging a couple of coworkers who promised they’d give. And they did. One hundred! Two hundred! Three hundred! My sister Dana gave! But then… it stopped. I checked at lunch. Ok, maybe people aren’t tuned in during the workday. My mom and dad and sister emailed all their friends, but some of their lack of participation was anecdotally a case of not being able to figure out clicking on hyperlinks. So it goes with the older generation. I emailed my old roommate Matt in Urbana-Champaign. I hate to press for out-of-state money, let alone grad-student money. Matt had made a Herculean effort the previous week to ship me Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon for my birthday. So he gave ten bucks.

By the end of the day, I was $114 short of $4000– I could have bought the victory then and there. But I didn’t feel that was right. I had a hunch I made it to second place, and thought that was good enough. I wanted to go back to my network and tell them to work a bit harder for the next contest.

The irony is, of course, the contest was woefully underadvertised and under-organized. In the future, there’s no reason to limit the contributions to just those collected over the Internet. Debbie’s husband Kevin saw the winners announced on a Kerry email and wrote me, “do I have to kick myself for not setting myself up as a fundraiser and counting Deb and My $2000 contributions as raised by myself? Enjoy the convention! … you owe us pictures from it!”

The Lessons

There’s more fundraising to go, and more efforts ahead. But I did want to sum up some of my keys to the first month of my fundraising efforts. There’s a certainly a lot more things things one can do to raise money… but I just ended up doing what was needed to win this contest:

  1. Pick a good cause. Anyone watching the President stumble through the questions this evening in his third-ever primetime press conference realizes that it’s time. for him. to go. This is starting to be embarassing. Imagine you woke up the next morning as President of the United States. You wouldn’t really know what to do, unless you’ve had significant experience in government or running large organizations. That’s what it’s like for this guy. And that’s why people are giving money as if it were contagious.
  2. Contact early and often. The regular, targeted, emails helped. I wrote many personal emails to people as well.
  3. Remember to give to your friends when they ask. I’m sort of good at this, but now I know how much I need to improve. I’ve given to everyone who’s asked me personally, though I’ve been bad about missing to every triathlon that my friend Tommy runs (swims? bikes? endures?) No longer!
  4. Take your lumps. I cast a fairly wide net in inviting people to my party/fundraiser. Some I knew were Republicans and independents. Others I didn’t know what they were, and some were quite offended. Two told me bluntly that Senator Kerry should ask his wife for money (nope; he can only tap joint assets). One of them passed along the idiotic claim of the link from Heinz Foundation-Tides Foundation-CAIR-Hamas. I was shocked, initially, so I did some research. First I found out that the claim came from the questionable WorldNetDaily website; once I found the “facts”, I did a search on them, and learned that the link was completely specious (Tides got government grants under the Bush administration; Tides gives to Jewish groups as well).
  5. Stay in the loop. I was always politically involved, but now I’ve stepped it up, and participate (as much as I can) on the campaign, and try to stay informed and construct the informative viewpoints here on Civilities. So far my donors have been my friends and co-workers, and they don’t really need this website to interact with me. But, as my network grows larger, and includes friends-of-friends, this website allows me to communicate much more effectively.

June 8th update: I learned recently that the winners of the “Marathon Madness” were announced in the Kerry blog. So I’m no longer the runner-up. I’m barely the runner-up in my town. The winner of this second contest was “Joan Glaschow”, also of Brookline. But the name is spelled wrong.