Ruth Davidson: The modern way to pay for campaign

Ruth Davidson is using crowdfunding platforms to help fund her campaign. Photographer Ian Georgeson.
Ruth Davidson is using crowdfunding platforms to help fund her campaign. Photographer Ian Georgeson.
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As social media becomes a vital platform for political parties, Ruth Davidson makes use of a contemporary fundraising opportunity.

With every election that passes, we are told that electronic and social media will be more important than ever.

Barack Obama's online election campaign helped him to victory in 2008. Credit: Marc Nozell

Barack Obama's online election campaign helped him to victory in 2008. Credit: Marc Nozell

From Barack Obama’s use of online peer to peer campaigning during his 2008 US election triumph, to every politician and candidate in Scotland having their own Twitter profile, Facebook page and website, there’s no getting away from its importance.

And it was with that in mind I decided to try something fresh myself in recent weeks.

Crowdfunding is a new, and indeed simple, way for people, organisations and events to raise money from the people who benefit from them.

Websites do it, charities do it, and there’s even a new online newspaper called The Ferret which asks its 
readers specifically to bankroll investigative journalism projects.

For my campaign to win the Edinburgh Central seat at next year’s Holyrood elections, I decided to embark on a modest crowdfunding operation of my own.

I had no idea what to expect, how much to target, or even who would want to get involved.

Perhaps I was even opening myself to a bit of ridicule – after all, for social media’s many uses, those desperate to poke fun at anything and everything you do are never far away.

I set myself a £5000 target and hoped to raise it in a month. In fact, I am more than 90 per cent of the way there in just a week.

It’s been a wonderfully simple objective; persuade Conservative supporters in the Capital to financially back something they ideologically support and want to get behind.

And the beauty of this 21st century, online way of fundraising is this; it is designed to support the best, old-fashioned ways of campaigning.

It helps me get round the constituents, set out my plans in paper for them, and knock on as many doors as possible.

Social media is important, but you don’t win elections by hiding behind a computer screen or with your face buried in a mobile phone.

£15 on the crowdfunding website can fund a leaflet campaign for 500 voters; £100 provides 5000 colour “calling cards” for doorstep canvassing; and £450 pays for telephone canvassing to reach 500 people we’ve identified as floating voters.

It’s going to be such a tight seat, these are the kinds of efforts that could make all the difference for the Scottish Conservatives.

Given recent news stories involving MPs, it’s important for me to point out that none of this cash will ever pass through my hands, either in my role of candidate or leader of the party. It goes straight into the local association’s fighting fund.

We can’t be complacent when asking members of the public to put their hand in their pocket – it’s vital we can show this money went to the place we said it would, and is all properly accounted for.

Those involved in politics know that £5000 isn’t enough to cover the cost of a constituency campaign by itself, and I’m doing traditional fundraising events too. So, the crowdfunder is not designed to replace anything, simply to create a new avenue for people to get involved. And from that point of view, it’s been a real 
winner.

Of course, the resource will be open well beyond the point I hit the fundraising target, and for more information you can visit: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ruth-davidson-for-edinburgh-central

Ruth Davidson is Scottish Conservative leader