The movement's invisible army, part 2
More on Volunteer Donor Advisors (VDAs).
We’ve realized that the movement has an important connective tissue, which we call “volunteer donor advisors” or VDAs. These volunteers support networks of their contacts in finding satisfying political giving opportunities.
(Note: We’re still eager to talk with more VDAs, so please introduce any you know. Also reach out if you’re interested in any of the events or resources described below.)
So far we’ve talked with ~25 VDAs and learned:
There hasn’t been any label for their work. Most dislike the term “bundler,” which implies raising for just one candidate, whereas VDAs’ work is much broader.
There seem to be a lot of them. Most have introduced us to others, with no overlap yet. Most aren’t limited geographically; some organize locally, but many work through communities of friends, alumni, or industry peers.
The movement doesn’t yet support them. We are the first to ask about their work and how it could be amplified.
VDAs don’t need to be a wealthy person with a dense network of wealthy friends. Most VDAs’ contacts have a wide range of giving capacities.
What do VDAs do?
VDAs have five core tasks:
Build and maintain relationships with their contacts.
Analyze giving opportunities.
Broadcast to their list.
Organize events and manage logistics.
Provide individual support to contacts.
Currently, all of these tasks fall on the VDAs themselves, which is often overwhelming. Sometimes VDAs team up, which can work really well.
How can we help VDAs?
We’re planning events for current and prospective VDAs. The most common request by far was community with other VDAs. So we’re planning two remote live events:
For current VDAs to share tips, level up by learning from and with each other, and potentially find ways to collaborate.
For current and potential VDAs who are interested to learn more about different models of VDA work.
We’ve created a basic resource library for VDAs. Because many VDAs are relatively new to the movement, they’re not yet plugged in to the lists that receive various useful reports (Analyst Institute, etc.). In addition, sometimes VDAs create great materials that are under-utilized for lack of scaled distribution. Let me know if you’d like access or have suggestions of material to include.
We’re working on ways to provide logistical support. VDAs would be grateful for help in managing the logistics of their work, such as drafting and formatting emails, managing contact lists, and tracking donations and RSVPs. We haven’t yet narrowed in on the right approach here, but it’s a need.
We’re working on ways to create new VDAs. The movement would be stronger if there were more VDAs.But there’s no scaled ladder of engagement into this work. We’re contemplating small cohort-based trainings for potential and novice VDAs.
There are a few more, but those are the main ones at the moment.
What are best practices of VDAs that you’ve observed? How else should we be thinking of supporting VDAs? Do you know any VDAs we should speak with?
Some great organizations like Future Now and Movement Voter Project do support giving circles, but only in raising for their own priorities.
We estimate that being a VDA is the highest-impact volunteer opportunity for anyone who can raise >$250 per hour spent on this work.
See footnote 2.