Money in Politics

How Donors Think

April 08, 2020 CallTime.AI Season 1 Episode 5
Money in Politics
How Donors Think
Money in Politics
How Donors Think
Apr 08, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5

How donors think can feel like a bit of a mystery. Hannah Linkenhoker has spent her career advising donors on their political giving, and as Senior Political Strategist at ICM Partners, she now works at the crossroads of Hollywood and politics. Hannah joins the Money in Politics podcast to discuss how she advises clients, what makes donors tick, and how more people can and should get involved in funding campaigns. 

Show Notes Transcript

How donors think can feel like a bit of a mystery. Hannah Linkenhoker has spent her career advising donors on their political giving, and as Senior Political Strategist at ICM Partners, she now works at the crossroads of Hollywood and politics. Hannah joins the Money in Politics podcast to discuss how she advises clients, what makes donors tick, and how more people can and should get involved in funding campaigns. 

spk_1:   0:04
thing is Andrew Blumenfeld, and you're listening to the money in politics podcast. And if we're talking about money and politics, then you've got to be talking about the donors, right? So even for those that work in politics, who these donors are, what makes them tick, how you reach them, it can all feel like a bit of a mystery. I know that it's also the case that there is a lot of different and frankly, often mostly negative narratives about the different types of donors out there. And they kind of all get jumbled together to, you know, you've got packs super PACs, IIIs, individuals, billionaires, millionaires, the small dollar donors who are chipping in online. They're all pretty darn different, but they do get jumbled together, and sometimes it can be a little confusing when you're trying to sort it all out. So to learn more about the donors, I'm speaking today with Hannah Lincoln Hooker. She's currently the senior political strategist at I CM Partners, which is one of the major talent agencies in Hollywood. Hand actually has extensive experience working, advising major donors in a variety of contexts. She has consulted for big individual donors helping kind of big democratic donors decide how to spend their money in a way that aligns with their vision and values. She's also built a donor collective in Los Angeles, of women who have come together to put their resource is behind candidates that they believe in. And that organization has decided, aligns with its values and vision. And then also, of course, with her current role as the senior political strategist at I CM. She works within the entertainment industry, advising on politics in a variety of contexts, including political giving. So, given her insight into the minds and the world's here that are often very elusive too many I thought we'd all benefit from chatting today with Hannah. Today's episode is brought to you by call time, eh? You're listening to money in politics brought to you by call time. May I Campaigning is hard. Why not make fundraising easy? Using automation and artificial intelligence call time. May I? Let's you fund raise five times faster, with easy to use tools like instant donor research, automated voice mail drop and donor scoring. So you're always calling the right person at the right time with the right, Ask go online to call time dot a. I schedule a demo and start your free trial today. So thanks so much for joining us. Hannah.

spk_0:   2:31
Great to be with you.

spk_1:   2:32
Well, let's start off by just letting people know a little bit about you. So tell us how you got into politics. What are some of the major roles that you have played in the political space and what you're up to now?

spk_0:   2:45
I've worked in politics since graduating from college in 2009 and had a few different positions along the way a little bit of campaign work, but mostly I sent my time as a political consultant and the first political consulting job that I had was actually as a donor adviser. So the clients of our firm were, for the most part, Democratic donors. You know, some companies and organizations and things like that. But a lot of individuals who were highly engaged in the political process and very generous with their time and resource is, and we sort of helped to facilitate and advise their relationship building with candidates who and what they chose to give their money to. And that was a very informative experience, and I think a very unique point of view to be in, especially for this conversation where you know your audience is probably a lot of candidates, staffers, fundraisers, people who are trying to figure out how to kind of crack the code on relationships with donors and how to build those and how to maintain those. And that's what I've spent a lot of my career doing. But maybe five years into my career, I was presented with an opportunity to help start Women's giving group kind of a giving circle. Here in Los Angeles. There have been groups like that in Los Angeles over the years, but there's sort of a need for a younger generation of that. So for the last five years, I have been in partnership with my two co founders, operating and running. I call it my side hustle because then I'll volunteer. But the L. A Women's Collective, which is a group of now about 100 women donors in Los Angeles. It's community organizing grass tops version, but we organize and raise money for women who are running for high office and then my day job for the last three years, has actually been at I CM Partners, one of the four big talent agencies in Hollywood, working in house as a kn advisor to clients and the company on political activism, some political giving, philanthropy and other things. So I've been sort of at the intersection of Hollywood and politics for the last few years since Donald Trump got elected and excited about what comes next.

spk_1:   5:08
Well, I'm gonna ask you, I think a bunch about the women's collective and about donor advising generally in your take with the vantage point that you have that of the lens of a donor. But let me first actually start with where you just left off, which is what your day job has been these last bunch of years, and that is at the intersection of Hollywood and politics. I'm curious. I am also based out of L. A. So I'm no stranger to seeing an attempt at campaigns leveraging the power of Hollywood, the celebrity, the perceived wealth for the purpose of advancing their cause. And I definitely have seen things that look like they're working to me and things that do not look like they're working to me. But that is just sort of as an outsider, consuming what is produced by these campaigns. I'm curious from your vantage point, kind of sitting within that talent agency and trying to play the orchestrator of how to best leverage those Hollywood assets for the political causes that you care about and that the organization cares about What is your take on what it takes to leverage that to greatest effect versus what are some of the pitfalls that you've seen when those attempts have gone bad?

spk_0:   6:22
Well, I think it's important to know what you're looking to get out of it. What really is helpful. If your goal is fundraising, it really helps to have a genuine and authentic connection to somebody who you're asking for help from or for them to have a genuine connection to you or your candidate or the place that you're from, or the race that you're running in and you need to know really went toe ask of wth. Um, I see a lot of times bit of like square peg round hole, where people think Hollywood and think it's just magic powder that can make everything better, and they don't necessarily know what to ask of people and then on the Hollywood side. It's a business of availability, technicality and money at the end of the day, so it isn't always helpful to come to the table with the generic. Ask being really specific about what it is you want. Do you want somebody to show up somewhere and give a speech? Do you want somebody to be willing to sign on to a host committee and help you with fundraising? Are you asking them to participate in or help you with the campaign video? But being really specific about how much time it's going to take, how much of their personal time and capital of any kind you're asking of them? I have seen successfully when you have someone in Hollywood, whether it's an executive or talent who is really bought into your mission, who is really invested in your campaign. I've seen that be very helpful to fundraising, right? They put their name on the host committee or they actually host a fundraising event for you and they call their friends. And they asked their friends to write checks and ask their friends toe put their names on the host committee, but where the rubber really meets the road. Is are those people actually showing up? Are those people actually writing checks? Are those people making calls? It isn't necessarily always helpful to just lend a name if that doesn't come with any investment in personal, social or financial capital.

spk_1:   8:31
Yeah, I think the point about having ah genuine connection really resonates. That's probably true of most successful outreach and asks that you can make of anyone in your campaign. But I see why it would be especially true if you're reaching out to someone who has celebrity power. If they can have an authentic reason why they're saying this is a town I really care about cause I grew up here or this is a cause I really care about because that's something I've dedicated my life to. It just becomes a little bit Maur than kind of superficial glitz and glam, which I know obviously can also backfire.

spk_0:   9:03
Yes, Yep. I think that's the most important place to start from. Is this person connected to me in my campaign in a personal way? Are they from my state? Are they from my town? Did they go to college in this college town. That's part of the district time campaigning in finding those riel connection points, because just Hollywood, for the sake of Hollywood, in this context, in money and politics and making it valuable, sometimes a little bit of a disconnect. But I would just highly encourage people to do their research and really dig into who it is that you're talking thio and why it is that they care or they should care.

spk_1:   9:45
Well, let's take a step back away from Hollywood in particular and Maur to sort of one of the areas of expertise that you have kind of a cross your career, and that is donor advising. And you spoke in your introduction about how you've worked with individual donors, and it sounded like there was some thoughts you had on the power of smart individual donors. But you've also developed this L. A. Women's collective, which is obviously organizational giving pack giving. So I'm curious about your take on kind of how those differ which one if either do you think is more powerful or kind of water. The upsides and downsides of the individual giving side of the equation versus collective you called it grass tops organizing, giving through, like the women's collective

spk_0:   10:33
well, one of the things that motivated me to help start the L. A. Women's collective back in 2016 waas. The fact that I saw the quality of information and advising that our individual donor clients were receiving, and I think the real delta between that and what the general public gets about politics now, To some extent, that has changed since the 2016 president election, because I think a lot more people have taken the time to educate themselves and invest in the process. And there are a lot more organizations out there just educating the masses. But before Donald Trump got elected, that wasn't really the case. I mean, there really were a lot of barriers to entry to participating in the process, and that could be part of the reason that Donald Trump got elected in the first place. But nonetheless, the information that we were giving to our clients was very valuable and informative and helping them to make really good decisions. And I just thought to myself, Why does that have to be something that is on Lee for a select few people who go the lengths of hiring a political consultant and can afford to pay for it. And I also kind of believed then, and the work with the other women's collective has proven it to be true that there are a lot more people out there who are capable of writing checks. You know, call them above $500.500 to 5000 who are capable of and ready and willing to do that, but who haven't been brought to the table and who maybe haven't been engaged in the right way who are really busy, who are executives who have jobs and families and kids and no extra time to do the research. Put in the work, meet with candidates. It's a track. So part of the motivation with L. A women's collective was toe actually bring donor advising to the masses in a way right? Still kind of trying to figure out how to crack the code on the to the masses part, but at least to a larger group of people who can then participate in the process because again, I said this in the intro. But I really believe that when there are more individual donors writing checks in the $502,500 range on a more regular basis. And candidates can come and raise that kind of money from individuals who aren't looking to get anything out of it who are just doing it because they care about whatever it is flipping the Senate, the state of Montana, whatever it may be that good money helps to dilute the bad money because we all know there's bad money in politics. We all know there's too much money in politics. We know that corporate PACs and lobbyists have a stranglehold on the system. But the thing that undermines that stranglehold on the system is when Maur individuals participate.

spk_1:   13:38
That's, I think, a really powerful insight. And I wonder, what are the things you've done with the L. A. Women's collective that you think has worked really well to grow that to the healthy size that it is that you would that you're hoping to doom or of overtime, that you hope other people do more of? How do you in other words, kind of create Maur good money versus bad money?

spk_0:   14:02
Well, it's all about empowering people, and you empower people through education so we have taken a lot of time to educate an inform about various things. Right? Last cycle in 2018 we did a lot of work around secretaries of state attorneys general in particular also the importance of Democratic governors. I mean, our group is all progressive, but Democratic governors, especially in states and places that we don't traditionally think about. We helped to get Laura Kelly elected in Kansas and Janet Mills elected in Maine and places that it had incumbent Republican governors and then sort of written off the map. And now all of a sudden, the politics and the policies of the states have changed dramatically. But back to the secretaries of state and the Aggies, these air races that people don't pay attention to and where a little bit of money goes a long way and we sit back and think about the issues that motivate us and bring us to the table. Ah, lot of people feel really strongly about voting rights and about pushing back against the voter disenfranchisement that's been happening in states all over the country, not just the South, but especially the South, and the best thing you can do to empower more people to be ableto participate in the process is to elect a responsible secretary of state. Unfortunately, these days it tends to fall on party lines. It doesn't necessarily have to, but for the most part, you see Democratic secretaries of state who are trying to expand access to voting, who are trying thio make voting easier for people and just more open. Unfortunately, you've seen people like Kris Kobach in Kansas and Brian Kemp in Georgia. And there are more examples of Republican secretaries of state who have done the opposite, who have made it harder for people to vote who have put up restrictions, made it harder for college kids to be able to participate, made it harder for obviously voters of color. It's an unfortunate reality, but the best way to counter that is to elect responsible people into the job of secretary of state. That's not something that's on most people's radars, so we have tried to take things like that and really educate and in the power the women in our group toe understand that that the connection between caring about voting rights and caring about a secretary of state and again resource is go so much further in those places, both in secretary of state races but also in states like a Kansas or of Montana. So part of the success of the L. A. Women's collective has been that we are really trying not to make it about us, about the group, but really make it about the members, about teaching them and training them, empowering them to be powerful in their own right as a donor and to be really educated and by powerful, I mean empowered right to not be afraid to write a check to someone who you believe in and know that that is going to make an impact in the race. So it's always a moving target based on the election cycle, but having a highly curated strategy in place that matches the cycle. Our strategy in 2016 was different than it was in 2018 and it's different than it is in 2020 and we try to be highly strategic in part, to be efficient and resourceful with the resource is we have, and that I think is another really important piece of being an empowered political donor is knowing where to spend your money,

spk_1:   17:45
and I wonder how that looks different when you are advising, say one individual wealthy person or a person who has enough means at least to have someone advising them on how they spend their political dollars. Does that kind of strategy and empowerment and education Does that look different when you're advising an individual person versus when you are sort of taking that responsibility on for a large collective?

spk_0:   18:15
Well, I think that when you're when you're talking about advising group, you wanna have a horse strategy that you're working from right shared values, core strategy and then advise against that similar with an individual donor. But the priorities of one individual are very different than when you're talking about a group. I think what I've seen with many of my individual donor clients over the years is that each one of those people has that individual issues that they care the most about gun violence, prevention or traveling tourism. It kind of various based on those individuals, and sometimes those individuals can have really unique personalities and passions and pet projects and things like that, so sometimes I actually have found to be a bit more of an emotional advising relationship where you really get to know that person and understand what motivates them, understand what they care about, understand which kinds of candidates will connect with them and putting that sort of filter in place. Whereas advising a group of 75 to 100 individual donors who are women, we really base that off of core policy issues and try to be just highly highly strategic. And not that the individual donors aren't strategic. They are. But again, it is such a personal choice to be an individual donor and to give political money. I think that there are a lot of misunderstandings out there about those individuals because, of course, like I said before, there are bad actors who participate in the system and there is bad money in politics. But for the most part, and definitely all of the individuals that I have worked with are doing it because they care and they're participating in the process because this is their entry point to politics. They run companies, they have other jobs, other careers. They're not full time working in politics, but this is their way to make a big impact and to make the difference that they want to make.

spk_1:   20:22
Actually, that was kind of gonna be my next question for you, which is that I think one of the hesitations that at least I interact with in trying to cultivate a culture of political philanthropy among those who don't already have that baked into the way they think about participating the way they think about budgeting their own dollars is that there does seem to be quite a negative narrative around political giving meat even especially. So now when you're talking about something other than sort of small dollar online fundraising, there's just this perception that

spk_0:   20:59
wine caves,

spk_1:   21:00
wine caves exactly like it's the presumption of quid pro quo. It's the presumption of something dirty and corrupt. So I guess you sort of just began to touch on it. But I just wonder, it seems like you'd agree that that's probably not fair. For the most part, I'd love to hear more thoughts about that, but then also, if it isn't fair, for the most part, and certainly you think actually the opposite, we need to increase the number of individuals who feel empowered to leverage their own dollars for political involvement. What sort of the path around that, either? When you think about talking to individuals when you're actually messaging with one person at a time, you know, how do you try to talk them into a more positive space? And also just what's your take? More generally, as you're communicating to our listeners and just kind of people who know what you do for a living, what's your take on political giving and that narrative of quid pro quo?

spk_0:   21:49
I think that over time, as more people participate and the political giving process, we can change the narrative about who that person is and why it's not negative. Some of that negativity has come because people feel that it's not a fair system or that it's corrupt. And part of that comes from the fact that it's the same set of individuals who are always getting to participate and always have the access and are giving all the money right and from the outside looking in that can feel unfair. Not that it is. I actually commend those people for their commitment to supporting candidates year after your cycle after cycle, but as long as it's only a select few who have that access and are giving that money. It's going to feel from the outside looking in like it's not fair. So the way to change that is to bring more people along in the process. Not everybody has to write a $5000 check right out of the gate, right? You can get into a lot of events for 250 or $500 I do this myself. I tryto set a bit of a budget for the year and put real money into some campaigns. Right, right. $1000 checks, right, $500 checks. Those are very valuable to campaigns. But do it often enough that it helps to fuel the system with money from all types of individuals. And I would just encourage everybody, especially your political fundraiser, and you obviously have goals that you need to meet and priorities of your own and of the campaign, but really help guide the donors that you work with. Give them good advice, give them good information. Don't just make it about your individual candidate, but maybe help them understand the landscape of if your candidate is a candidate for Senate, help them understand what some of the other Senate candidates for the cycle are talking about and who those people might be because the chances are that if someone can support your candidate, they can support another candidate as well.

spk_1:   24:06
Yeah, I think it's really amazing what you're doing because I totally agree that that culture of political philanthropy just has to expand beyond the usual suspects if we're gonna have a system that is representative of more than just the usual suspects, and I think you're right, like they're gonna be folks who the very most they can meaningfully give is in the tens of dollars, and that's fine. I think people should be starting there. But then the rest of us, who maybe can do something closer to the hundreds of dollars, or maybe even the thousands of dollars. We can't just sort of leave that to the millionaires and billionaires. You know, we've gotta bake it into our budgets the same way we would think about baking in some nonprofit philanthropy. One of the things I think people underestimate is the way they're dollars can be leveraged to greater effect. If you really care about for instance, a homelessness, a big issue in the place you and I love Hannah. Giving to five a one C three nonprofit is a really great thing to do, and I think it's wonderful that so many people are stepping up to do that. But if you think about that, if you give a shelter $1000 they can use that $1000 Thio provide some additional food and shelter, it goes as far as that $1000 goes. If you make $1000 contribution or even, let's reduce it a 500 or $200 contribution to a city councilor or a mayor or governor who's gonna fundamentally change the way that public policy addresses homelessness you could be talking about. If that person wins and is able to enact that policy, your $500 contribution could have gone towards the leveraging of literally millions and hundreds of millions of dollars.

spk_0:   25:48
That's the way I think about my personal giving. I actually prioritize my candidate, giving in the way that some people do their philanthropic equivalency three donations each year, and I actually tend to do more to candidates, but it's because I work backwards from the issues that I care about and how you change those issues. And I fundamentally believe in public policy. And if I care about poverty, if I care about equity and justice, your money can have, ah, bigger impact and go even further. When you're using those dollars to elect good candidates and good representatives, it really is the nature of our democracy to have more participation, to have our democracy be representative of the people. You have to have the people participate. The people are the democracy, right? So if you only have 20% of the electorate voting than that, 20% of the electorate is deciding who represents all of us and same thing with political giving. It's something like 1% of Americans who give political money, or at least prior to 2016. The money that fuels the campaign's has a CZ much of an impact as the votes that vote on them. So why would we leave it to such a small percentage of people to decide which campaigns are gonna be funded and ultimately be able to compete and be successful? Why wouldn't we want ah healthy functioning democracy that includes participation of all types being in a place like California. Maybe we feel like our vote doesn't matter in the presidential election, but our dollars can. Okay, so that's a choice that a voter slash donor in California is making. If you live in a state like Ohio, maybe you feel like your vote is so powerful that that is your way to participate. Great. It is different for everyone. But I'm just gonna say it one last time. I think a healthier democracy means more participation of all kinds. And that includes political giving.

spk_1:   27:58
Yeah, totally agree. Well, thank you so much for joining us. This has been great. I actually think we have a ton more to talk about, so I'm sure we will be doing this again. But thanks for joining us today, Hannah.

spk_0:   28:09
It was great to chat. I look forward to doing it again in the future.

spk_1:   28:15
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