4 Essential Donations to Make Before the November Election

Charlotte Hill
9 min readAug 14, 2020

Donate to these 4 organizations to help protect voters and defeat Trump in November.

Illustration by Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo for NPR | Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Updated September 26, 2020

With just 5 weeks until the presidential election, many of us are asking the same question: what can I do to help elect Biden, defeat Trump, swing the Senate to the Democrats, and win important down-ballot races? This guide offers 4 concrete recommendations for high-impact donations you can make before November.

No time to read? Here’s the short list:

  1. Fight voter suppression by donating to Democracy Docket.
  2. Get Democrats to vote by mail by donating to Vote From Home 2020.
  3. Win key state races to reverse GOP gerrymandering by donating to Swing Left.
  4. Make sure Trump leaves office if he loses by donating to Protect the Results.

Why trust this list?

These recommendations are the result of years of careful research and analysis, as well as extensive discussion with progressive political organizations. I’m a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley who studies American elections and voting. For the past four years, I have also belonged to a small network of friends called Bright Spots. We pool our money, systematically interview political organizations, and decide where to spend our collective resources. (We call ourselves Bright Spots because, instead of dwelling on problems, we focus on identifying organizations that are getting things right.)

Since Trump was elected in 2016, Bright Spots has directly donated or raised nearly two million dollars for dozens of incredible groups working tirelessly to elect progressives to office, protect the most vulnerable Americans suffering under the Trump regime, and reform our broken political system. Through our work, we’ve developed a clear understanding of the most pressing opportunities to make an impact through political giving.

The donation opportunities outlined below reflect our understanding of the most important challenges facing America in the lead-up to the election, as well as the most effective organizations addressing those challenges. We only recommend groups that have both a proven track record of success and an urgent need for funding, meaning your marginal dollar will go to immediate use.

The stakes have never been higher — so the chance for each of us to make an impact has never been greater.

Two final notes before we dive in:

  1. If you think you’ll donate sometime before November 3, do it now. In the political world, early donations matter far more than later ones. There is inevitably a large surge in funding in October, as people’s attention to politics becomes sharper and emotions become more intense. But there’s work to be done today — and early money can be invested in programs that bring in even more donations and volunteers down the road.
  2. When in doubt, give more. If you’re not sure how much money to give, we recommend imaging yourself the day after the election (or, rather, the day after election results are finalized, which may be later into November or even December — deep breaths!). If Trump wins reelection, or if the Senate remains in the control of the GOP, will you wish you’d done more? Now isn’t the time to leave anything on the table. In our giving circle, we encourage everyone to contribute an amount that feels uncomfortably large for them. For some, that will be $20; for others, it will be $20,000. Whatever you do, don’t spend the next four years wishing you’d invested more in our country.

Without further ado, here are 4 donations to make before the November election.

Fight Republican voter suppression

The problem:

The GOP is doing all it can to prevent left-leaning Americans from voting. That includes spending at least $20 million on lawsuits aimed at overturning election laws that ensure people have safe voting options this November. The most recent confirmation of this came on August 13, when Trump told reporters he wouldn’t fund the postal service because it would help Democrats expand mail-in voting — which, quick reminder, is critical for ensuring everyone can vote safely amidst a global pandemic that’s on track to kill 300,000 Americans this year).

What to do:

We highly recommend donating to Democracy Docket, a project spearheaded by Marc Elias, the nation’s top lawyer fighting voter suppression. Marc has brought legal challenges to voter suppression laws in dozens of states across the country. He’s focused on what he calls the “four pillars” of democracy that, at a minimum, states should implement to ensure that eligible voters may fully participate in the election this November:

  1. Mail voting postage must be free or prepaid by the government,
  2. Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must be counted,
  3. Signature matching laws must be reformed to protect voters, and
  4. Community organizations should be allowed to help collect and deliver sealed ballots.

Your donation will allow Democracy Docket to successfully sue states to protect voting rights. They need money to hire experts, conduct data analysis, draft complaints, and identify plaintiffs. Marc and team have already won dozens of victories in this fight — and with additional resources, they can win even more.

Donate to Democracy Docket here. Donations are not tax-deductible.

Get Democrats to vote by mail

The problem:

Despite unprecedented enthusiasm among progressives, we can’t count on high turnout this year. Millions of voters are at risk of contracting COVID-19, and they may avoid the polls — without the support they need to vote at home instead.

We know that Black and Latinx voters face much higher risks to voting in person. They’re 3 times more likely to contract Covid-19 than whites, face much longer voting lines, and are the targets of a new GOP effort to deploy 50,000 people to intimidate in-person voters. These voters — who are disproportionately younger — are also historically far less likely to successfully vote from home than older, whiter, more conservative voters. Part of the problem is a sheer lack of resources: more than half of young people (who are disproportionately people of color) lack access to stamps and printers. Another important issue is lack of information: most young voters, and especially youth of color, have never voted by mail before and aren’t sure how the process works.

What to do:

There are many organizations trying to get Democrats to vote by mail. We recommend Vote From Home 2020, which is providing comprehensive vote-by-mail support to young, Black, Latinx, and AAPI voters in swing states. For $25, they send 20 mail-voting applications directly to voters’ homes. They then train volunteers to follow up with phone calls and texts to make sure people fill out their applications and return them well in advance of state deadlines. But they don’t stop there. At every step in the vote-by-mail process, Vote From Home 2020 volunteers follow up with voters to make sure their ballots have been cast and counted. (Disclosure: I’m volunteering my time as a senior advisor for Vote From Home 2020 through the election.)

We love 3 things about Vote From Home 2020. First, their mission is hyper-targeted. They’re not contacting all voters, just Democrats in critical swing states who haven’t already signed up to vote by mail and who are at high risk from voting in person. Second, they’ve already had stellar results: in just the past few weeks, they’ve contacted hundreds of thousands of swing-state voters. And third, their team is highly experienced in this sort of work; they’ve helped run organizing campaigns for the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Barack Obama.

Donate to Vote From Home 2020 here. Donations are not tax-deductible. However, if you are intent on making a c3 donation, they have a partner organization that can take your contributions. Email Suzy Smith at suzy@votefromhome2020.org for more information.

Win key state races (to reverse Republican gerrymandering)

The problem:

Partisan gerrymandering has given the GOP an undemocratic advantage in American elections. As one journalist summarized at the end of 2019, “59 million Americans live in a state where one or both chambers of the state legislature is controlled by the party that got fewer votes in the 2018 election.” (As a quick reminder, partisan gerrymandering refers to the intentional drawing of district maps to include certain voters and exclude others in order to give one party an electoral advantage.)

Make no mistake: the Republican Party is doing everything it can to entrench this unfair advantage during 2021’s redistricting process. In nearly every state, the legislature controls the map-drawing process — so who we elect to office in 2020 will have a direct impact on how maps are drawn. And the impact will be long-lasting: redistricting only happens every 10 years, so these 2021 maps will dictate what districts look like until 2031.

Most political spending this year is going to more high-profile campaigns, like Biden’s run for presidency, or the few toss-up U.S. Senate races. But to ensure fair maps are drawn in 2021, we need to win key state legislative races.

What to do:

It’s hard to know which state-level candidates to fund — there are so many to choose from! That’s why we recommend donating to the Flippable States Fund developed by Swing Left, a grassroots organization that has poured thousands of hours into analyzing state legislatures, identifying the ones with the highest likelihood of flipping from red to blue this election cycle, and creating donation “funds” that split donations across the most important races in the state. Our favorite thing about Swing Left is how much work they’ve put into pinpointing the best state-level donation opportunities — and then making donating easy. We also appreciate that 100% of donations go to political candidates, not organizational overhead.

Donate to Swing Left’s Flippable States Fund here. Alternatively, go here to read about each of their target states. When you click on a state, you’ll see a link to donate to its specific fund. Donations are not tax-deductible.

Make sure Trump leaves office if he loses

The problem:

If Trump loses the election, it’s very likely that he won’t peacefully hand over power to Biden. This sounds like an extreme claim, but it’s backed by plenty of data. In a recent interview, Trump refused to commit to accepting election results if he loses to Biden. Michael Cohen, the president’s lawyer, has warned Congress that “given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” Nancy Pelosi has told Democrats to prepare for the possibility that Trump contests the election.

What makes this truly concerning, however, is that Trump probably won’t stand alone if he refuses to concede. Republicans in Congress have not shown any willingness to contradict Trump these past four years; in fact, they have aligned themselves with him at every step.

What to do:

The best group working to ensure Trump peacefully leaves office if he loses is Protect the Results, a joint project of Indivisible and Stand Up America. Protect the Results is organizing millions of Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — to protect and defend the valid results of the election, whether their preferred candidate wins or loses. Indivisible and Stand Up America both have incredibly impressive track records of mobilizing people to resist the Trump regime and hold their state and national elected officials accountable. Behind the scenes, they’re consulting with dozens of experts and organizations across the political spectrum to create contingency plans for if/when Trump refuses to leave office, all while getting Americans to sign up ahead of time to protect the results. This means that, if we need to activate millions of people to defend a rightful Biden presidency, all the steps will be in place ahead of time — we’ll just need to flip the switch.

Donate to Protect The Results here. Donations are not tax-deductible.

There you have it—the 4 donations Bright Spots recommends making before the November election. Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Fight voter suppression by donating to Democracy Docket.
  2. Get Democrats to vote by mail by donating to Vote From Home 2020.
  3. Win key state races to reverse GOP gerrymandering by donating to Swing Left’s Flippable States Fund.
  4. Make sure Trump leaves office if he loses by donating to Protect the Results.

Have questions? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Charlotte Hill is a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, where she studies election laws and voter turnout. She sits on the boards of RepresentUs and FairVote, is a fellow with the Berkeley Institute for Young Americans, and serves as a pro bono advisor to Vote From Home 2020. All opinions are her own.

Bright Spots is a group of friends who started meeting monthly after 2016 to help elect progressive legislators, protect vulnerable Americans suffering under the GOP, and fix our country’s broken political system — so that our government represents all of us. Bright Spots members come from a range of backgrounds: we build technology tools for Democratic political campaigns, conduct academic research on politics and climate change, work on environmental policy in the public and private sectors, advise philanthropists, and work for progressive nonprofits, among other things. What we all have in common is a strong commitment to learning about and supporting the best groups that are fighting to make America better.



Charlotte Hill

PhD student at UC Berkeley studying political inequality, interest groups, and democratic reforms