Five Facts on Small-Dollar Donations

Five Facts on Small-Dollar Donations

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been using her attempted ousting of House Speaker Mike Johnson as a vehicle for garnering small-dollar donations. Small-dollar donations – which are defined as less than $200 – play an increasingly significant role in campaigns and constitute a growing share of financing for many candidates.

Here are Five Facts on small-dollar donations.

1. From 2006 to 2020, the total number of individual political donations increased from 5.2 million to 195.0 million.

The increase in small-dollar donations is driven at least in part by the growth of the internet and other forms of high-speed communication making it much easier to make donations. In that same timeframe, the average contribution dropped from almost $300 to about $60, a five-fold decrease.

2. Individuals who give small-dollar donations to campaigns tend to be more partisan than the average American.

According to Richard H. Pildes in the Yale Law Journal Forum, “the ideological profile for individual donors is bimodal, with most donors clumped at the “very liberal” or “very conservative” poles and many fewer donors in the center, while the ideological profile of other Americans is not bimodal and features strong centrist representation.”

3. The member of Congress with the highest percentage of campaign funds coming from small-dollar donors is Marjorie Taylor Greene.

OpenSecret’s list of the top small-dollar fundraisers includes a number of other highly partisan members, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Matt Gaetz. However, some high-profile party leaders such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi also rank near the top.

4. Candidates running against extreme candidates can also attract significant amounts of small-dollar donations.

In 2020, for example, Republican John Cummings raised $7.8 million from small donors — 70 percent of his total funding – as he challenged incumbent Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Likewise, Marcus Flowers’ small-dollar donations alone exceeded the war chest of his opponent in the 2022 elections – Marjorie Taylor Greene.

5. Large-dollar donations still account for a larger percentage of overall political contributions.

While more Americans are jumping into the political arena through small-dollar donations, large donors still have an outsize impact on campaign finance. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that in 2022, a mere 21 individuals and couples spent a combined $783 million in donations to candidates and Super PACs, easily outspending the total given by the millions of people who made small donations to campaigns.