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Research Report

Small Donor Matching Funds: The NYC Election Experience

Published: September 17, 2010

This report examines the New York City system and shows that a system based on small donations with a multiple match can change the dynamics of money in our politics. Specifically, the small donor multiple match system—which is a feature of both Fair Elections and the New York City system—has the potential to transform our politics by incentivizing and supercharging grassroots fundraising.

Like many public financing systems, the New York City program provides money to candidates who accept expenditure limits and enhanced disclosure. However, the heart of the system, and what sets it apart, is the multiple match—a feature that boosts the impact of small donations by matching up to $175 of each contribution at a six-to-one ratio. By encouraging candidates to engage with voters early in an election campaign, fundraising and voter outreach efforts come together. The report includes a number of interviews with candidates who used the system and testify to its benefits.