Every week the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation, Donal Blaney, explains one of Morton Blackwell’s Laws of the Public Policy Process. Morton Blackwell is the Founder and President of the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
Politics is expensive. It is for this reason that there are such strong objections to state funding of political parties as the remedy for secretive loans for peerages (or indeed overt donations for honours). The conservative response is to favour transparency while respecting voters’ right to do as they wish with their money.
The United States has a history of philanthropy. Many American foundations – both conservative and leftist – have assets running to hundreds of millions of dollars. American conservative foundations such as the Heritage Foundation, Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the Young America’s Foundation have annual budgets and reserves running well into eight figures. One conservative foundation recently raised in excess of £40m in a capital fundraising campaign while another benefited from a £5m bequest in a wealthy donor’s will.
The conservative movement in Britain has been bankrolled by a handful of wealthy individuals who have given selflessly of their fortunes to keep conservatism alive during the dark days of the Blair administration. Men such as Michael Ashcroft, Stanley Kalms and Irvine Laidlaw kept the Party machinery alive when other businessmen and voters chose to stand by and simply whine about the state of the country rather than doing anything concrete to change the political climate.
This week’s Law stresses the importance of financial strength within the conservative movement.
If an organisation is spending its time looking over its metaphorical shoulder rather than focussing of delivering its objectives, it will not deliver those objectives as effectively. I know this to my own cost, literally, in the case of the Young Britons’ Foundation. While YBF has achieved a considerable amount in its first three years, it would have achieved far more if its financial position had been stronger. Even our more financially stable organisations such as the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Bruges Group spend too much time focussing on fundraising rather than delivering as much as their supporters would wish.
For the fledgling conservative movement to grow at the rate that we all wish, we need to diversify our funding streams, rather than just to rely on the same generous benefactors who have bankrolled the Party in the last decade. Smaller donations of £20-50 need to be sought by direct mail from a broader base of supporters who comprise the conservative movement – Eurosceptics, overtaxed businessmen and individuals, disgruntled users of public services, conservationists, smokers, followers of countryside pursuits and so on. Those donors then need to be serviced effectively – which is far easier said than done.
To do this requires a considerable investment of time and effort – and seed capital – but it is well worth pursuing as a goal. Without a diversification of our funding streams, the conservative movement’s members will not be able to pay the rent and the movement will suffer.
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