When I talked to some of our colleagues in other Green Parties in other countries and asked them about their finances, they tended to react in disbelief when I explained that the contributions that members make to the party are a mainstay or our financial resources. In many other countries, there is serious financing for political parties that comes from the taxpayer. This has a lot of benefits in terms of the quality of democracy. But we have the situation we have and we have to live with it.
Essentially, money could come from a variety of sources:
- Governments and other political institutions – our elected members do receive money in this way and they do contribute a good chunk of that to the party. But because we have few elected representatives, this is far less than other parties have
- Corporate donors – a major income source for the ‘big’ parties; we don’t have that source of income for good reasons.
- Legacies – an unpredictable source of income
- Donations and membership fees – that’s an important source of funding for us.
Membership fees come in through the national party and are distributed via capitation to the regions and local parties. In our conversations with members, this has come up quite a lot: mainly because capitations are often late and parties don’t know well in advance how much it is going to be. It makes planning difficult.
But we have also heard from some of you that you think dishing out this money evenly across the board as capitation doesn’t help target the money to those areas where we need it most because we have a reasonable chance of winning seats if we can throw enough money at it.
So that’s an issue we have to address.
Donations are mainly in response to fundraising appeals. They can come from the national party, from individuals, from regions, or from local parties. They are often linked to specific campaigns. You have told us you feel often that you get too many fundraising appeals and sometimes several at the same time.
Part of the problem here is planning. Broadly, we know when elections are going to be fought and we can plan probably 3 or 4 years out how much that will cost. We could have a 4 year financial plan with different scenarios: one, where we only count the money we need in the key target areas; one where we count the money we need in another band of areas where we think we can build up; one where we allow a certain amount in all areas to ensure that we can at least have non-target ward candidates across the board. Once we have done that, we can look at the implications for fundraising and give members decent information about what they are contributing to if they give money.
In both the local parties I have been involved in we have always been told regular small amounts of money (direct debits, each month, come election or not) is what makes the difference. And that is of course true. But if we know in advance when we need additional money (for deposits, for example, or extra leaflets, or a campaign bus, or billboards or whatever) then we can ‘save up’ for this in the years when we’re not focussing only on a live campaign.
So, no, we don’t talk enough about money.
- We need to understand what we have.
- We need to understand what we might be able to access (fundraising strategy: nationally, regionally, locally).
- We need to understand the risks we face (not having enough, committing expenditure we can’t cover, misreporting to the authorities during elections, getting money from the ‘wrong’ donors, etc) and we need to make sure that we minimise those risks.
And we need to ensure that members know all this and get a clear picture of how they can best contribute within their means to make the GPEW the strongest party it can possibly be in a political and economic context pitched against us.