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Frequently Asked Questions about Small Donor Elections
Note: A number of the below rules may change soon. The City Council is considering a package of recommendations from the Portland Elections Commission to update the match rate, matching caps, and other rules for the 2024 election. This website will be updated if/when the City Council votes on the recommendations.
What is the Small Donor Elections program?
Small Donor Elections is a matching program that multiplies small donations from Portland residents to ensure that all Portlanders matter in City elections. Similar effective and proven programs have worked in 32 cities, states, and counties across the country, including San Francisco, New York City, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Maine, and Maryland.
The Small Donor Elections program enables candidates to run for Mayor, Auditor, or City Commissioner without accepting large contributions, by instead getting their small contributions matched by the City’s Small Donor Elections Fund.
Which candidates can get small contributions matched?
The requirements for getting small contributions matched are:
- The candidate must be running for Mayor, Auditor, or City Commissioner
- The candidate must prove they have broad community support and are serious about running for office by collecting hundreds of small contributions from Portland residents in order to get certified as matchable. Candidates running for Mayor must collect at least 750 small donations from Portland residents. Candidates running for Auditor or City Commissioner must collect contributions from 250 Portlanders.
- Matchable contributions must be from Portland residents at least 18 years of age, who are citizens or permanent residents (per federal election law).
Please note that the name and street address donors who are matchable, along with the dates and amounts of their contributions, are public records and will periodically be released on the program website.
Which contributions are matchable?
The first $20 you give a candidate can be matched it:
- You are a Portland resident at least 18 years of age who is a citizen or permanent resident.
- The candidate you donated to gets certified to use the program.
- The City can verify that the contribution was from you and you are eligible to be matched.
- You have not donated $20 or more to another candidate in the same race and already had that donation matched
Please note that the name and street address donors who are matchable, along with the dates and amounts of their contributions, are public records and will periodically be released on the program website
How much can candidates receive in matching funds?
Candidates receive up to a 9-to-1 match on the first $20 from an eligible donor per election. This 9-to-1 matching ratio helps ensure that candidates have enough funds to compete and get their message out to voters. For instance, 500 contributions averaging $20 would turn $10,000 into $90,000. Contributions continue to get matched as candidates raise small contributions and follow program rules.
What are the rules for candidates participating in the Small Donor Elections program?
Candidates participating in the program must follow rules about how to raise and spend campaign funds:
- They are limited to accepting $250 per donor per election.*
- They may only accept contributions from people or small donor committees*
*There is an exception for seed money, to help a candidate get their campaigns up and running, and an exception for in-kind contributions.
I'm interested in running for office. How would I participate in Small Donor Elections?
The Small Donor Elections program is optional for candidates to participate in. Candidates must apply to join the program.
If you are interested in running in the 2024 elections, you have until August 20, 2024 to file your Notice of Intent and until August 1, 2024 take the mandatory training. But before signing up, potential candidates should review the step-by-step guide that our office has shared, explaining how to participate in the program.
Also, please refer to the Program's calendar of key dates for this election cycle:
What is the difference between Honest Elections and Small Donor Elections?
Honest Elections is a campaign finance reform package passed by City voters in 2018 and Multnomah County voters in 2016. The Honest Elections reforms include contribution limits and disclosure of donors on campaign ads. Parts of Honest Elections reforms have been struck down at the trial court level and is under consideration by the state Supreme Court.
If a candidate is running under Small Donor Elections, they must follow some of the Honest Elections rules, but are exempt from other provisions. Please refer to our page on Honest Electionsfor more information.
Can I donate to support the Small Donor Elections Fund?
Anyone can donate to the Small Donor Elections Fund, to help the City support this program that is critical for our democracy.
Mail or drop off a donation to the to Small Donor Elections, 1221 SW 4th Ave, Room 220, Portland, OR 97204.
If paying by check, make it out to “City of Portland.” You may request a receipt for your contribution.
The fact that you donated to the Small Donor Elections Fund will be listed in the Portland Elections Commission minutes.
How would I spread the word about this program?
Please spread the word about Small Donor Elections! When you share information about the program, it ensures that potential candidates know that small donor matching can be an option for their campaigns, and that community members can use it to amplify their voices.
You can follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter for updates. Or if you are part of a community organization, please contact our office and invite a staff member to come address your next meeting.
Why is this program important?
The Small Donor Elections program is designed to ensure that every Portlander’s participation in our democracy is important. Our government works best when every person is engaged in the elections process and can make a difference in the community. The program fosters an inclusive democratic process where everyone participates and everyone’s contributions matter. A community where people from all walks of life can run for and win office, while avoiding concerns about the influence of large donations in City elections. We’re strongest when our elected city leaders reflect the full range of talent and lived experience that Portland has to offer, and when the community trusts that elected leaders share the community’s values. People from every neighborhood in Portland should have meaningful opportunities to influence who is elected to City offices, and to run effective citywide campaigns.