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Got questions about Small Donor Elections?
We have answers.

Frequently Asked Questions about Small Donor Elections

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 Council 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).

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.

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 $350 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 Contribution Limits and Disclosure Requirements in the Charter and the Small Donor Elections Program Requirements?

In November 2018, Portland voters passed amendments to the City Charter to add contribution limits and disclosure requirements for candidates running for city office, which are enforced by the Auditor’s Elections Office. This is a different set of regulations than the Small Donor Elections program, which is a law that was created by City Council in 2016.

Candidates running under Small Donor Electionsmust comply with both Small Donor Elections law and the campaign finance Charter requirements enforced by the Auditor’s office:

  • Candidates participating in Small Donor Elections must list on political advertisements that support or oppose any City candidate the top 5 contributors who have given over $1158. For Small Donor Elections candidates, only loans and in-kind contributions can be provided in amounts exceeding $1158. 
  • However, candidates participating in Small Donor Elections who adhere to the program’s contribution limits will not be penalized for violating the contribution limits listed in the Charter. Small Donor Elections candidates are subject to penalty by both programs if both programs’ contribution limits are violated.

It is important to note that the Office of Small Donor Elections does not oversee or enforce the Charter contribution limits or disclosure requirements. Those provisions are enforced by the City Elections Office. If your campaign or organization has questions about how to comply with them, please review their website and direct your questions to their office.

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, 1120 SW 5th Ave, 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.


Susan Mottet

Director, Small Donor Elections

Daniel Lewkow

Deputy Director, Small Donor Elections