How to Run under Small Donor Elections

A design of a yellow rose, with the words "Small Donor Elections Portland" next to it
This is the step-by-step guide for how a candidate can participate in Small Donor Elections, and have their donations matched nine-to-one by the City of Portland.

How to run under Small Donor Elections

Step 1: Comply with the rules

The rules for the 2024 cycle have been in effect as of December 23, 2022. So if candidates are interested in running in the 2024 election, they must ensure that they are in compliance as of December 23rd, 2022. Potential candidates must:

  • Have only one campaign bank account
  • Have paid back all pre-existing campaign debt

You can read the Administrative Rules, or the SDE law itself by clicking here.

Step 2: File the Notice of Intent and take the mandatory training

In order to officially register for the Small Donor Elections program, candidates must submit their Notice of Intent to our office by August 20th, 2024. They must also include their ACH Authorization, a W-9 Form, and a voided check from the campaign bank account. Once candidates file this form, their participation in the program will be noted publicly on the Small Donor Elections website. 

Candidates and their treasurers are required to take a training with SDE staff by August 1, 2024.  The training can be given either remotely or in-person, is confidential, and the candidate can invite other members of their campaign team. Please contact Deputy Director Daniel Lewkow at to schedule a training.

Only once they complete Step 2 can candidates begin to raise the donations to qualify for small donor matching.

Here is a copy of the training if you'd like to download it.

Step 3: Raise enough matchable donations to qualify

Candidates for office must raise a certain number of contributions to qualify for city matching funds under Small Donor Elections

  • Candidates for mayor must raise donations of $5-$350 from at least 750 Portland donors
  • Candidates for council or auditor must raise donations of $5-$350 from at least 250 Portland donors 

Candidates must raise the required number of contributions from individuals living in the City of Portland. They can raise funds from donors living outside of Portland, but only donations from Portland residents count towards the qualifying requirement. Our office recommends raising more than the required number, so as to ensure that they have cleared the threshold. 

Step 4: Report all contributions and expenditures

Transparency is a crucial value for the Small Donor Elections program. In order to participate, candidates must report their contributions and expenditures to our office monthly, and then weekly during the final 42 days before an election. This is a separate reporting process from the Oregon Secretary of State's process, although we operate on the same reporting timeline that you will use for the Secretary of State’s office. Staff will provide each campaign with a log-in to a website to allow for fast and simple reporting.  

When submitted cash or money order contributions, you must submit this cash attestation form

Step 5: Apply for certification between February 1, 2024--August 27, 2024

Once candidates have collected the required number of matchable contributions, they can then apply for certification. If approved, our office will match both future donations from Portland residents nine-to-one up to $20, as well as the matchable contributions that the candidate has already collected. To be certified, candidates must have:

  • Collected the required matchable donations
  • Reported all contributions and expenditures to the Office of Small Donor Elections
  • Followed the program rules

Candidates may only file for certification two times. Our office encourages candidates to ask for an informal assessment before applying for certification, so that our staff can update the campaign on how many matchable contributions we have verified.

Step 6: Continue raising money and getting matched

If a candidate has been certified, then our office will match donations under $20 nine-to-one. This can allow candidates without networks of wealthy donors to raise enough funding to be competitive. To be matched, donations must be:

  • From a Portland resident, verified to be living at their address
  • From an individual
  • From a person at least 18 years old
  • Accompanied by an attestation document (if cash or money order, using this form)

Our office will direct deposit the funds into the candidate's account. It is a fast and responsive process that allows candidates to access their funds quickly.

  • Mayoral candidates can earn up to $100,000* in matching funds
  • Auditor candidates can earn up to $40,000* in matching funds
  • City Council candidates can earn up to $120,000* in matching funds, but divided into tiers
    • A total of 250 qualifying donors can unlock the first round of matching funds, of up to $40,000
    • A total of 750 qualifying donors can unlock the second round of matching funds, of up to another $80,000
    • A total of 1,250 qualifying donors can unlock the final round of matching funds, of up to a final $120,000

*On January 17th 2024, the Portland Elections Commission reduced the total matching funds that the program could provide to candidates. This was done in anticipation of potential underfunding by the City Council. Once the PEC gains more clarity about the funding that the City Council will allocate to the program and the number of candidates who get certified, it will consider raising the Match Caps to a higher level 

Step 7: Return unused public funds

After the election, candidates must return any unspent public funds to the Office of Small Donor Elections. Candidates need to pay outstanding expenses and then return unspent public funds. This is calculated proportionally. 

Here is the form that candidates must provide to return unspent public funds.