Working paper

Fundraising Events and Non-Ideological Donation Motivations

Sean Kates, and Sebastian Thieme


Why do candidates rely on fundraising event attendees to finance their campaigns? De-spite public concerns around this mode of donation, fundraising events have received little scholarly attention. We use a source of novel data – campaign finance disclosures in four U.S. states which indicate event- and non-event status of donations linked to political candidates – to examine two hypotheses. First, events help candidates draw on individual donors’ non-ideological motivations, including material motivations. Sec-ond, events help candidates fundraise when ideological motivations are relatively low. We provide evidence that donors discount ideology when they attend events, and link agenda powers of legislative incumbents to increases in event donations, including from individuals in related business sectors. Further, we show that early donations from individuals are more likely to be made via events than later donations, especially for incumbents. Our results highlight implications of event fundraising for responsiveness, partisan polarization, and candidate selection.

See also

Published in

IAST Working Paper, n. 24-159, February 2024