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How This MIT Sloan MBA Is Harnessing The New Dominant Force in Politics—Millennials

Dan Jordan Kessler is engaging the next generation in the political process, through direct grassroots investment and a new startup

By  Dan Kessler

Thu Jan 18 2018

BusinessBecause
Dan Jordan Kessler is a first-year-MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He spoke on November 9 at the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.

America has been to the polls for the first time since Donald Trump was elected in 2016. And more than anything, the races were a testing ground for the 2018-midterm elections and the presidential race to follow in 2020.

In that election in 2020, for the first time ever, Millennials will make up the largest segment of the American electorate with 91 million Millennials composing roughly 35 percent of the voting population.

As a result, in just two years, Millennials will be poised to become a dominant force in politics—a force that can be harnessed effectively and decisively. Therefore, the time has come for campaigns to redirect their focus away from their...

tanding focus on baby boomers and engage Millennials in a meaningful and lasting way.

Right now, Millennials are fairly likely to be disengaged with the political process. With the average age of members of Congress at 58-years-old and Congressional leadership in their late 60s and 70s, Millennials, who seek social impact, simply feel as if they cannot relate to government across this generational divide.

Only 32 percent of millennials report that they feel that “people like them” have a legitimate voice in the election,” according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

In fact, most Millennials have never before been exposed to the political process in a truly meaningful and lasting way. They feel that their voices and votes simply do not register with older politicians. The Economist reported that only 30 percent of millennials reported even being contacted by a campaign in 2016.

So, with Millennials now representing a third of the American electorate, my mission has been to create a process of real participatory inclusiveness, fostering lasting and meaningful Millennial engagement and, while doing so, making politics fun and appealing for young people.

I know something about getting Millennials engaged. After Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy in April 2015, I founded her Millennial fundraising program.

I did so by democratizing fundraising, first forming a steering committee, charging them with continually expanding the group outward, ultimately bringing hundreds of young people together in a fun, unconventional venue, for which they would be making a very affordable financial commitment, with an added career benefit of high level networking, and securing a high profile campaign surrogate who could directly engage those attending by speaking to their issues:  student loan reform and rising cost of college tuition. 

Our first fundraiser in Philadelphia drew over five hundred millennials followed by similarly well-attended events in Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Seattle, Atlanta and Virginia. All tolled, I raised over $270,000 for Hilary Clinton’s campaign and was the youngest fundraiser to do so. 

Getting the next generation to make their first investment in a campaign was a pivotal first step in this process. Young people have limited budgets and are very careful in how they spend their precious dollars. In my experience, having made a financial commitment, young contributors become thoroughly invested as if they were equity partners and, as a result, are likely to be actively engaged in other campaign activities throughout the campaign and thereafter.  Furthermore, they were encouraged to and effectively engaged thousands of other similarly contributing Millennials.

To facilitate this process for other campaigns, I have recently begun a new startup called FundONE. FundONE is a full-service, online fundraising playbook and platform—a one-stop-shop for those looking to host fundraisers. It combines and consolidates the features of commonly used software to fully maximize fundraising planning/execution efficiency.

For example, FundONE will create an online marketplace for event space and vendors whereby the fundraiser can instantly book the perfect venue for their needs—including everything from invitations to event tracking to host committee communications all within an App to which Millennials can relate to.

Through my work with FundONE and with my efforts to democratize fundraising, I am hoping to create a fun, networking, political environment to raise necessary campaign revenue while effectively engaging the next great generation in a lasting way.

Campaigns that follow our lead and engage millennials will be making an investment that is likely to pay dividends for years to come, while activating a powerful new presence on the world’s political stage.

Interested in learning more about FundONE? Please contact Dan at dkessler24@gmail.com

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