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Elevate Blog: Fundraising and the Power of Disabled Leadership: Interview with Dom Kelly

Elevate Logo - Campaign Training for People with Disabilities. Graphic features the US Capitol Rotunda.

Dom Kelly works for Fair Fight, a voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams and based in Atlanta, Georgia, where he helps lead fundraising efforts for both the organization’s PAC and 501(c)(4). He is also a person with Cerebral Palsy who is passionate about disability justice and building political power within the disability community. He took the time to tell us why it’s important for people with disabilities to run for office, and to share his wisdom about fundraising.

Why do you think it is important for people with disabilities to run for elected office?

Dom: I am extremely passionate about getting disabled people to run for elected office, and there are a couple reasons I think it’s important. The first is that lawmakers who understand what it’s like to be disabled can create and uphold laws that actually benefit folks with disabilities. Too often we see that the disabled community is ignored and disregarded; COVID-19 and the events surrounding the pandemic has really brought to light what we in the community have known to be true, which is that our lives are often considered expendable. Lawmakers think nothing of taking away our access to affordable healthcare if it’s politically beneficial to them. Congress’s inability to address issues like gun violence, systemic racism, and police brutality mean that the disabled community is even more at risk of being harmed. Some politicians engaging in voter suppression have actively tried to take away our right to vote. All of these are just some examples of what we could be addressing through a disability lens if people with disabilities ran and won elected office. Second, I believe representation matters. As a kid, I rarely if ever saw people on TV, whether they be characters, actors, politicians, or news anchors, who were disabled like me. Seeing someone with a disability in a leadership and decision-making role can go a long way in cultivating confidence and power among folks in our community. “Identity politics” is a dirty term among some, but not for me – identity is vital for our survival.

Some people who want to run for office are afraid of having to ask for money. How can people who are afraid of fundraising get comfortable with it?    

Dom: Like it or not, raising money is a necessary activity for any organization, campaign or otherwise. The first time getting on the phone to ask someone to give can be scary, but it gets easier with each ask. It may be easier to start by planning an email or social media fundraising campaign before you start asking for larger amounts of money. At the end of the day, though, you are really selling yourself and your vision to voters, so if you feel confident in your candidacy and your platform, you’ll be able to get more comfortable with asking them to contribute.

What goes into setting a fundraising goal?

Dom: It really depends on your budget and what staff you plan to hire/what activities you undertake. When you’re soliciting, it’s always good to go to donors with a total number you are trying to reach in that stretch and an idea of what their contribution will go toward, so really understanding what your budget is and how you plan to spend the money is integral on multiple fronts. In an email or social media campaign, it might be a good idea to set a smaller goal and ask your supporters to help you reach it in a specific timeframe.

Let’s say you’re reaching out to a supporter to ask them to donate. How do you decide how much money to ask them for?  

Dom: Before you sit down for call time, you have to make sure you have done all the research on the potential donor. That includes understanding their background, what they currently do, and most importantly, their giving history. Knowing what they’ve given to other candidates, PACs, etc. will be necessary in being able to decide on an ask.

Do you have any other advice for our readers, especially first-time fundraisers?

Dom: I like to think that fundraising is akin to community-building in that you are developing a group of supporters that believe in a similar vision and have aligned values, so just as if you were creating and growing a group on Facebook and feeding them content constantly, donors need to be kept equally engaged. They are going to want to be fed lots of information and understand how their investment is actually making an impact. Remember, the people who give you money are the ones who believe in you the most. You have to keep them engaged beyond continuing to ask them to contribute to your campaign. That engagement can translate into volunteering, more giving, and ultimately, for candidates, their enthusiastic vote at the ballot box. Your donors are not just ATMs – they are people who believe in you, and you need to keep them engaged.

A young white man wearing a blue button-up shirt smiles at the camera


Dom Kelly is the Development Manager at Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams, as well as a lifelong disability justice activist. As a person with Cerebral Palsy, he is passionate about furthering disabled representation in politics and government. A native New Yorker, he currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Catie.

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