African American Donors and African American Communities Invest More Than $40 Million Dollars in Democratic Presidential Candidates in 2019

Biden with African-American supporters

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at a campaign event in Columbia, S.C. Credit: Travis Dove for The New York Times

Bernie Sanders has raised $10.5 Million dollars from the African American community. Closest rivals were Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg with $6.8 Million and $6.0 Million respectively. Vice-President Joe Biden raised $3.6 Million dollars.

Plus Three in partnership with The Collective PAC analyzed the ActBlue Data file to identify African American donors using the Frequently Occurring Surnames in the 2010 Census report and based on U.S. Census Track data for African American propensity based on geography. We analyzed 13,017,593 contributions totaling $316,061,191 to Democratic Presidential Candidates in calendar year 2019 to find out what campaigns African Americans are investing in this cycle.

Our analysis of the 2019 end-year report from ActBlue found that African Americans contributed an estimated $40,848,906.22, from 1,941,271 contributions, averaging $21.03 per donation through December 31, 2019.

Plus Three analysis shows that African Americans continue to solidify their place among the ranks of core Democratic party activists. African Americans have always been the backbone of the Democratic Party given their record of high voter turnout in Presidential elections and now for the first time we can report their record level of political contributions.

The African American share of all Democratic giving is comparable to the share of Latino giving to like candidates. Combined African American and Latino donors have donated over $68 million dollars to Democratic presidential candidates this cycle. Together, African American and Latino donors make up a critical source of funding to campaigns across the country from the race for U.S. President all the way down to state and local races.

Of the 23 Democratic candidates who entered the race Bernie Sanders has built the largest base of African American donors. Sanders has raised $10,588,778.92 of his total fundraising from African Americans or about 25% of the overall total. This is very impressive both by total amount raised and percentage raised.

This analysis is of small dollar online contributions, through the ActBlue platform, but does not include any contributions made by check directly to a campaign. High dollar contributions up to $2,800 by African Americans, paid by check, are not factored into our analysis.

Overall African American Fundraising

Bernie Sanders is by far the leader in fundraising from the African American community. Sanders has taken in 25% of the overall African American fundraising across all campaigns. Given the nature of his grassroots support and small dollar recurring contributions, which drive the Bernie Sanders campaign, his January and February 2020 fundraising will likely extend his lead in the field – at least temporarily.

Total Amount of African American Giving by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

Total Amount of African American Giving by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

African American Fundraising by Percentage

Total amount of dollars raised from the African American community is not the only measure we investigated. We studied the strength of each campaign at attracting African Americans and engaging them as donors and found that the top campaigns faired evenly. In fact, African American giving is in line with the 12.3% percent of the U.S. Black population. What is notable are the candidates that underperformed the average including Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar.

For Warren, Sanders, Castro, Harris, Booker, Biden, and Buttigieg about 1.5 of 10 donors to these campaigns are African American.

Percentage of Total African American Fundraising  by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

Percentage of Total African American Fundraising by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

African American Giving by Month

The Democratic primary is a long one and fundraising for each campaign begins once they announce their campaigns. In some cases, candidates even begin to fundraise through an exploratory committee before they officially announce their campaigns. Elizabeth Warren kicked-off her fundraising in January 1, 2019, one month before Bernie Sanders made his announcement.

Total Monthly Amount of African American Giving by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

Total Monthly Amount of African American Giving by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

While no longer in the race for President, Sen. Harris raised $2.99 million dollars and Sen. Booker each raised $1.24 million dollars from the Black community. The total amount raised by Sen. Harris ranks her 5th in overall fundraising from the Black community. Had Harris remained in the race she would certainly be in the top of the field in fundraising in this category.

Total Monthly Amount of African American Giving by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

Total Monthly Amount of African American Giving by Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019

African American Surname Match

There are 162,255 total surnames which occur 100 times or more in Census 2010. In the Census 2010 data file, there is a distribution of self-reported race and ethnicity responses associated with each surname captured on the Census 2010 form. The possible choices are White (pctwhite), Black (pctblack), Asian or Pacific Islander (pctapi), American Indian or Alaskan Native (pctaian), two or more races (pct2race) and Hispanic (pcthispanic). Using the pctblack variable, we categorized surnames by African American prevalence.

From examining the count and proportion per 100,000 (Prop100k) name variables, these surnames which occur 100 times or more represents 294.9 million persons comprising 95.5% of the population. The majority Black surnames represent 35.39 million persons comprising 12% of the population.

The Top African American Surnames with the largest share in the Black subgroup shows the 10 names with the highest shares of identification with the Non-Hispanic Black or African American race group. For example, 87.5 percent of people with the name WASHINGTON identified themselves as Black. There is little overlap, highlighting the degree to which surnames vary among racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

Most individual surnames do not reflect the diversity of the population as a whole. In many cases, over 90 percent of people reporting a name identify with just one of the six Hispanic origin or race groups. In contrast, few surnames are equally common in multiple Hispanic origin or race groups (Frequently Occurring Surnames in the 2010 Census). The Non-Hispanic Black or African American Alone data shows something similar: almost all of the top 10 names show race patterns very different from the U.S. population as a whole.

Top African American Surnames with the largest share in Black subgroup:

Non-Hispanic Black or African American Alone

Surname frequency

The range of distribution of African American surnames runs the full gamut from 0% to 100%. Being able to distinguish between two individuals with the same surname but different race posed the biggest challenge in our analysis. With the abolition of slavery, many black people had the opportunity to start their life anew and choose their own surname. Many Black people held on to the names given by their slave owners for many reasons – one being the hope to reunite with other family members who could only be able to identify them by these familiar markers. These are the names that so many black Americans still hold today.

Top 5 Surnames: Rank and count with race subgroups assigned:

Surname statistics

In the case of Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, and Jones the top 5 surnames in the U.S. Census report, each of which has a large percentage of African Americans who also carry the same surname as their Non-Hispanic White counterparts, there are a total of 3,068,924 people. In order to ensure we could properly identify the majority of Black donors we used both a surname and geographic model based on African American propensity by zip code to narrow our list of donors and provide the most accurate reporting possible.

In the following table we have 50 of the top zip codes in the United States with the highest percentage Black population. As part of our analysis we use the geographic data to fine tune our model using boundaries for propensity by race in each zip code across the country.

U.S. Census 2010: African American Population Propensity by Zip Code

African American Population Propensity by Zip Code, Highest Percentage Communities

African American Population Propensity by Zip Code, Highest Percentage Communities

African American Giving by Geography

The African American population was highly concentrated in 2010: 62 percent of 1,941 counties in the United States had less than 5 percent of the population identified as Black. In 106 counties, Black or African American (alone or in combination) population comprised 50 percent or more of the total county population. All of the counties were located in the South except for the city of St. Louis, MO.

While African American population were not as concentrated in counties in midwestern states, in some metro areas, such as Chicago, IL, and Detroit, MI the proportion of African Americans was much higher than the national average of 13%. Also, in some metro areas in the West, such as San Francisco, CA and Sacramento, CA the proportion of African Americans was above the national average.

2010 U.S. Census: African American Population Distribution

U.S. Census, African American Population Distribution by Percentage

U.S. Census, African American Population Distribution by Percentage

2019 African American Political Fundraising Distribution

The geographic base of African American giving follows very close to the population distribution according to the 2010 U.S. Census. From Southeast Texas, to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, Black giving follows the same geographic population distribution.

No matter which candidate African Americans contributed to the geographic distribution was prevalent. This distribution is also what allowed us to separate individuals with the last name Smith that are 23.11% African American and Johnson that are that are 34.63% African American respectively.

Total Amount of African American Giving to Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019 by Zip Code

Total Amount of African American Giving to Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2019 by Zip Code

A New Road Ahead of African American Giving

The common misconception has been that African Americans don’t give. In fact, two-thirds of African-American households donated to organizations and causes, totaling $11 billion each year as reported in the Culture of Giving by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In other words, blacks are one of the largest group of givers in the country. Financial contributions from the black community have been well-noted and consistent for generations, with “tithing” being an intricate part of black giving and the values of community and mutually embedded in African traditional values.

The Democratic Party and candidates running for elected office are now required to understand not just how to align with voters at the polls on election day but also how to connect and engage with African American and Latino donors to help fund their campaigns. We have seen the success of certain candidates to diversify their fundraising through low dollar contributions online and where candidates have failed to do so we see weakness in their ability to stay competitive.

Democratic party leaders, campaigns, and candidates need to diversify the leadership within their campaigns by:

  1. Hiring experienced and skilled political operatives and fundraisers that understand the African American and Latino communities
  2. Invest in African American and Latino engagement, including community outreach, voter registration, GOTV, and paid media via social and traditional media
  3. Invest in minority owned businesses that can help provide much needed guidance and perspective necessary to develop programs, media, and technology when doing community outreach and engagement in minority communities

We have had the technology and the know how to do this research since 2000. It’s time to dedicate more resources and research to tapping into the potential of African American and Latino giving. If political campaigns are so adept at voter outreach in the African American community, GOTV, and persuasion campaigns targeting black and Latino communities then it is possible to also fully account for fundraising by race and ethnicity and how these resources are being reinvested back into minority communities.

This year, the Trump campaign is opening 15 community centers in major cities across the country as it ramps up its outreach to black voters. These community centers will be staffed by volunteers passing out literature describing how Trump’s policies have benefited African Americans.

Investing in African American engagement in non-traditional outreach in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin will be critical this election cycle. If the democratic party is relying on strong turnout of African American and Latino voters it must be ready to reinvest the contributions from African Americans and Latinos back into the communities from where they originate.

Research Team

Juan Proaño
Co-Founder of Plus Three

Plus Three logo

Juan Proaño is an entrepreneur, technologist, and business leader who is active in civic affairs and progressive politics. Proaño is the co-founder and CEO of Plus Three, a Florida based Technology company serving non-profit, advocacy, membership, and political organizations. Founded in 2002, Plus Three has raised more than $500 million online and delivered over 1 billion emails for its’ non-profit clients. Juan is also the managing partner of Latino Strategies, a marketing and consulting company focused on engaging the U.S. Latino market which he founded in 2017.

Under the leadership of NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon, Juan managed the Hurricane Katrina emergency response campaign (2005). The NAACP raised over $2.6 Million in hurricane relief funds from NAACP members and 5,000 first time donors to the organization – more money than had ever been raised by the organization online in just 17 days. Juan also managed the NAACP rapid response campaign seeking clemency for Stanley Tookie Williams which garnered 120,000 petition signatures that were delivered personally to Governor Schwarzenegger by NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon and California State Conference President Alice Huffman.

In his two decades of entrepreneurship, Proaño has founded and managed three companies in the technology sector which have operated throughout the United States and South America.

Quentin James
The Collective Founder & Executive Director

The Collective logo

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Quentin James is the Co-Founder & COO of Vestige Strategies, LLC. Most recently Quentin led a team of Vestige Strategies’ consultants in securing victory for Dr. Keith Rowley as Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago in 2015. Previously, Quentin was the Black Americans Director for the Ready for Hillary PAC. In that role, Quentin directed the PAC’s outreach to the black community across the United States, and helped recruit over 50,000 African American grassroots donors and over 3 million grassroots supporters.

Formerly the National Director for the Sierra Club’s Sierra Student Coalition, the nation’s largest youth environmental organization, Quentin directed the organization to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that resulted in tangible environmental victories and developed leaders for the environmental movement. From 2009-2013, Quentin served as a National Board Member for the NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Quentin is the founder of Inclusv, a diversity hiring initiative and was named one of the 2017 NBC Blk28 under 28 and named one of the 2018 Root 100 Most Influential African Americans.

Pi-Isis S. Ankhra
P.S. 314, Founder and President

PS 314 Logo

Pi-Isis S. Ankhra, founder and president of P.S. 314, Inc., with over 20 years of experience developing strategic initiatives targeted at leveraging private and public investments. She has secured over $150 million for a diverse range of community-based and major institutions, specifically within the fields of arts, education, social justice, and advocacy. Ankhra has partnered with a multitude of institutions including the Ford Foundation, Democratic National Committee, and the NAACP, among others, on planning, fundraising, and event production to highlight and promote core social justice issues. An award-winning documentary producer, her expert skill set includes media development, working on both short- and long-form content projects. In 1998, Vice President Al Gore’s Presidential Campaign engaged her to raise awareness and funds on a national scale. Immediately following the campaign, Ankhra was hired by organizations such as the New Democrat Network and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In 2001, Ankhra was selected as a member of the inaugural class of the District of Columbia Teaching Fellows Program. In 2005, Community Counseling Service (CCS) selected Ankhra as an Executive Director for its multimillion-dollar national capital and endowment campaigns and to launch and chair their Diversity Initiative, which would impact the organization at all levels.

Ankhra holds the M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) in Education from American University and a B.A. in International Business from the University of Maryland at College Park. She currently serves as Mentor-In-Residence of the Social Impact Cohort at New INC/New Museum and Faculty at New School University and the Soho House Impact - Open House Program.

Faisal Sikder
Data Research and Management

Is currently working as Staff Software Engineer and R&D supervisor at VIAVI Solutions. Faisal’s current research is on machine learning and AI algorithm development for resource constraint platforms. Sikder received his Doctorate in Computer Science from University of Miami. His research interests include big data & machine learning, wearable sensors and their applications, the Internet of things (IoTs), and distributed computing in the IoTs.