Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump shake hands at the start of their presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Damon Winter / The New York Times

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump shake hands at the start of their presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

October 4, 2016

Swing Donor Startup Aims to Connect Small Contributors to Candidates

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Three Cornell graduates launched a New York-based, non-partisan startup Monday called Swing Donor, an organization which aspires to counter the influence of big money in politics by enabling small donors to make a meaningful impact in congressional races.

The startup’s co-founders — James Underberg ’13, Aaron Schifrin ’14 and Austin Gage ’14 — say they hope to see an small donors become empowered to challenge larger conglomerates in exercising their political voices.

“We want to see small donors step up to the plate in a big way,” Underberg said. “We want to help them challenge core assumptions about the role big money plays in politics.”

To catalyze a “small donor revolution” the co-founders created a website that matches donors with candidates who support their views and are running in the nation’s closest races — the races in which every dollar counts.

“Swing Donor is the political strategist for the [small donors], leveling the playing field and enabling any American to find the key races where a small donation can have a big impact,” Schifrin said.

The trio decided to create the company after grappling with feelings of disenfranchisement for years, according to Schifrin.

“While today, most small donors don’t know where to give, we believe every American can be a Swing Donor given the right information, motivation and user experience,” said Gage. “Our platform seeks to realize this vision, inspiring greater participation and enabling users to contribute with confidence to help strengthen American democracy.”

As far as their plans for the future of the company go, founders said they are excited to see how much traction they can get from modest contributors.

“[This election] will help us ramp up for the next one, when we will potentially partner with other organizations,” Underberg said.

“We aren’t committed to a specific vision for the future of Swing Donor. Right now, we want to prove our concept and hopefully make a difference in the process,” Gage said. “But this is certainly only the beginning.”

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