It took nearly three months of campaigning for 21-year-old Natalie Bonanno to land a spot as one of Washington’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
“I cried when I got elected,” said Bonanno, a Tacoma resident.
Quickly, though, Bonanno had to turn her attention to her next challenge: Finding the money to go.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Washington are using online crowdfunding tools such as GoFundMe to cover the costs of attending their party’s upcoming national conventions, which are taking place this month in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
Most delegates estimate that covering their entry fees, airfare and lodging during the convention will cost them at least $3,000 apiece.
“It is quite expensive,” said Yulia Issa, a Democratic delegate from Tumwater who supports Bernie Sanders. “Definitely I don’t have that kind of money lying around, so we had to do a GoFundMe account.”
Marc Perez, a delegate to the Republican National Convention from Puyallup, said online tools are making it easier for everyday people to serve as delegates. Like Bonanno and Issa, Perez is using a GoFundMe page to help finance his trip to the Republican convention in Cleveland next week.
“Historically, being elected as delegates had been a large part for the elites,” said Perez, an insurance agent who supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president. “If you were just a common man like me who is not a man of means, the fundraising would have been a daunting task.
“Now, with these online apps, it makes it easier for the common man or common woman to raise the money.”
Delegates are also holding private fundraisers, making phone calls to prospective donors, or — in Bonanno’s case — seeking scholarship money from local political organizations.
About 20 people showed up at a fundraiser Wednesday night at a Tacoma home to benefit Bonanno and five other Democratic delegates to the Democratic National Convention, which takes place July 25-28. That event raised only about $600, however, compared to the thousands many delegates have raised individually through crowdfunding sites.
For instance, Jack Bell, an 18-year-old Republican delegate from Olympia, had raised about $3,800 as of Friday for his trip to Cleveland.
“This is a historic presidential election and a once in a lifetime experience. I would greatly appreciate your support,” Bell wrote on his GoFundMe page.
Besides raising the necessary funds, there are other preparations delegates must make, such as taking time off work or making alternate child care arrangements for the week they’ll be away.
“My husband had to take time off to take care of the kids,” said Issa, who is a mother of two children, including a 1-year-old who is still nursing.
Several delegates said they plan to document the event through posts on Facebook, Snapchat and other social media tools. But that means finding a way to ensure their phones stay charged throughout the conventions’ long days.
“I bought an external battery for the first time in my life, so there’s no way I’ll miss anything,” Bonanno said. Still on her to-do list: upgrading the data plan on her phone to accommodate her flurry of online posts.
Another thing delegates must consider: How to dress. Summers in Cleveland and Philadelphia are warmer than in the Northwest, and delegates are planning accordingly.
Jeannie Mitchell, a 69-year-old Democratic delegate from Tacoma, is bringing 10 folding paper fans to help herself — and her fellow delegates — stay cool in Philadelphia.
“I’m going to share them with the delegation,” said Mitchell, a former chairwoman of the Pierce County Democrats.
“I may be popular.”