Michael O'BrienPrincipal at mob advocacy
Bio

State & Local Government Relations Expert / Startup Policy Advocate & MOB Boss (Founder & Principal @ MOB Advocacy) Expert in state & local government relations. Founder of MOB Advocacy - a full-service, multi-state government relations firm - which is focused on helping startups and small businesses navigate through complex state & local legislative, regulatory and procurement challenges.



Recent Answers


I don't agree that the US government hates cryptocurrency or crypto exchanges, though I will say that the USG is still unsure how to manage crypto.

The legal requirements vary based on what state you are trying to set up an exchange.

Current Federal law puts regulation of crypto under the jurisdiction of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. While the Securities Exchange Commision has brought some enforcement cases forward, the courts as of now have sided with the CFTC. So make sure you are following those requirements.

At the same time, each state has (probably, but I can verify) their own registration rules for anyone that participates in bitcoin (i.e. mining, trading, selling, or thinking about mining, trading or selling etc). Many states are taking a second look at those rules as crypto grows in popularity and as regulators figure out how to regulate it appropriately. For example, NYS has registration rules, but it also has legislation that would form a task force to evaluate current rules and propose changes. NY also had the first locality ban cryptomining (Plattsburg), so that will also be part of the discussion. It is timely, as some of the big Wall Street players are looking at launching U.S.-based exchanges.

Incidentally, NYS also has legilstion to study the possibility to launch its own cryptocurrency. That could get interesting.

Hope that helps. Happy to set up a call to chat more about any specific state regulations.

Good luck!


Great question. I've raised funds in the political and non-profit worlds for years. So many non-profits I've come across tell me they can not raise funds the "traditional way." I generally strongly disagree with their view. A need for innovative tactics does not mean the basics that get you to the tactics, a strong base and a great strategy, are not needed. They are.

A non-profit organization always has to start with a case. If you don't have a strong case or mission or reason for people to give you money, whether that is through personal donations, corporate/foundations gifts or sponsorships or through registration fees, then you aren't ever going to get it.

Once you have a reason to ask, then figure out a budget and design a strategy to get you there.That means mapping what a strong board looks like and then recruiting it. Developing a target donor base, then qualifying them and going after them.

Remember when you are strategizing to think about how gifts, sponsorships and registration fees are different. Gifts rely on philanthropic instincts, and are most closely tied to a mission. Sponsorships rely on the value you can give to a sponsor - whether that is through visibility to attendees, or through association. Registration fees rely on the value you give to attendees.

You might think out of the box in terms of funding - big name speakers waiving their fees (essential a gift-in-kind donation). But I would still ground myself in the basics of fundraising. And remember the old rule of thumb still generally holds - the best person to make the ask is the person who it is hardest for the decision maker to say no to.

The only major caveat I would give you for having a high networth founder is if that founder is not involved. If the founder does not care enough to get involved, it will hurt your fundraising ability. You are better off with them not being involved.

This is not any different from funding a startup, or sales, or advocacy. Have a reason to exist, have a plan and build relationships or connections.

I am happy to talk more about your challenges and give you more specifics that would help you meet your goals.


This business already exists. HandUp is leading this space, and working with local governments to grow in a way that is meaningful for the cities they spread to.

I am not involved with HandUp, just a fan.

However, to answer your question - the story (video or written) is what is going to move people to donate. A personal video (preferred) or narrative that tells how they got to this point and where they are going is what is going to drive donations.

And As someone with non-profit fundraising experience with a number of organizations with diverse missions, I would say that goes for just about anything you are trying to raise money for. People buy into a good story.

Happy to talk to you more about it. Good luck!


A little late on this, but I think I have somethings to add to the conversation.

As a former fundraiser, the number one way to tell if someone is great from someone who is ordinary is to look at their past success. Every fundraiser has a different style, but what sets great ones apart from ordinary ones are the ones that know what works for them, and not just following what others say works. The great ones will be able to tell you why they are are great, and can replicate success in multiple organizations (which is normal in the fundraising world).

That said, there are models out there that can help build success. But those are more organizational models (building a donor development cycle, x# of prospects will generate x# of donors etc). However, even the best fundraisers can't raise a dime if the organization does not know what they are raising money for and why (a case statement).

Also, to build on what Tom said, fundraising is a team effort. There is relationship building at every level, both with the fundraiser and the donor, and facilitating the relationship between leadership and the donor. Founders, CEOs, ED and Board Members need to be involved in all stages and must reserve a portion of their time to this important function.


It is difficult to answer without more information. The words you chose are confusing.

Customer Advocacy is very different from Online Marketing or Referral Marketing. It is about making sure the customer gets the best service from the company. It is very specialized customer service.

Are you looking to grow a business or brand or shape policy. Building a brand through customer advocates (what I would probably match referral marketing) is very different from issue advocacy.

That said, companies engage in grassroots/ grasstops advocacy all the time. Getting both employees and customers (whether they are other businesses or individual consumers) to weigh in on how policies might impact specific industries is important, and can be critical for startups and small businesses that need legislative or regulatory changes to stay in business.

I have created and executed advocacy campaigns for both B2B and B2C businesses. They are very different depending on what kind of customer you are trying to reach and who you are trying to influence.

There are a lot of great tools and resources out there, but every campaign is going to be different. And I would steer you in different places depending on what exactly it is you are looking for.

I am happy to talk about this further. I think I can help get you the information you are looking for.


I am guessing you have gotten past the initial question you need to answer which is why do you want to run. If so, then the easy answer to your question is that it depends on where you are running, where you are starting from and who are you running against.

You need to look at the district, and where your votes are coming from. You also need to look at where your money is going to come from. Spending will not be a problem, you will be spending everything you raise (unless you are self funding).

You need to figure out your message - pick three key areas that develop your campaign around them. Don't make it too difficult, use your voice - because you will be saying these things over and over and over again.

You will need (not necessarily need to hire, but simply need) a campaign manager, a finance director, a fundraiser, a communications person and a grassroots person. You might need a paid media person, but that can come later. Put a team together - your local R or D committee should have some people who would be interested in getting involved. Friends and family make great volunteers. Don't pay anyone until you have to.

Raise a lot of money. Again - friends and family make great first donors. And a good barometer. If you friends and family aren't behind you, how do you expect to convince people that don't know you. If you are self-funding - know what you are willing to spend. Assume that you will need one more dollar than you have raised. Plan to raise and plan to spend - especially in your first race.

National politicians are not going to matter as much as ones from the Commonwealth for votes, but can certainly help to raise dollars from grassroots groups. How you reach out to them or get their attention varies, so you need to look at them all differently. Make sure you know why you are asking them before you ask.

But be prepared to knock on a lot of doors, attend a lot of small coffees and get togethers. Talk to everyone in your district at least once. Then target your most likely voters again and again and again. If you likely voters aren't going to be enough - figure out where the rest of your votes are going to come from and get in front of them as much as possible.

There are some great political minds in Massachusetts. I am sure you can find someone to help you.

I am happy to do a follow-up call to recommend some people or discuss any of this. Good luck!


I have launched a few national grassroots campaigns, and have seen the tremendous growth in the quality and complexity of products that are out there. I stay on top of the new technologies to best advice clients that looking to add a grassroots piece to their current or future advocacy efforts.

I agree with Dan, except that I think it depends on two factors, first - what your app is going to cost, and second - how much is going to cost you to acquire paying customers once you have an app.

You might want to consider getting advice from people working in or around your target space to get some better perspective. POPVOX and Votility have great leadership that might be willing talk to you if you aren't direct competitors.

If you are in DC, 1776 has a great educational events and staff from the start-up community that would probably be willing to talk to you as well.

I am happy to follow-up on any or all of this. Good luck!


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