How Many of Us Will Nullify Our Votes After We Cast Them


Many of us are ardently committed to voting, marching, volunteering, speaking out in support of our beliefs—but we’re also giving huge sums of money to people working to defeat us

I used to work in politics in D.C.—on Capitol Hill, on senate and gubernatorial campaigns, and in the Obama Administration.  I think elections matter (and, geez, this one coming up really matters).  Public policy is important.  And as we’ve seen, the kind of spirit and values our leaders breathe into our culture is very important. DoneGood has aggregated voter resources to help people make sure they and their friends and family have voting plans set and will vote early if possible.

It’s also great to see more people becoming more active on top of voting—over the past few years, more of us than ever are volunteering, marching for black lives and women and climate strikes and economic justice, speaking out on social media, donating to campaigns and causes.

But then most of us offset all that work we do and betray the very things we vote and work toward:

Because we’re giving a ton of money to people who are working directly against us.

The way we give

Most of us still buy things.  We’re consumers.  And in total, we give other people tens of trillions of dollars every year. The U.S. economy, still the largest in the world, is 70% consumer spending; other countries with market economies are similar.

In fact, when we add it all up—the time we spend volunteering, marching, voting, and the money we donate—for most of us, the dollars we all spend probably make a bigger impact on the world than all of the other ways we make an impact combined.  Americans gave $400 billion to charity last year, but in total (as individuals or the decisions we make as business owners), we spend 325 times more than that buying stuff.  

How much of an impact our time and effort is worth is more difficult to quantify. But Americans volunteer a total of about 7.9 billion hours per year for causes they believe in, with one report valuing the impact of that time at around $184 billion.  Meanwhile, total consumer spending for all U.S. residents adds up to $18 trillion—so that’s about 1,000 times more in consumer spending than volunteer time.

And yet we often don’t know what most of the money we spend ends up funding. 

For example: as badly as so many of us want to get Donald Trump out of office, we’re spending money with companies that take the money we give them and use it to fund Trump’s reelection campaign (we made a list of some of the biggest companies that support Trump, but of course there are a lot more,  smaller businesses out there too).

Many of us are marching and voting and volunteering in the hopes humanity finally takes the bold action needed to help save our planet and species from climate change.  Then we’re giving money to companies that contribute to the climate crisis and lobby against even modest efforts to curb carbon pollution.

We work toward criminal justice reform—then give money to some of the 4,000 U.S. companies that profit off prison labor.

 We decry the fact that the US minimum-wage has not been increased in 11 years, has not kept up at all with the pace of inflation, and is nowhere near a living wage (the amount required for a person or family to meet even the most basic needs of survival). Yet we buy from businesses paying minimum wage and fighting against increases in that wage. 

How to stop funding the opposition

Finding what you need, when you need it, with brands you know are supporting your beliefs, can be hard.

That’s why our team started DoneGood.  To try to make it easier to find brands that do good for people and the planet.  I quit my career in politics to try to build DoneGood of all things because I realized that for all the work I was doing to try to bring a little more social and environmental justice to the world, my own money was working against me as I made purchases.  

And because at the end of the day, the DoneGood team believes that—while elections and donating to non-profits and volunteering our time and all the rest are important—the dollars we all spend have the potential to be the world’s most powerful force for change

If even a fraction of the tens of trillions of dollars we all spend shifted to companies that support economic equality, women- or black-owned companies, brands producing in facilities powered by clean energy and using upcycled materials and going zero-waste—that helps those companies become even more successful, and other companies respond to that shift in consumer demand.  That transformation is already occurring, with even giant big-box companies becoming a little more sustainable and offering more ecofriendly or fair trade products each year.  The more that consumer demand signals to them that doing the right thing can also be profitable, the more that change will accelerate.  And the impact of that is huge.

Of course, we believe one good way to participate in that movement is to shop with the amazing ethical and sustainable brands with products available on DoneGood.  But there are others.  There are local businesses in your community where you know their practices, you know the owners, you know the business is a force for good in the world.  You can help identify companies like these in your community and around the world by looking for independent certifications like B Corp, Fair Trade, GOTS Organic, Rain Forest Alliance or Forest Stewardship Council (we look to a lot of these independent certifiers when identifying companies that would be a good fit for DoneGood).

However we can get it done—we must try to vote with our wallets as much as possible, along with voting at the ballot box, to ensure that the money we’re sending out into the world isn’t nullifying the electoral ballots we cast.


  • Steve S.

    A great read. The lists of companies supporting the current Administration as well as the private prison industry are valuable resources. Thank you!

  • Dawn

    I totally agreed with your article. Keep up the good work!

  • Dale W Scheiern

    Well said Cullen. Keep up the good work. We all need encouragement, and direction like this article to motivate us to work harder at using our wallets to make a difference. Be well!

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