What could you do with $3 billion? 

You could give every child living in poverty in the U.S. almost $200. 

You could endow an organization or school that spends $120 million a year in perpetuity. 


You could give 30,000 entrepreneurs a $100k loan each to start businesses across the United States.

Or you could finance the U.S. presidential election. 

Yes, that’s right, estimates for how much presidential campaigns will spend on both sides of the aisle range between $3 and $5 billion, up from the already staggering $2.6 billion spent in 2012.  This doesn’t include the millions of hours spent by tens of thousands of volunteers.  If you live in a battleground state, you will be inundated by messages from both sides. 

This is not a great use of resources.  The cacophony isn’t improving awareness levels or political discourse or making communities any better. 

A young entrepreneur, Max Walters, had an intriguing idea.  Imagine if each Presidential candidate pledged 20% of their advertising budget to non-profits that stand for values that they believe in.  They’d still reach their audience – the non-profits would see to that – and hundreds of millions would go to worthy causes on both sides of the aisle.   

Beyond the money, equally wasteful is the dominance of the media spotlight and national attention. 

Who wins the presidential election is important.  But our government is not going to build our businesses, mend our communities or raise our kids. 

Fixating on a presidential race is a little bit like dedicating your life to your favorite sports team.  It feels good to be part of something big that others are excited about.  But at the end of the day your team is going to win or lose with or without you.  And after the parade the world will look quite similar. 

Instead of national politicians who disappear to Washington the day after the election, it would be much better to find a local entrepreneur or organization to support.  Your time and money will go further and touch lives directly.  You can improve your neighborhood and community.  Your impact will be immediate and real.  You could even start a business or association yourself. 

Take Brian Rudolph.  3 years ago, fresh out of college, he moved to Detroit to work at a startup. Last year, he started his own high-protein chickpea pasta business, Banza, that today employs 30 manufacturing workers in Michigan.   

Or Andrea Chen, who moved to New Orleans and started Propellor, a non-profit that has helped launch 60 companies tackling food and water, healthcare and education issues throughout the region. 

Or Fagan Harris, who started Baltimore Corps, which has enlisted dozens of talented professionals to work with social entrepreneurs throughout the city. 

The best politicians are earnest and want to make a positive difference.  But they’re hamstrung by a web of dysfunction and forced to traffic in imagery, messaging and press releases. 

We can’t wait for them.  We don’t need them. 

Politicians have jobs to do.  So do media companies.  We have different jobs.  It’s to do the work every day and make the politicians as irrelevant as possible.  

So if you do give to a campaign this season, find a person doing great work in your community and give them twice as much.  I promise they need it and will appreciate it much more. 

Yang is the founder and CEO of Venture for America, a fellowship program for recent college graduates to launch their careers as entrepreneurs, and the author of Smart People Should Build Things, published by Harper Collins. You can follow Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewYangVFA.