Staff Spotlight: Funding an Equitable Society
Here at The Center for Election Science, our mission is to empower voters with voting methods that strengthen democracy. And given that, our new Director of Philanthropy, Mike Piel, is the perfect fit for the job.
Not only does Mike have experience strengthening the functioning of government through his work with the National Committee for an Effective Congress, but a core value that shines throughout his life and career is his desire to give people a voice.
“It always felt good to do the work of giving people more voice, more power in what they were doing,” Mike said of his experience fundraising for the New Organizing Initiative, a nonprofit that empowered community leaders by training them on how to make change in their communities.
The leaders this organization trained went on to power major movements for social and racial justice and even to serve in presidential administrations.
“It was very fulfilling to see the work that was getting done thanks, in part, to the training we provided.”
Mike has also worked to empower the voices of underserved communities through his work with the Center for Community Change and United Cerebral Palsy.
Having Cerebral Palsy himself, Mike says that his experience has instilled in him a deep sense of compassion for others.
“Cerebral Palsy doesn’t define who I am, but I always grew up with empathy as a major personality trait as a result. Creating a more equitable society and addressing issues like structural racism were always very important to me.”
Mike considers himself a “political nerd,” having a degree in Political Science and living in the Beltway for over a decade. He says that on election night, you’ll find him on his couch switching between news channels and updating his own personal spreadsheet of county-level results.
His experience working for organizations like the National Committee for an Effective Congress, along with living so close to Capitol Hill, has given Mike an inside view of how government works and of the limitations of our political system.
“You can see that even when well-meaning people get all the power, they want to keep it.”
Mike thinks lack of competition and one-party domination is a big part of the problem, leading to more extremism and situations where candidates don’t actually have to earn their votes.
“It seems like a lot of people are unhappy with the choices they have, and they feel powerless,” he said. “Especially if you’re living in a place where you don’t identify with the majority political opinion, you don’t have any power.”
Mike says that in order to fix our political system, we have to change the incentives of both candidates and voters. And he believes that approval voting can do that.
“Politicians right now are incentivized to run to the base and appeal to a very narrow spectrum of folks—whatever they have modeled out to get them to 50% +1. Whereas with approval voting, they have to be palatable to as many voters as possible. Only through that can we break down the very entrenched lines that define our political system.”
When Mike isn’t fundraising for a worthy cause or analyzing election results, he can often be found reading—typically lots of historical fiction. Ron Chernow is one of his favorite authors, and he’s had the luck of seeing the musical Hamilton twice in person.
A native Coloradan, Mike also loves being outside, whether while hiking or playing golf. In the past year, most of his time has been devoted to taking care of his adorable 18 month old lab/ hound mix named Rosie.
The rest of us at The Center for Election Science are so thrilled to have Mike on board as our new Director of Philanthropy. His passion for empowering voters is always palpable in discussions with him, and we know that his sincere care for others will help him build strong relationships with our donors. Most of all, he understands the urgent need for voting reform in our country and the positive impact that approval voting can make.
Thank you to our supporters for making it possible for us to fill this role! We couldn’t have done it without you.
Got questions about donating or just want to say hi? Send Mike a message introducing yourself at firstname.lastname@example.org.