As candidates assemble their 2016 teams, ACE fundraiser Sharon Yang will surely be on everyone’s short list.
Charming and energetic, Sharon Yang brought in a $12 million haul from young people alone during the 2012 presidential campaign.
One of the strongest fundraisers of her generation, Sharon Yang, 32, credits a long line of women with helping her become the powerhouse she is today. “I don’t think people put together those pieces when they look at my résumé line by line,” Yang says. “My entire political career has been shaped by really powerful and influential women.”
Since graduating from Loyola Marymount University in 2004, Yang has come into her own as a behind-thescenes force in Democratic politics. The San Diego native spent two and a half years as a production manager for Democratic political consultant Mandy Grunwald, working on re-election campaigns for Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Grunwald introduced her to Nancy Jacobson, an influential fundraiser, who then connected Yang to Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
“You had to really pull your weight, because there are a lot of people who want those jobs,” Yang says of her time working for Clinton. There’s no doubt she did: At age 25, she helped coordinate more than 65 events that raised $15 million.
“Sharon is a natural-born fundraiser,” says Natalie Jones, the deputy chief of protocol at the State Department, who served as the Mid-Atlantic finance director for Clinton’s ’08 bid. “She has the right touch of charm, energy, and passion to persuade people to support causes and campaigns she cares about.”
Three years later, Rufus Gifford, now the US ambassador to Denmark, hired Yang to direct Gen44, the Democratic National Committee’s under-40 fundraising effort. “As soon as I met her, I was struck by her energy, enthusiasm, and desire to think outside of the box,” he says. Yang, who brought in a $12 million haul from young people alone, points to Gen44’s 2011 campaign kickoff at Chicago’s Navy Pier— where she brought together President Obama, the Chicago Bulls, and approximately 5,000 supporters—as one of her favorite events. “I was standing next to [campaign manager] Jim Messina,” she recalls, “and I looked over and thought, ‘This is really happening.’ It was really surreal.”
The secret to her success, she says, is that she didn’t underestimate young donors. “We never said, ‘Young people don’t raise the high-dollar money.’ It wasn’t a matter of teaching them how to give; it was a matter of cultivating them and encouraging them to give.”
As political chatter turns back to Clinton for 2016, Yang wonders if she wants to do it all again. “It can be very nerve-racking. But it’s such an adrenaline rush, which I love,” she says. “If there were a campaign opportunity with someone like Kamala Harris or Secretary Clinton, I would love to jump on board.” She smiles. “These influential women.”