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Good Data Helps Find Good Volunteers for Your Campaign

3 Dec

Writing for Brookings, Michael J. Malbin reports that this year’s enthusiastic midterm elections found candidates raising record levels of money:

Democrats running in the general election against incumbent Republican House members in 2018 have shattered all previous records for challenger fundraising, more than doubling the previous high set by Republicans in 2010. We know from the work of Gary Jacobson and other political scientists that challenger fundraising is probably the single strongest signpost of a competitive election campaign. In 2010, Republican challengers had raised 43 percent as much as the Democratic incumbents they were facing by the end of September, and 52 Democrat incumbents were defeated in the general election. In 2018, the shoe was more than just barely on the other foot. By the end of September, Democratic challengers had raised 69 percent as much as the incumbents they faced. We should emphasize that this includes all challengers and not only the ones in competitive races. All Democratic challengers, including the sure losers, raised almost as much by September 30, on average, as the average winner spent over the course of the entire two-year cycle in 2016.

But raising money isn’t enough. Otherwise, the candidate who raises the most money would always win, and that’s not the case. Maggie Koerth-Baker at 538 points out that the mere fact that the candidate who spends more often wins more often isn’t a “causal link.” It doesn’t mean spending the money caused the win. And there are plenty of counterexamples to the assumption that money always wins, such as billionaire Tom Steyer donating a collective total of $50 million to candidates in 2014 and fewer than half of those recipients getting elected.

Winning campaigns requires engagement, and that means recruiting enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers. More importantly, winners turn supporters into volunteers. That takes a certain kind of “conversion process” where a smart campaign, upon learning they have enthusiastic supporters, will contact those supporters and provide easy-entry volunteer opportunities for them.  As Kelly Dietrich wrote earlier this year, “Engaging with voters goes beyond simply knocking on doors. It’s about giving voters ownership of your campaign’s success and making sure they know they are a crucial part of your campaign. By doing this, you change the ‘I’ of your candidacy to a ‘we.’ You get them to volunteer.”

Writing for Vox, here’s what David Broockman and Joshua Kalla have to say about campaign volunteers: “Mountains of rigorous research show that campaigns should be having personal conversations with voters at their doors. But, campaigns spend almost all their money on TV ads — and, every year, most voters say they’ve never had a conversation about the election at their door.” In fact, Broockman and Kalla write, one set of research “found that voters called on the phone or sent postcards were not noticeably more likely to vote than those sent nothing. But canvassing was different. Just one in-person conversation had a profound effect on a voter’s likelihood to go to the polls, boosting turnout by a whopping 20 percent (or around 9 percentage points).”

A 20-percent boost in turnout just from canvassing? Holy cow! Why doesn’t every candidate do this? Well, it’s hard. It requires a lot of data to recruit and retain volunteers. Many campaigns just keep throwing money at advertising on the theory that they’ll reach a larger number of people overall. That prioritizes quantity over quality, and doesn’t get people to the polls with any certainty.

Appending and data aggregation services can help recruit and enthuse volunteers. One organization I work with, Accurate Append, has been lauded by Call Hub for having “billions of data points on U.S voters and consumers,” guaranteeing that its clients’ “campaigns have the right contact information to rely upon through their email append, phone append, and lead validation features.”

But Accurate Append also maintains an industry-leading demographic database. This allows campaigns to access quality demographic attributes of voters on their lists, including their ages, income levels, and political interests. That information can be appended to their lists, allowing quick searching and analysis from which campaigns can identify ideal volunteers.

The processes involved in building a greater understanding of your support base includes verifying contact data, turning partial collections of contact information (like just having an email address or phone number) into full lists (a voter’s name, address, phone number and email). But it also means knowing what neighborhood a voter lives in and the local issues most likely to affect them. Append services can help you do that too. What I also like about append services is that they take seriously the fact that time is of the essence in campaigns. You upload a file to your secure folder and we return the results in that same folder.

The better you can manage that data, the easier it is to do the other essential things you need to do to manage volunteers–laid out nicely in this recent post by campaign tech company NGP Van–including respecting volunteers’ time, making the volunteer experience fun, and building ladders of volunteer engagement. Having good data means you can keep recruiting, and treating volunteers well so they work even harder.

It’s all part of an effort to use technology to re-humanize politics. This may seem ironic since technology has been part of the reason campaigns have de-humanized constituents. But the solution lies in a more intelligent and humanistic approach to collecting and interpreting that data. And that interpretation, in turns, requires more accurate and more frequently-updated data.


Accurate Appending Your Data

13 Oct

Guest post by Massimiliano Caron

The key to winning your campaign will always be direct voter contact. From the 2008 Obama campaign, Bernie Sander’s 2016 primary race and the recent victories of the Labour Party in the UK, we have seen the success of robust direct voter contact programs. Your campaign needs to be at their door, on their phone and in their inbox. Thus, you need accurate and current data on your voters.

With a basic voter file and Accurate Append you can get that valuable data. Accurate Append can get you the emails and phone numbers of your soon to be supporters. Voter files are not the only source of contacts you can append. What about that awesome Facebook page you have with thousands of followers? This is the audience you built and is the best group to target because they follow you. Now, not only can you get their email, but get their phone numbers. Utilizing these contacts, you will be talking directly to your audience converting them into volunteers and donors. There are plenty of places where these lists can be built; from your voter file, social media accounts and other publicly available data. Feel free to get creative, knowing that any data gaps can now be filled. No matter how you get it, coupling this contact data with powerful messages will lead you to build a winning campaign.

Accurate Append has a basic implementation of the Open Support Data Interface, which means other adopters of that data standard can easily add Accurate Append data to their voter outreach tools and CRMs. Along with easy integration like this, you will get access to billions of data points with hundreds of millions emails and phone numbers. This makes building your campaign’s database for voters, volunteers and donors much easier and you get up to 500 API calls for testing for free when using developer tools.

People are yearning for change and motivation in times like this, and your campaign’s message can be what sparks them into action. Do not let not having enough data get in the way of you activating your community and creating the change desperately needed. Add Accurate Append API to your campaign’s toolbox today!

Growing a Civic Tech Ecosystem

30 Mar

Over the past year, I’ve been building a consulting group with a focus on growth strategies and services for civic tech companies (tools to do politics, government or nonprofit work better) and digital projects for nonprofits and progressive political campaigns.

Here are a few of the companies I’m working with:

Ecanvasser: This Ireland-based startup builds mobile and desktop constituent outreach and issue management tools for campaigns and government officials. They have Android and iOS apps for mobile canvassing and some of the best pricing on the market.

iConstituent: With a CRM solution as well as e-newsletters and website building products, iConstituent is solely focused on enabling great government-constituent communications and streamlining issue tracking and response from Congress to City Hall.

Accurate Append: An outreach strategy is only as good as the contact data backing it up, and with one of the largest resources of opt-in contact data available, Accurate Append can help with email verification, email append and phone append, including sussing out line type for phone contacts.

League of California Cities Emerges as Chief Opponent of Open Data Bill

25 Jun

The League of California Cities has emerged as the chief opponent of an open data bill I helped propose. California Sen. Leland Yee’s SB 1002 would create a new open data standard in the California Public Records Act.

How is NationBuilder Different from Salsa (DemocracyInAction)?

15 Jan

NationBuilder is the community organizing system (COS) for a new generation of leaders and creators. Texting, email, social media and CMS and supporter database all in one easy-to-use package.

Salsa has action tools that can be integrated with other tools and a website, but it doesn’t have the voter outreach tools built into NationBuilder, or the complex social media integrations. With NationBuilder, you don’t get a list of contacts, you get a system designed around people and leadership online.

See what Liberal Art has to say about NationBuilder and Salsa/DemocracyInAction: “Liberal Art now builds fully custom Nations for less than half the cost of our Drupal + BSD/Salsa/Convio projects. NationBuilder’s tool suite is competitive with competing platforms, but its tools are fully integrated into the CMS.  This means less setup and easier management of your messaging and action campaigns. What’s more, social sharing functions are baked into every page, tool, and action taken by your supporters.”

How is NationBuilder Different from Blue State Digital?

15 Jan

Blue State Digital, the firm famous for its work on the Obama campaign in 2008, has been acquired by advertising conglomerate WPP.

NationBuilder is the community organizing system (COS) for a new generation of leaders and creators. It brings together email blasting, customizable websites, advocacy and community pages, and social media management into a single platform that you don’t need a tech team to manage.

Read what Liberal Art has to say about the ease and efficiency of NationBuilder implementations for nonprofits and campaigns.

Join Adriel Hampton’s Adriel Nation. Technologies for Democracy. Social Media for Social Good.

11 Oct
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Adriel Hampton's Adriel Nation