Leveraging Emerging Outreach Technology
By Ben Head, Political Director, Schakowsky for Congress, @RepSchakowsky

It has been repeatedly demonstrated, through a variety of disciplines, that the most effective way to reach voters is to have real conversations with them.  Large-scale direct voter contact programs can, however, be difficult to implement and maintain.

Exciting data management and communications technologies are now enabling tech-savvy campaigns to do this work more effectively and efficiently than ever before, but they can be daunting to navigate for the first time.  These technologies can help you: manage your contact data, target voters and create outreach lists based on this targeting; increase the number of volunteers you can contact per volunteer per hour; and help manage your social media, community-building, and volunteer recruitment efforts.

Managing Your Data

Votebuilder (votebuilder.com): A good voter database is the foundation of any modern campaign.  Votebuilder, a tool provided through the Democratic Party of Illinois, is available to Democratic campaigns and organizations at a reduced cost.  Votebuilder gives users the capacity to manage their entire voter file, track and analyze data, create outreach lists, and so much more.  While Votebuilder is not a new tool, it is a necessary one, providing the base of information on which the following technologies, and your campaign efforts more broadly, are based.

Deck (deckapps.io): Deck is a web app that makes predictive analytics more accurate, affordable, and actionable for state and local Democrats.  It provides customized data modeling that can be used to supplement or replace traditional polling and data analytics, which can be expensive and beyond the reach of many organizations.  This app matches a candidate’s profile with data about media coverage, fundraising, and election history at the census block level to provide accurate and detailed data modeling in real time that users can leverage to target outreach, craft a message, and guide paid media strategy.

Making Outreach More Efficient

MiniVAN (ngpvan.com/go/minivan): MiniVAN is a canvassing tool that’s free to download and use in conjunction with Votebuilder, which replaces a paper walk sheet and clipboard with a smartphone. Field leaders upload lists directly to a canvasser’s MiniVAN app, which features a Google-powered in-app map and a list of doors remaining on the user’s list, making navigating unfamiliar neighborhoods very easy. MiniVAN is synced directly into Votebuilder by canvassers during outreach, avoiding data loss from lost or unreturned walksheets.

Hustle (hustle.life ): Hustle is an innovative new smartphone app that allows users to quickly communicate with voters via text and manage those conversations in real time.  It is especially useful for recruiting volunteers, raising funds via small dollar contributions, promoting event attendance, and GOTV efforts.  Hustle boasts a higher contact completion rate and contacts-per-hour rate than phone banking, especially for younger target voters, but can only be used with a cell phone to contact voters through their cell phones.

Communicating with Volunteers

Hootsuite (signup.hootsuite.com) and Sprout (sproutsocial.com): Social media and email communication are the core of how we create community and communicate with our volunteers.  HootSuite and Sprout are programs that help you manage multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and more) in one place.  They allow users to schedule posts, track cross-platform mentions and analytics, and collect/analyze data from each of their accounts in one place.  This allows for a more thoughtful, holistic social media strategy that takes advantage of the different strengths that each platform provides and helps make productive use of the data that users’ social media accounts are gathering.

Amplify (getamplify.org) and Gadfly City (gadflycity.com): In today’s age of information overload, having a communication channel dedicated to organizing volunteers and supporters is very useful.  Amplify and Gadfly City are apps that allow users to quickly and easily disseminate their events and actions out to volunteers who have downloaded the app and signed up.  These technologies create a “command center” where users can create and communicate tasks or events to their active volunteer and supporter networks. Users can promote events, elected official call-ins, fundraisers, and any other volunteer action/activity that they are hosting.

If used correctly, each of these technologies allow campaigns to worker smarter, faster, and more effectively, enabling a smaller team to accomplish larger goals with minimal cost investment.  When used as part of a comprehensive voter outreach strategy, these tools can be a force multiplier.  An experienced campaign manager can very quickly log into Votebuilder, export a voter list into Deck, use that data to create targeted text and knock lists for Hustle and MiniVAN, and then recruit volunteers for these actions via Hootsuite/Sprout and Amplify/Gadfly City—taking targeted, comprehensive outreach from concept to reality within a matter of hours.