The Tech Stack to Run a Political Campaign
We just wrapped up my sister Shrina Kurani’s congressional run for CA-41 (a district in Southern California).
This is part 1 of a 2 part series on tech in the political world.
- Part 1 explains the tech stack,
- Part 2 will go through the strategies and tactics that we used to convert voters.
K — jumping right in.
I come from tech, we have some of the best CRM tools such as SalesForce, Ortto (formerly Autopilot), MailChimp, Mixpanel, Google Analytics, etc.
But the political world works a bit differently.
After using the tools of the trade, it’s definitely not greener on the political side and there’s a huge opportunity.
PDI (or Political Data Intelligence) is where your journey to the data world starts. It's the place where you get your ‘people data’. Addresses, voter history, phone numbers, and single/marriage status.
Think of it as the place where all the census data lives.
“Pull the right universe, dude.” — Jarie Bolander
What is a universe?
A universe basically is a segmentation of voters. These can be Democratcs, Republicans, Latinos, Asians, or folks who live in a particular district. People of a particular age, etc. You can cut the data in a multitude of different ways.
The below photo is an example of some of the parameters you have in aggregating data and building a universe. You can see we’re on the ‘voting history’ tab which has information of people that voted in the 2018 Primary, 2018 Local…etc.
Then you can either add or subtract data from the ‘top-line universe’. i.e. you start off by taking all women that are between the ages of 18–40 and then you could exclude all Asians.
The interesting thing with building personas in politics is (in today’s world), that it’s much more charged. There are so many things and places where we consume information, that personas get really soulful.
Since we’re actually preaching to the soul with politics, building personas is so much more personal. These are things that people fight with their relatives over whiskey and over the Thanksgiving table.
Ok, so now you have your universe. The target group of individuals.
Now we need to communicate with them.
We can (as we do in startups), advertise on Facebook or Google, send them mailers / postcards, text them, call them, or door knock.
The combination of NGP VAN is used for fundraising, campaign finance compliance, field organizing, and digital organizing.
Interesting story, NGP VAN is the merging of two softwares. The NGP part stands for Nathaniel Goss Pearlman a software engineer that built political software for the majority of presidential candidates. The VAN part stands for Voter Action Network.
Think of NGP VAN as HubSpot married to Autopilot (Ortto).
Great names, huh?
The purpose of it is to be the hub of all of your communications. It is the meeting space for all your email drip sequences, phone calls, activation strategies, and fundraising.
As you can see below in the image, if you zoom into the nav bar on the side you’ll see that you’re able to:
- Make a list
- Create an event
- Create a targeted email
- Create forms
- Build turfs (areas that you want to target)
OK, so now we can pull lists from PDI, we can push them into NGP VAN and build automation.
Next, we need to take money.
ActBlue is basically PayPal, but built with a political compliance backbone.
At this point, I should clarify that these systems are built for the Democratic Party and essentially is the DemTech Stack. I’m sure the Republican Party has its own stack that's like ActRed or something.
I was close, it’s WinRed.
Actually, really just shows how it sucks if you’re not in either of the two parties. Because what tools would you use?
We need to use tools like ActBlue because there is a TON of red tape around fundraising for political causes. Such as how much you can give, if you’re a US citizen, capturing necessary compliance information. You definitely don’t want to be on the wrong side of the FEC (Federal Elections Commission).
Numero syncs pledges, donations, and donors.
A big part of politics is fundraising. 90% of what Shrina did for the first 6 months was “call time”. It’s akin to fundraising when you’re in a startup, but phone calls bring money, and money brings voters.
If you don’t have money, and you don’t have the notoriety to make sure that people know who you are so they can vote for you (like Arnold Schwarzenegger), you need to sit on call time.
It’s a vicious circle.
In the screenshot below you can see, Numero connects NGP VAN and ActBlue to collect who has pledged, donated, and contributed — and puts their number front-and-center, so you can get more cash.
SwitchBoard is the Twilio / SMS (text message) platform for the campaign.
You start from PDI and grab your universe, export a CSV, change the column name to have ‘phone_number’, and then put it into SwitchBoard.
Construct your message and put an image if you’re doing an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), you can send it through SwitchBoard. Send them en masse, answer replies, and set up canned responses. The whole system is built on Twilio, so it works very similarly.
Except with one caveat. When people respond to messages it mixes the formatting, so people who replied 5 days ago is (many times) above a message of a person who responded 30 seconds ago.
The way to solve this is to have volunteers scan the replies for messages that are no more than 1 hour old.
Slack is the communications hub. It’s where we had all of our conversations asynchronously.
If you’re in tech and you’re reading this, you’ve probably used Slack at some point in your life, or Microsoft Teams.
The concept is the same. There are channels in which we had #fieldstrategy, #volunteers, #SMS-MMS, #emails, etc.
I think that’s about it.
Hope this was helpful, if you want to chat about the DemTech stack, just reach out!
Music I was listening to while I wrote this
NASAYA & MARO — TEMPO
This is day 31of my #90DayOfProse challenge.