Digital Organizing Campaign Tools in 2018 | National Democratic Training Committee

Why Digital Organizing Campaign Tools?

Organizing wins elections.

Organizing expands the electorate by registering voters and empowers citizens to organize their communities. It motivates people to show up to vote, and moves hearts and minds.

The great thing about 2018 is that we’re all organizers. We’re building a crowd for our local county party meetings, we’re rallying our fellow activists to show up when it counts, and we’re getting our friends and strangers involved in the political process—some for the very first time.

In this midterm cycle — a cycle where registering and persuading voters, harnessing progressive energy, and mobilizing Democrats to show up are our only path to victory — organizing is more critical than ever.

How Organizing Campaign Tools Have Changed

But organizing today isn’t the same as it was in 2012, or even in 2014.

More and more people aren’t reachable by landline phones or by knocking on their doors. We need to adapt to new channels and technology while also doubling down on what we know works. (Hint: face-to-face conversations at the door are still the best way to get people to vote).

Progressives can’t just organize offline anymore.

We need to be in Facebook groups, recruiting volunteers and asking people to activate their personal networks.

We need to be active on social media, helping to drive a progressive narrative of enthusiasm and activism.

And we need to use better tools to find people, meet them where they are, engage them, and mobilize them to act.

But we also can’t only organize online.

Online and Offline Organizing Work Together

At the end of the day, elections are about the choices we make that affect everyone’s online and offline day-to-day lives — and our organizing efforts need to mirror that.

We see what our friends are up to online, but we also meet them at their homes in person. It is essential that the future of organizing takes an “all of the above” approach where we’re telling our personal stories online while mobilizing voters at the doors.

There’s good news here: in the last few years (and especially coming out of 2016), an unprecedented number of new campaign tools and tech products have emerged in the progressive space to help Democrats win elections.

These campaign tools range from event tools and peer-to-peer texting tools to relational organizing tools aimed at leveraging existing relationships to persuade and mobilize voters.

Avoid Campaign Tool Paralysis

But it isn’t all good news. We’ve seen and heard from many campaigns and organizations suffering from a paralysis of choice. They’re struggling to choose which campaign tools (if any) to use to make their programs more efficient — as well as how to deploy and use these tools effectively once they license them.

There are a few different reasons for this. One is that everyone on a campaign has limited time. Most candidates, campaigns, or local party organizations don’t have the capacity to dig into each campaign tool. They don’t have time to figure out what its upsides and downsides are:

  • Does it sync to VAN?
  • What kind of metrics does it track?
  • How much training is required to use it?

We wanted to help solve this problem by producing an assessment that’s transparent and digestible. Our team has a collective 25 years of electoral organizing experience in 15 different states at every level. From activist to texting director to organizing director to digital organizer and everything in between, we know digital organizing.

We’ve trained thousands of staff and volunteers over the past eight years on digital organizing tools, strategies, and best practices.

Your Campaign Tool Guide

So with that goal, we spent eight weeks scheduling demos, digging into tools and talking to organizing teams on the ground, data experts, digital experts, campaign managers, tech developers, stakeholders and the people who have actually used these campaign tools.

We chose 50 tools to put on our website — you can see them here — and we’ll continue to assess more digital organizing campaign tools as we find them (we’ve already got a few more we’re excited about).

While this assessment is meant to give candidates, local parties, and activists a “lay of the land” of what digital organizing tools exist and what to expect to pay for them, we do caution that the answer to your particular problem might not be buying a tool.

Whether it’s processing volunteer sign ups more efficiently or persuading more voters, you should consider about what the overall strategy you are trying to achieve is before even thinking about getting a tool.

Remember: there is no silver bullet. Movements and campaigns take time and energy. There are no shortcuts—but there are ways to make things a little easier!

For example, if your goal is to recruit more volunteers and you’re noticing that no one is picking up their landline, think about texting. Not a fancy peer-to-peer texting platform, but just sending texts from your phone. Can you and your fellow activists or organizers text the people you want to volunteer to make the ask? Is that effective for those particular people?

If so, then think about how many people you need to recruit and how much time you have. Is it only a few dozen?Maybe just text them from your phone.

But is it a few thousand potential volunteers? If so, then consider a peer-to-peer texting platform like Hustle, Relay, Groundbase, or CallHub. Digital organizing tools should be there to make your life easier and more cost effective.

Looking Forward

Our hope is that campaigns, organizations, local parties, and activists can use our assessment website to find tools you’re excited about. We also hope that you use it to start a conversation with us about these tools and what you’re looking for so we can help you integrate the right solutions into you programs. We’re counting on you to win this cycle—let us know how we can help!

Editor’s Note: This post was co-authored by Greta Carnes and Dan Bram of Lockwood Strategy

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Greta Carnes

Greta has been a progressive organizer for over 10 years, tackling her first turf at 15 years old for then-Senator Barack Obama in her home state of Colorado. Since then, she has worked on six campaigns as both a field and online organizer. Most recently, Greta worked as the Texting Director on the 2017 Virginia Coordinated Campaign, where she ran a first-of-its-kind peer to peer texting program. Her team oversaw the sending of 3.2 million texts to Virginians in the final six weeks of the campaign -- including a 7-day innovative “TOTV” (Text out the Vote) program. Previously, Greta spent two years working for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She spent the primary building out the campaign’s pilot digital organizing program in Iowa that would scale to 14 other states before joining the digital team in Brooklyn for the general election and running the campaign’s first 1:1 SMS organizing hub in Silicon Valley. She spent the 2014 midterms cycle in Kentucky raising $5 million online for Alison Lundergan Grimes in an effort to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- and in 2012, worked at a field organizer in Dubuque, Iowa, for President Obama’s reelection.