The SNP’s new electoral software is well worth a look

When talking about the party’s plans to move to a new election database package I made reference to the advantages the Labour and Conservative packages bring their parties. However if instead of dealing generally with the electorate you look at marshalling and motivating supporters and members, in some ways it is the SNP which is now setting the yardstick by which the Liberal Democrat packages should be judged.

The SNP has just bought in to a new service from the US called NationBuilder. As one informed commentator (Mick Fealty) has said:

I like it because, 1 it didn’t cost a packet (low four figures); and 2, it is driven not by an outside agency (like Blue State Digital), but energised and developed from within the party.

Critically it is being driven from leadership level (the whole cabinet is on Twitter), with buy in from all the candidates; although inevitably this leads to variable quality outputs, once they are in the system there are other things they can access.

NationBuilder has got some very positive early reviews in the US, such as from TechCrunch:

NationBuilder includes the ability for non-techies to create a branded website, blog as well as import contact lists and send email blasts directly from the site. In terms of social media NationBuilder allows you to have integrate multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts and Tweet and Facebook Message from these accounts. Even the ability to send mass text messages is fully baked into the platform.

One of the most useful features of NationBuilder is a finances dashboard that will track the number of donors, average donation per supporter, amount raised in the day, the month, the year, the primary to the entire election cycle. Users can set a goal for the amount of money to raise or number of donors and a prominent thermometer displays the progress to your supporters. And NationBuilder hooks directly into Authorize.net, PayFlow Pro, and other payment processors.

Other features include event management with ticketing, volunteer organization, maps, calendars and uch more. It is essentially a one stop shop for creating a website for a political campaign. Pricing ranges from $20 per month to $500 per month. Email and text blasts are extra and the startup allows users to try out the platform for free for two weeks.

You can view NationBuilder’s features on its website and even a quick look shows how big the gap is in some areas between the party’s existing tools and what others can do at modest cost – and that applies even if, like myself, you’re somewhat sceptical about how well the fundraising aspects work in the British rather than American climate. Just look at the rest and remember the relatively low price tag.

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4 Comments

  • As an expat, I’ve volunteered to help with Democratic party campaigns here in the US. VAN is very impressive and was extremely helpful to the campaign (2004, Carson for Senate, Oklahoma). I hope than VAN will help our party move forward successfully…

    (It is worth noting that Carson lost, but certainly not because of the software!)

  • This looks like a good move, if we can make it work – organising data about voting intentions and making the best of the core support are very different things, I would have thought. LibDems are great at working locally, but from what I have seen, it all depends on a very few people – the ever same people – who give 150% (so to speak, unmathematically). You wonder sometimes what happens if just one or two of that core team move away or can’t give that much time any longer! If we have any chance to communicate with supporters better and to build a larger grassroots support base, that would definitely be welcome.

    Of course, you can’t ge a bit of software and expect it to do the work for you, but if it helps to adopt a systematic approach and to avoid alienating (or not paying enough attention to) potential supporters, it could make a big difference.

  • Maria,
    agree absolutely.

    Another problem for those constituencies out in the sticks generally is the age of activists. This tends to mean that they are not a computer literate or savvy at what is possible, as a plus point they are generally good with people – and no amount of software is going to replace doorstep contact with our aging population.

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