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Campaign software is an important component for any political endeavor. Essentially, campaign software allows the resources of a political campaign to be better directed at specific, targeted components of political data. While there are many campaign software applications, usually they are targeted toward a few areas of focus:
Political Fundraising Software – This type of software, also known as Campaign Finance Software, deals with the activities associated with raising money for the campaign. Usually, these types of software programs do things like track donations/pledges, contain donor contact information, allow for creating notes, and let the user tag donors and donations with discrete information that proves useful. Usually, this kind of software manages smaller numbers of records, but has more information attached to each record. Some types of software for campaigns that deal with the financial aspects are geared wither toward state and local races or federal races. The former are usually more intuitive and easier to use while the latter are developed primarily for fundraising professionals or campaign staff persons.
Person to Person Voter Contact Software – This kind of campaign software focuses on helping campaigns optimize their voter contact activities. This includes activities such as canvassing (door-to-door), phone banking, and voter registration. These software systems will be used in different ways. Your canvassing software may provide printouts or be accessible on smart phones to log data. Phone banking will likely generate prompt screens and data entry forms on computer screens. Voter registration software can allow volunteers to enter in a potential registrant’s information and then print out a signature form.
Mass Media Voter Contact Software – Campaign software of this type can help facilitate mass text messaging, rob-dialing, mass emails, and contacts across social mediums. These applications can be found with portions of their programming devoted to engaging the end user via a computer or a mobile device. This area of campaign software is changing rapidly and there are tons of different applications being developed even as I type this.
Campaign Organization Software – This kind of software helps focus on items like get out the vote efforts, organizing county or precinct chairmen, putting out yard signs, scheduling volunteers, and assigning poll workers on Election Day. These kinds of tasks are so similar to typical business activities that often adapting an off-the-shelf application will work just fine for your application. There are tons of organizational software programs out there that can be adapted for your campaign’s use.
Now, you are likely thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of software.” And, to that end I would say you are right. There are many applications that can help you accomplish most anything you can imagine on your campaign. When considering using a campaigns software application, there are a few questions to keep in mind:
All in one, or stand alone?
There are a lot of applications that offer a one-stop-shot approach in the way of applications. They help you raise money, call voters, send blast emails, and engage in social media all in one. Have you ever used a really large Swiss Army knife? They are great for one time uses on a camping trail. Say you have to cut a thread, tighten a screw, or open a bottle. For this purpose they are awesome. But, if you had to tighten 1000 screws, open 100 bottles, or cut several sheets of fabric you would likely pick a tool specifically devoted to that purpose. Same goes with campaign software. If you pick software that has overlapping capabilities, make sure they run in the same vein of activity. There are some good canvassing/phone banking combo systems out there. There are some good email/social media combo systems out there. But, stay away from things that couple two unlike activities such as voter contact and campaign finance. You’ll have a product on your hands that is inefficient and often too complicated for your average user.
How many features are too many features?
Often, campaign software applications start out very simple. Then, as the company gets bombarded by requests from campaigns with special needs along the way, the software company will add features here and there. If this goes on for several years and the software company loses sight of their application’s core functionality, you can end up with a software system that is unwieldy and hard to navigate. As yourself who the main user of the application will be for your campaign. If you have a professional consultant working for you, he will likely suggest an application he is familiar with that likely has tons and tons of features. But, if you are going to be manning the campaign with volunteers or untrained novices, stick with applications that are simple and easy. All the features in the world aren’t very helpful if they keep you from being able to figure out the twenty percent of the program that you will be using 80 percent of the time.
How much should I pay?
The answer here is to do your research. Sometimes, finding specific campaign software can be difficult. By the time you realize you’ve bought an application that doesn’t meet your needs, your campaign may be halfway over. Usually, you get what you pay for – but that statement doesn’t necessarily apply or stand alone in this instance. Usually, more expensive programs come with a ton of features – some you may need and some you may not. And, the more features a program has and the more complicated its operations the more likely it is you will need one-on-one training or support to operate it. Simpler applications have fewer features, are generally more intuitive, and do not require much support if any. So, if you need a robust, complex application you’ll pay more. If you need a straightforward, simple campaign software package you can find them for much less.
I hope this article has given you some general premises and rules of thumb to consider as you look for software applications to help your campaign achieve success. Feel free to check out our political fundraising application at www.MyCampaignTreasurer.com. It’s simple, affordable, and specifically designed for the needs of state and local campaigns.
Brandon Lewis has worked as a political fundraising consultant and staff member for U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, State Senate, State Representative, and local political campaigns. Lewis has also worked in the non-profit arena on projects ranging from capital campaigns to grassroots fundraising. Founder of www.MyCampaignTreasuer.com, Lewis’ web-based fundraising application allows candidates to raise more money for their federal, state, and local campaigns through a simplified, focused approach.
Lewis is also author of How to Raise Money for Political Office; The Original Guide to Winning Elections Through Aggressive, Organized Fundraising. It offers a comprehensive, practical approach on how campaigns can raise more money for their campaigns in an efficient and effective manner.