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Voter and volunteer CRM [Review]

For any political campaign that is aiming to get elected or win a ballot, one of the biggest challenges they will face is trying to manage voter outreach and the volunteers who carry out much of that work.

What are they?

For a typical congressional campaign there can be over 1 million voters, and campaign teams can run into the thousands. It is therefore critical for all campaigns to use a voter and volunteer CRM system. CRM stands for ‘customer relationship management’ and is a standard in business for holding individuals' data as well as planning your organization’s communication with these people. In the political context, voter data is used to plan outreach like digital ads, door-to-door canvassing, email outreach, and phone/text outreach. It makes sense for political campaigns to maintain their volunteers datasets in the same CRM system as they also need to be communicated with. In addition, volunteer management requires functionality like task assignments, internal communications, and so on.

Why use a voter and volunteer CRM system?

Voter and volunteer CRM systems have developed significantly in the past decade to the point where it is now possible to power national-level campaigns from one database or a connected network of databases. Campaigns can automate the process of moving supporters to volunteers in a way that cuts down on a lot of the administrative work of the past. Equally, CRM systems and connected mobile apps allow phone, SMS and face-to-face outreach to voters be logged automatically in a CRM without the need for data entry. All of this is creating a new type of campaign manager who is more digitally driven and is seeing campaign data coming back to HQ in real-time. It is essentially closing an information loop that begins with an organizational database, then moves to voter outreach, and comes back to voter insights. This loop gives campaign managers a way to see how their campaigns are performing at a granular level and to be able to take action on what voters are saying so that the campaign messaging can adjust.

What does all this mean for democracy?

There has been a lot of fear around voter and volunteer CRM systems and how they apply to elections since the breaking of the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year and these fears are justified to some extent. As technology develops there will always be people who will look to exploit it’s potential for their ends. However, what we are seeing with voter CRM systems in general is the ability of political campaigns to do their work in a way that any medium-sized business would do. The efficiencies that accrue from using a CRM also confer greater transparency as everything that is being done is also being logged. When advances in this technology are taken in tandem with new legislation around data protection like the GDPR in Europe, then we begin to see far greater accountability to voters from political campaigns. Taking a step back and looking at the demoractic system as a whole it is clear that the need to represent large groups of people by individual representatives is very challenging. For politicians and their, usually very small teams, to do this effectively they need to be able to capture information from voters more efficiently than they currently do. If voter and volunteer CRM systems can help them to do this then it should be considered to be a strengthening of the democratic process.

If you would like any further information on CRM systems then get in touch with us and we would be happy to talk you through your options.

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