Relational Organizing Tool
Problem it tries to solve:
How can I build and empower a team of grassroots volunteers to grow relational and distributed organizing movements?
A campaign launches on Outvote and invites volunteers to join and participate in key actions to spread the word: texting friends, peer-to-peer texting, sharing on social media, and more.
Outvote is best suited for campaigns seeking to commit to digital organizing via an all-in-one software platform.
Does it sync to NGP VAN?
“Good idea with lots of promise. Horrifically buggy. Struggled syncing with different texting apps (esp signal). Poor UX swiping between tools. Too much manual copy and pasting. Didn’t seem to update regularly at all. Too much effort to get going (or know if it’s working) means very low uptake among volunteers.”
The Basics: Outvote is a mobile app that allows a user to download their contacts, match them against a voter file, and make targeted asks of them.
Note that Outvote now offers both a mobile and web platform. Outvote’s VAN sync is live and fully reliable for large-scale campaigns.
A volunteer downloads the app and syncs their contacts. The app then matches their contacts against the voter file and allows the volunteer to text them with a pre-loaded message specific to the target type.
Outvote is focused on SMS outreach. The value of relational organizing tools is around the increased efficacy of a ‘warmer’ (more familial, more organic) messenger, so the channel needs to mirror this. As opposed to other outreach tools, Outvote sends text messages — one of the ‘warmest’ (most familial, most organic) ways to communicate.
Outvote rates voter file matches with a star system. This allows volunteers to judge whether or not a match is a ‘good’ one.
Outvote has a pretty straightforward user interface. This is crucial for onboarding volunteers at scale.
Outvote is currently mobile app-only. This is a deterrent for onboarding volunteers at scale.
Outvote’s VAN sync is new and untested. Outvote rolled out their VAN sync at the beginning of March, and to our knowledge, it has not been tested in the field at scale.
Outvote is free for up to 5,000 voters, $100 for up to 400,000 voters, and $250 for up to 500,000 voters. Enterprise pricing is available above 500,000 voters.
Outvote can read voter lists out of VAN.
Outvote can write in survey responses and contact history into VAN (this is new!).
VAN Sync is currently only available for enterprise accounts.
Who we would recommend this tool to:
Programs operating in volunteer-rich areas. This tool would be best used for volunteer recruitment in general, and deploying it to organizers in high volunteer propensity turfs would exponentially increase recruitment rates.
Low salience election programs. Part of the functionality is letting your networks know about an exciting candidate. This is especially important for elections that not many people know about.
College campus programs. College campuses are great examples of places where volunteer and voter universes significantly overlap. College students are also familiar with texting as a common form of communication.
Advocacy organizations. Making the ask to call your representative is a much lower bar ask than a voting ask. Additionally, since OutVote sends text messages, it is easy for a recipient to call their representative right off of their phone.
Who we wouldn’t recommend this tool to:
Programs with non-tech savvy volunteers. The app-only platform makes it difficult for many people to adopt, and there is currently no web-based component.
Anyone not using VAN. The big value here is the data that is synced into VAN. Without it, the data is far less valuable to track.