Relational Organizing Tool
Problem it tries to solve:
How do I track my volunteers reaching out to their contacts? How do I identify influencers?
A group of local grasstops leaders use VoterCircle to contact their friends, and the campaign learns which grasstops leaders has the most contacts.
VoterCircle’s only built in outbound channel is email, which limits the effect of a relational ask.
Does it sync to NGP VAN?
Read and Write.
Pricing varies depending on the size of the voter file: anywhere from free for voter files under 200k to $250 per month for voter files up to 500k. Additionally, some enterprise accounts (over 500k) will have an additional 10 cents per voter contacted fee.
“VoterCircle seemed like a tool that would be useful for our team in the beginning phases of the campaign, but it turned out to be unscalable and hard to train volunteers on how to use it effectively. We were also unable to find a smooth transition on how to use the tool during GOTV, and as a result we were really only able to test the tool for short periods of time in small rural areas during the persuasion phase. Using voter circle was inefficient and unproductive for our organization.”
“Pros – no need to DL app to use, decent email delivery, has promise as a platform.
Cons – hard to get adoption, restriction within district hurts.”
“Laborious to set up. It was necessary to hand-hold people to use it and organizers did not have the time to do that in the days before GOTV”
The Basics: VoterCircle is a relational organizing platform that allows volunteers to upload their contacts and inform the campaign of potential influencers in their district or turf.
A volunteer joins a VoterCircle campaign via an online link (no invitation required). From there, they sync their contacts via email, CSV upload, or (mobile-only) phone contact upload. VoterCircle will then tell them what kind of target each of their contacts is (persuasion, mobilization, registration, etc) and allow them to send an ask to that person based on a campaign template.
Volunteer activity syncs to VAN — which decreases organizer data entry time and allows results to be collected at scale.
VoterCircle can map relationships, and over time that kind of data infrastructure will be very valuable. Creating this kind of map with cycle after cycle of data would allow relational organizing to work at scale.
If you’re running a program without a large organizing team, you can identify volunteers who have a large number of friends who are supporters and potential volunteers themselves.
A volunteer can send different template asks to a list depending on if a specific contact is a mobilization target, in a particular district, or any set of criteria.
There are some safeguards in place. Volunteers can manually say who isn’t a match to a voter file record, thus decreasing the chances of falsely targeting a voter. Additionally, campaigns have control over outgoing messages. If a volunteer wants to edit the campaign’s template, the campaign will need to manually sign off on it before the message goes out.
The only channel currently built in is email. VoterCircle has been promising an SMS component for over a year and has not delivered. To their credit, they self-report a 50% open rate on emails, but email is still the least personal touch you could make, especially when asking someone to vote, volunteer, or support your candidate. A user can, however, record offline asks and conversations through the system.
It does not rank or rate relationships. While this feature was originally available, VoterCircle removed it due to few users utilizing it. For instance, if Volunteer A and Volunteer B both have GOTV Target C in their contact list, there is no way for the system to be able to see that Volunteer A is the ex-husband of Target C and Volunteer B is the current husband of Target C. In this scenario, an ask from Volunteer A could severely backfire while an ask from Volunteer B could lead to another vote.
To our knowledge, the potency of self-stated IDs has not been tested in a publicly available controlled field experiment. Currently, we know that support IDs collected at the doors are more reliable than those collected on the phone, and those collected on the phone are more reliable than those collected via SMS. All three of these channels involve an exchange between a volunteer and a voter, ending in a volunteer marking (either directly in VAN, on a walk sheet, or on a virtual interface) what they think the support ID of the voter is based on the conversation. It is unclear where “self stated IDs” fall on this spectrum (IDs that are collected without an exchange or filter).
Only two thirds of volunteers who start the process actually upload their contacts. Traditional organizing programs see a 50% flake rate for any action just on showing up. This would functionally alter the base flake rate to 77% if only two thirds of the volunteers who “show up” continue with the activity. We would also caution here about volunteers being more likely to want to complete an “easy” task (doing online voter engagement from home behind a computer) instead of less easy but more effective acts (like knocking on doors).
It’s free for campaigns with voter files under 200,000 (most state House campaigns and below)
$150 per month for campaigns with voter files up to 400,000 (most state Senate races and some metropolitan county races)
$250 per month for campaigns with voter files up to 500,000 (most Congressional races)
Prices for statewide races vary widely depending on the state. General pricing for a statewide race or state party can vary widely from a fixed monthly rate of $150 to $500 per month to a variable rate to a fixed/variable rate with an additional 10 cents per voter contacted fee.
VoterCircle can read out voter file data to match against volunteer contact lists.
VoterCircle can write in survey question responses.
VoterCircle won’t write in address changes, wrong numbers, or other updated information into the voter file.
Who we would recommend this tool to:
Programs that don’t have large organizing teams and need an activity for self-selecting volunteers to grow the organization.
Political teams. This platform is optimized for users that are well connected, and the relationships that a political team cultivates can be put to good use with VoterCircle.
Programs that are looking to frequently update their universe models. This is a quick and easy way to collect a large number of IDs to better inform model refreshes.
Programs that want an additional volunteer recruitment boost. We would recommend using VoterCircle as a non-frequent activity for volunteer recruitment — and centralize the training on it so it doesn’t take up excessive amounts of organizer time troubleshooting and onboarding users to the platform. We’re fairly confident that this tool will allow organizing teams to scrape up extra shifts that would not otherwise be available.
Programs that want to specifically target very infrequent voters. These voters often do not have good data available in state voter files, and VoterCircle brings in new data to supplement these lists.
Who we wouldn’t recommend this tool to:
Programs with a large number of on-the-ground organizers. In our opinion, the amount of training required to roll this tool out at scale at the regional, organizer, and volunteer level would hinder, not help, an organizer’s ability to meet other targeted voter contact and volunteer recruitment goals.
Instituting a statewide volunteer support structure for the tool would either require dedicated staff fielding thousands of volunteer and staff tickets, or would require such a large portion of an organizer’s time that the time saved from data entry via the tool’s VAN sync would be negated.
At the statewide level, it’s an extracurricular, not a fundamental. On one hand, this tool is best for reaching out to non-targeted universe voters, but not best for critical mobilization and persuasion targets. On the other hand, organizers and organizing teams don’t have an unlimited number of asks they can make of a volunteer, and more often than not one ask will be at the expense of another. Making the VoterCircle ask, along with the necessary follow through, may not be the best option for your program if you have a targeted universe to mobilize.
Out of State programs. VoterCircle is meant for people with existing, current relationships in a state. We do not recommend this as a voter contact tool for out of state volunteers–especially in a general election.
GOTV efforts involving polling location notifications. We do not recommend using the tool to inform contacts of their polling locations for two reasons: 1) the liability associated with telling someone the wrong polling location with this kind of voter filing matching is too high, and 2) GOTV efforts need to have high accuracy against a defined turnout universe in a specified manner, and we don’t see that level of accuracy (or contingencies) in place yet. If a program were to use VoterCircle as a mobilization tool, we would recommend templates linking to an additional, external polling location tool that is frequently updated.