ACRONYM conducted an audit of digital organizing tools available for progressive campaigns. Our audit does not include every tool — but we prioritized tools currently being used by campaigns and organizations, tools being pitched to campaigns and organizations, and tools that campaigns and organizations have explicitly asked us to audit. Our unique lens is looking at these tools through the eyes of an electoral field organizer and an organizing management team — the audience we believe to be the target consumers and practitioners of these tools in the field.
This assessment only includes tools that could be used for digital organizing or that self-identify as digital organizing tools — which, in our definition, includes any tool designed to complement or replace the work of a field team on the ground as they recruit volunteers and register, persuade, and mobilize voters. Some of these tools were designed with political action in mind, and others are made for the private sector but could be retooled for campaigns in an effective manner. We broke down the digital organizing tools in our audit into 13 categories: data tool, chatbot, call tool, CRM, peer-to-peer SMS tool, mass SMS tool, canvass tool, volunteer management tool, relational organizing tool, events platform, email tool, paid canvass tool, and polling location tool. Our assessment excluded fundraising and finance tools, research tools, and security tools.
Our goal with this audit was to conduct a transparent and digestible assessment of the digital organizing tools available, from an organizer’s perspective. We viewed all tools from the position of an electoral campaign searching for a tech product that will solve real problems and augment the work of its organizers as they recruit volunteers to facilitate person-to-person interactions. Our five main questions as we conducted this assessment were: will an organizer use this tool? Will this tool make organizers more efficient at their jobs? Will this tool make organizers more effective at their work? Will it fit into an existing campaign structure and plan? Does its price allow the campaign to scale the use of the tool for organizers?
We divided our assessment into four sections: a description of the tool and what its purpose is (again, from the lens of an organizer or organizing director); pros, drawbacks, and pricing.
The factors we examined include: what problem the tool attempts to solve (as an indication to campaigns of how they should structure their consideration of the tool); an example use case, written specifically for campaign organizing teams; the pros and drawbacks of the tool; and who the tool is designed for (to guide campaigns on how they should consider implementation and budget). We also assessed whether the tool syncs with VAN. We understand that not all campaigns use VAN, and we reviewed a number of alternative CRMs — but the overwhelming majority of statewide and down ballot Democratic organizing programs already have contracts with VAN and have included VAN reporting and trainings into their programs and strategies. We will continue to assess tools as they relate to other CRMS — but our general position is that most of the consumers of this audit will be operating in a VAN ecosystem, and therefore we optimized this audit accordingly.
The pricing section includes: whether there are publically-available transparent pricing materials, how much the tool costs per month, and whether there are bulk discounts available.
We concluded our assessment with two recommendations: who we would recommend this tool for and who we would not recommend this tool for. We are cognizant that no tool is one-size-fits-all and no two campaign organizing programs are identical or face identical obstacles. We do not want to be arbiters of which tools are “good” and which tools are “bad” because that’s not a valid comparison; our goal instead is to save campaigns the time of vetting all these tools themselves, purchasing a tool without being aware of some of its drawbacks, or signing a contract with the first tool that pitches them without looking into the full field. We conducted this assessment to make the adoption and implementation of organizing technology easier for campaigns — not to divide the tools marketplace into “good” or “bad” tech.
As we conducted our assessment, we also noticed a language barrier: the ways that campaigns talk about problems and the ways that tech developers talk about them are often different sets of vocabulary, and we sought to create a space where we can attempt to translate both industries to be able to solve the problems that Democratic campaigns face. As we conducted this audit, we saw that this was especially true in tools designed and optimized for the private sector. We found that many of the solutions are out there already — we just need to use them.
We hope this assessment is helpful. If there are tools that are missing from this list or details that need updating, we would love to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.