Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Some good software

Here are a few pieces of software I use for political campaigns and non-profits; I'd suggest checking  them out if you're in this field.

I just finished building a website (www.youthalive.org) in Squarespace, a content management system (CMS) that makes it really easy to create good-looking, maintainable websites. More and more non-profits and political campaigns are using Squarespace for their websites, because you can hire a web developer to build the site in Squarespace, and then fairly easily maintain it without technical expertise. It's my favorite tool for building websites.

Another important piece of technology for non-profits and political campaigns is their donor database. There are a huge number of databases out there, and I haven't seen any that I feel does everything quite right. However, I got a demo of ActionKit the other week and was very impressed. It's more for longer-term non-profits than political campaigns, and it's only available to progressive causes. A few people have asked me to help them pick a new donor database, and so I may have more to say in this front in the next few months.

Donor databases often include email tools, but if your database doesn't, the best standalone email software I've found is Mailchimp. It's dead-simple to use, makes gorgeous (and CAN-SPAM compliant) emails easy, and is even free for lists under 1,000 subscribers.

If you're running a voter contact program, you'll need a list of voters to contact. I often recommend folks to TargetSmart (only available to progressive campaigns); they make a good case that their data is the best because they use multiple sources and verify them across each other, so that you're getting the most and best-quality phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. Another great source for California lists is Political Data, which works across the aisle.

For campaigns that need a database to store their voter lists in, the Voter Activation Network (VAN) is the standard tool for progressive campaigns (sorry non-progressive folks, I just don't know as much about the tools available to you). If you know of any other software like VAN, I'd love to have something to compare it to.

And, of course, Impact Dialing is the best software for contacting voters by phone - it triples the number of voters you can contact compared to dialing by hand!