It’s been a few weeks since the 2014 General Election, and that means that we’re about to enter the time when 2016 candidates start earnestly laying the groundwork for their campaigns. If you’re such a candidate, one of the first things you’ll want to choose (and stick with) is a website / voter database / fundraising platform, and today I’m going to tell you why it ought to be NationBuilder.
Note: I’m tailoring this post to Republicans not for partisan reasons, but for practical ones. With some important exceptions (and for understandable, if debatable, reasons), Democrats tend to default to NGP VAN: they’re familiar with it, their staffs are familiar with it, and it is often a prerequisite to accessing their party’s sophisticated voter & volunteer database. Republicans, on the other hand, face less institutional lock-in and are therefore more likely to be shopping around.
So why choose NationBuilder?
1. Easily sync RNC voter data with the Data Trust API
In 2016, every competitive Republican campaign ought to be leveraging the Data Trust’s extensive database. With more than 260 million Americans across all 50 states — updated every day — the Data Trust has quickly become an indispensable tool in the GOP tool belt. And its API integrates seamless with NationBuilder.
What does that mean? It means you’ll be able to sync your data with the Data Trust’s records, giving you the best possible data on which to build your campaigns digital and field targeting efforts, including:
Voter registration date;
State Voter File ID;
RNC Voter ID;
Inferred Support Level (do they lean Republican?).
2. Up-to-date vote history with NationBuilder’s Election Center
If you think the Data Trust data sounds useful, wait until you get full vote history information from NationBuilder’s Voter File. For no extra charge, NationBuilder will provide you will full voting history data for every voter in your district.
Did they vote in last year’s Primary? What about the General Election? Do they vote absentee? You’ll know on Day One, and can adjust your strategy accordingly.
3. NationBuilder Match
For every email you collect — whether it’s from the Data Trust’s API or from someone signing up on your website — NationBuilder will automatically match them to their Facebook, Klout, LinkedIn, and Twitter profiles.
Why does that matter?
First of all, you’ll be able to match a name to the face, since NationBuilder will pull their profile photo into your database.
Secondly — because NationBuilder will also import & track anyone who mentions you or retweets you on Twitter (or likes your posts on Facebook) — you’ll be able to immediately match the folks talking about you online to the voters in your database. (It’ll also help you queue up Facebook ad targeting down the line, because you’ll be able to target GOTV ads directly at known supporters.)
And third, because NationBuilder can map folks connections on Twitter, you’ll be able to quickly identify your most influential supporters online. With that information, you can reach out to those folks directly and ask them to take the lead as “digital precinct captains” — amplifying your message online and serving as rapid responders to attacks.
And again, all of this data happens automatically. You can literally just sit back and watch it roll in.
4. First-rate digital and field targeting tools
In NationBuilder, microtargeting supporters couldn’t be easier.
Need to send an email blast to all the first-time voters on your list within 40 miles of Saturday’s rally? Done. Need a list of every volunteer who has more than 100 Twitter followers. No problem. Need to map everyone who… you get the idea. With NationBuilder, if you can imagine a slice of your voter universe, you can find it within a few moments.
And once you’ve found who you’re looking for, you can create scannable door-to-door walk sheets, send them an email blast, or export their information for ad targeting. The options are limited only by your creativity.
5. Personalized, interactive websites
The most common criticism of NationBuilder you’ll hear is that it‘s website tool isn’t up to snuff. Frankly, that’s untrue, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or just plain doesn’t know how to get the most out of it.
On the contrary, for political campaigns NationBuilder is perhaps the single most powerful, versatile platform available to you. There are essentially no limitations to what you can build with the platform, and — more importantly — there are tons of things that it enables you to build that are just plain going to help you win.
On a native NationBuilder website, anything you know about your supporters can be used to personalize their experience on your site. For example:
Have they already signed up as a volunteer / joined your mailing list? Hide the email signup forms and instead start asking them to spread the word on social media.
Have they donated in the past? Ask them to give the same amount again.
Have they already hit their limit for the cycle? Say “thank you” and ask them to host a fundraiser.
Getting close to GOTV time? Remind them of their polling location (based on their address / precinct data).
Did they sign up after clicking on your ad about lowering taxes? Good to know. NationBuilder can restructure your whole site to focus calls to action around tax-related messaging — just for that person.
You get the idea. With NationBuilder, you have more than a website: you have an interactive, personalized web app that’s constantly collecting and leveraging supporter data to help you win.
If you’re running for office in 2016 you ought to be giving NationBuilder a long, hard look. And not just at their website, either. Call their organizing (i.e., sales) team, have them demo it for you, and talk to a genuine product expert (it doesn’t have to be me, either). You may still end up choosing another platform, but at least you’ll have made an informed choice.