By Reyhan Sinha
Underfunded & understaffed? Using the right tech can help you force-multiply!
So, what is campaign tech?
Campaign tech is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of technical tools & platforms used by all campaign departments to effectively run their campaigns, including tools for things like texting and calling voters, voter targeting, social media management, and even campaign accounting. In short, it’s anything that helps you run your campaign & reach your voters.
Practically every function of a modern campaign utilizes some type of campaign tech to run some part of the campaign; be it finance, organizing, or digital operations. It’s nearly impossible to run a modern, competitive campaign without any technology. Most campaigns hear "Campaign Tech" and think of VAN, the Voter Activation Network that nearly all campaigns use, but there are a wide array of other tools that modern campaigns increasingly need to be successful. That comes with its own set of problems too: how are underfunded and understaffed campaigns supposed to afford these tools and train staff & volunteers on them?
Bluebonnet seeks to bridge this gap through its Campaign Tech Fellowship by providing trained tech volunteers to help campaigns effectively adopt and leverage the latest and greatest in campaign technology.
How is campaign tech built & why is it necessary to win?
Most major campaign tools are built by well funded, national organizations and campaigns that have the funding and resources to train on new tools with specialized staff. While these tools work well for those groups and campaigns, they are rarely designed for down ballot races. This causes a big technology gap between larger, well-funded races and smaller, lesser-known down ballot campaigns and organizations. The down ballot campaigns either can’t afford these tools, can’t make full and effective use of them, or both. For example, VAN, the heart and soul of almost every campaign, can cost thousands of dollars to use. This is fine for Senate or Presidential campaigns working with million dollar budgets, but doesn’t help your local school board candidate who needs VAN just as much, but is working with a budget of only a couple of thousand dollars.
Having all the tools in the world is great, but it means nothing if a campaign isn’t able to use them or doesn’t have time to train their staff or volunteers on how to use them.
Successfully implementing Campaign Tech tools into a campaign requires:
Strategy on how each tool will be used. Tech can be powerful, but not in a vacuum; Campaign Tech needs to plug into and support existing Campaign Strategy; for example, guided by a Field plan on how to text, call, email, canvass, target, and otherwise reach voters (or any combination of them).
Budget to acquire the needed tools. A lot of the tools used can be expensive, and when down ballot campaigns are working with shoestring budgets, this can cause issues. Figuring out what tool has the best price to feature set, and which ones are able to offer reduced cost offerings is critical.
Capacity & capability to train & use the tools. Getting the tools within budget and having a perfect use strategy for them is great, but does nothing if the campaign staff has no time or tech savvy to learn how to adopt the tools.
That’s why Bluebonnet created the Campaign Tech Fellowship. We’ve partnered with stac labs and various progressive donors to provide access to top tech tools at a free or discounted price. Most importantly, we’ve trained volunteers (our "Campaign Tech Fellows") to help campaigns make the best use of these tools to scale what their campaigns can do. Specifically, Fellows aid campaigns with tool-specific knowledge, including use case, costs, set up, and ongoing application so they can equip campaigns with the most suitable campaign tech tools they need.
Bluebonnet Data recruits people who are passionate about helping progressives, and trains them on how to use and train campaign’s on tech tools. Our Fellows are dedicated volunteers who want to make a difference. We match Fellows to campaigns across America to help set up and use whatever tools they need to win their races.
In addition, Bluebonnet Data is offering free Campaign Tech teams to any progressive candidates running races in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. For campaigns operating in other states, candidates can get access to Campaign Tech teams for a flat fee of $300.
If you’re a Democratic or progressive campaign running in a down-ballot race seeking Campaign Tech volunteers, please fill out our interest form or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those wanting to get involved as a Campaign Tech Fellow, Bluebonnet Data is still receiving applications for their program on a rolling basis until September 10th, 2022.
About the Author
Reyhan Sinha (he/him) is the Campaign Tech Specialist of Bluebonnet Data. Hailing from Texas, Reyhan began working in politics in 2018 when he joined a club on campus that focused on registering college students and other young people to vote and get more involved in their communities. While he has his degree in Biology, he kept working in politics and is now eager to make data and tech more accessible to all.