Campaign Tech for 2012: Manage donors, volunteers, and email for $75/month, no staff

So, some people out there are considering running for office in 2012, and beyond their ideas about governing, they must be wondering, “How can I manage a campaign with no staff or money?”

I said in an earlier post that for a “campaign website” people should consider Squarespace (, which is a rentable, configurable website that will take a few days to configure, but has lots of nice tools, and only costs between $20 and $40 per month. You don’t have to be a techie to set it up or use it (though it would be faster). It’s not designed for politics, but for the kinds of features a campaign site needs (positions, links to the donation page, video, social media integration, calendar), it is a great platform that recently got better with location posting and management – for campaign events, standouts, etc.

But what about managing all of the people and communications?  That is what this post will be about….

Note: I have posted all of this as a text document available here. Use it however you like.

So, if I am going to run for office, I need to do the following things:

– Accept donations and communicate with donors

– Sign up volunteers and communicate with them

– Keep a record of all the people I talk to in the context of the campaign (journalists, potential donors, representatives of organizations who might endorse me, certain volunteers)

If I don’t have tools for this, I am stuck using the phone and email for everything, and it will be very hard to manage over several months, and it will take a lot of time.

If you are a big campaign with lots of money, you could buy or customize a CRM (customer relationship management platform), and then you could buy some custom web development time for forms, and then use email communications products to do communications. You would then have to periodically transfer the form submissions from the site (exported via spreadsheets) into your CRM system.

But even if you had a lot of money, it would still be a pain and not worth the investment.

Is there another way to do this without an expensive campaign platform?

Yes! You have to be somewhat comfortable with web technology to do it. No, I don’t mean a programmer, but someone who could set up a personalized eBay or Amazon page or edit a wiki page. (This is the level of knowledge you would need to customize a Squarespace site.)

Here are the pieces of the puzzle, and the prices:

– Highrise CRM ( $29/month. This is the piece that manages the relationship with every person you talk to during the campaign. It is super-easy to use.

– Wufoo Form Management ( $15-$30/month. This company lets you design web-based forms and embed them just about anywhere. It collects information and gives you all kinds of ways of managing it and integrating it with other things. (It even does payments and donations quite well!)

– Mailchimp ( Free-$15 month. A silly name for a serious company that does great email communications management, similar to Constant Contact.


How does it all get hooked together and what does it all do?

0. You set up a Squarespace site that advertises who you are and why you are running.

1. You get a Highrise account and get it set up to manage volunteers, donors, and journalists. The system is empty now, but…

2. You get a Wufoo account and create forms for volunteers, press inquiries, and donations. You connect it to your PayPal merchant account to do all ACH payment processing for you. Wufoo + PayPal, is, in my opinion, probably better than, and cheaper. Really!

3. You then embed these forms in your Squarespace site (you need to embed the wufoo javascript/html into a page or into a Dropbox widget) and in your Facebook fan page (using an FBML widget – not going to cover that here, would take a technical person an hour to set this up).

4. Now, what you have is forms on your website and facebook fan page that collect data, but how do you use that?  Yes, you could just export to spreadsheets, but Wufoo does two very nice things. This step involves setting up the link between Wufoo submissions and a Highrise account (this takes 10 minutes with a quick wizard to match up the fields). Whenever someone fills out a form, they get put into your Highrise account automatically!

5. Next, you get a Mailchimp account, which lets you send amazing emails to groups of people and get really incredible reports about how well the emails are working (who got it, who opened it, etc).

6. Then, you turn on the integration between Wufoo and Mailchimp. This means that every time someone fills out your Wufoo form on Facebook or on your website, that person is automatically put into the right email list in Mailchimp! (such as the donor list or volunteer or press list)


So, once you get this set up in a day or two…

One person can manage the entire campaign! Everyone who fills out a form online goes right into the same system to manage the relationship and also to get on the right email list. There is no import/export or maintenance to do.

– You work in three tools:

1. You add some content (blogs, pages) into the Squarespace website and messages into Facebook and Twitter (which gets pulled automatically into Squarespace). You occasionally read the Squarespace visitor reports to see how many have visited and where they came from, which lets you know how your marketing is working.

2. You work in Highrise, managing the messages between you and everyone you talk to. You have a record of everything you have said and done with every person, which works seamlessly with email.

3. You work in Mailchimp, designing the emails that go to every group of people, and you follow the results of each mailing.

That’s right. One person, for a maximum of $40 for Squarespace and $75 for the other tools (Highrise $30, Wufoo $30, Mailchimp $15) you have all the important stuff. I doubt Charlie Baker’s tools were half as amazing or powerful as what these four can do together.

Yes, it would take someone who is comfortable with technology to get it all integrated, but it would only take a day or two to get the whole thing set up*. I just wanted to post all this so that the people who wonder if they could really manage a campaign see that just maybe they could do it.

(*While I think someone could do this on their own, with some frustration, or maybe get someone to help them, I do see a role for political consulting firms around infrastructure. After all, what should those forms be? What should those email campaigns be? How do you manage the press and donors? What content should be on your site, or on Facebook, or on Twitter? But I don’t think the components themselves should cost much of anything.)

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