Idea for #RNCSummer: $1m X-Prize for ActBlue clone

So, the RNC is in Boston. This is a good thing.

Those of us here in the MassGOP are seeing ourselves extinguished from state politics. (We are three seats away from being eliminated from one chamber in the legislature!)

It is time for a lot of bold thinking from the national party. Here’s one thing I think that the RNC, or some other Republican group could do:

Offer $1 million to anyone – no questions asked – who can deliver a working copy of ActBlue’s 10 most important features within 6 months.

(Just the software piece – others can do the PAC/legal paperwork.)

X-Prizes have worked well in a number of fields, and in this case, it would be the best million dollars the party ever spent, as the return on investment could not be more obvious.

ActBlue has gone from a clever experiment, to a minor nuisance, to a big reason we are losing. They have raised $400 million since they were created – yes, here in Cambridge, MA! – and the fact that we don’t have one is insane.

There have been some half-hearted attempts at a Republican competitor, and I keep hearing rumors about a clone in the works, but I have heard these rumors for too long. (If someone else is doing this, they could even enter the competition themselves.)

It’s time for some bold action. It’s time for an X-Prize to get our own version of this tool. Sure – we could add some features they don’t have, and I can think of some clever ones – but right now, we just need to catch up.

Can the RNC or some wealthy donor step up and make this happen? We need this yesterday, but six months would be just fine.

About edfactor

  • TheDeuce

    They need to be paid $$ to volunteer.

  • I’m not very familiar with the tool, but what does it do?

    Would it be enough to list competitive races in MA, with links to donate?

  • What is ActBlue?

    What are the 10 most important features?

    Of those features, which ones could possibly be done without too much effort?

    Would it be worth it to do a local ActBlue with a doable minimal feature set that can later be expanded on and expanded nationally?

    Rough estimate in time and money for a basic local “ActBlue” copy.

  • edfactor

    A few things:

    – ActBlue is a website (both a PAC and 501c4), started in Cambridge, MA several years ago, that lets you donate to Democratic candidates – and only Democrats – across the country. They have raised $400 million for 10,000 Democrats and organizations. Technically, the money goes through their PAC before it gets to you. (This is not legal everywhere, but almost everywhere. So not Connecticut, for instance.) But you don’t really notice that.

    – They are a payment processor for a small percentage, but that belies all that they do.

    – Their big advantage is a great one-stop-shop for candidates and organizations across the country. Anybody (on the left) can quickly set up an account and a page and get donations flowing.

    – You get best practices across the board and instantly without having to know much: mobile support, recurring donations, etc.

    – You can embed the fundraising stuff in your site or use their hub to run donation campaigns.

    How would we duplicate it?

    When I said 10 features, I didn’t mean a specific list. I only meant that we could do well by doing just a subset of what they have.

    The most important thing is the hub model – where all campaigns could be listed in once place.

    I will use the MassGOP as an example here. We could create a hub where all MassGOP campaigns are listed, and, at first, it could just link to the individual fundraising pages and not use a PAC at all.  

    The fastest way – to avoid all the payment processing code – (and this was Brad Marston’s idea) would be to approach a donation provider – and have them provide the payment infrastructure while we built the interface on top of it.

    What would it take to produce a MassGOP hub of donations with nice features to see what you’ve donated and where? Hmmmmmm……. (yes, I make such estimates as part of my job, but I will just make some educated guesses here.)

    Assuming we don’t have to do the fundraising software (and use for that – run by a Republican who would probably say yes) I would think:

    1. Two back-end developers (database, server code) and one front end-developer (javascript, web design, HTML/CSS)

    2. The stack? Either MySQL/Python/Flask/AngularJS/HTML5 or MySQL/Ruby/Rails/AngularJS/HTML5. (reasonable substitutes OK – I see no need for fanciness in the realm of Scala or Play or Typescript or NoSQL stuff)

    3. It would probably take 3 months to get a decent first version out the door. It would be polished in 5-6 months.

    4. Cost? Depending on whether you have freelancers or hire a small firm, and depending on who you hire, the cost will vary greatly. I would say the lowest you’d pay would be $25,000 and the highest would be $100,000. I’m sure that some people could find a way to spend $250,000 on it. It would all come down to what features and who did it and how.

    The wild cost estimates show why we don’t have this yet. You can do something small, but that might not get attention. Something big would cost too much to be just an experiment. Worse, even if you got it built, who would run it? ActBlue is a small firm that builds and runs it. We probably need to think of who would keep running it. (So the site would have to make money and pay them to keep working on it.)

    I think that issue (is this something we build or a company we try to start) is another reason we don’t have this. So yes, we could pay someone to build it, but we probably need a few guys to do a startup around it instead. 🙂