Software & Other Resources
Software you may find useful
Software for everyday use: creating documents, etc.
This is the classic and it’s very likely you already have it. Excel and Word are probably the applications from this suite that see the most use on a political campaign. Microsoft will encourage you to use their subscription service, Office 365, but purchasing their Office 2019 suite outright is probably a better choice. If you don’t already have Microsoft Office, you can purchase it here.
This is a completely free and open source suite of office applications. For your purposes, the word processor and the spreadsheet application will be the most useful. That spreadsheet app — LibreOffice Calc — is not as good as MS Excel, though it still gets the job done. LibreOffice Writer is arguably better than MS Word.
Google Docs are a free online office suite. They’re not as good as your other options for creating finished documents, but they’re much better for collaborating with your team. Google Sheets, for example, can be updated throughout the campaign so that everyone can see the same data at a glance.
To get Google Docs, just log into your Google account and go to docs.google.com.
Online software for managing campaign data
This one is critical. You’ll need access to your state and/or local party’s voter data. This is a combination of the publicly available voter file from the Supervisor of Elections (or Secretary of State) with data collected by the party on voters, including contact information. All voter communications are going to involve targeting using this data.
Most of the contry uses VAN/Votebuilder. Some states like California use PDI. Either way, you need to get in touch with your local party leadership and get a login for whichever application they’re using. This is not free; prices vary by district and size of the race.
It is possible to run your entire donor research, solicitation, and compliance program off of spreadsheets, but it’s usually a nightmare for whoever has to manage it. If you can, you should get database software designed for this purpose. iDonatePro (IDP) is probably the most straightforward option. It also includes a very good digital callsheets system that will completely replace your binder of callsheets that constantly go through the print, call, data-entry cycle. Pricing starts at $125/month.
NGP VAN is the most full-featured political compliance software available for Democratic campaigns. This is the standard software for campaign finance and it’s likely what your Finance Director uses if you have one. If you have not used NGP before, be warned: the learning curve is steep. This is not intuitive software. That said, you may want to use the industry standard. Pricing is opaque.
Donation processing for political campaigns
Anedot is a payment processor for political campaigns and for nonprofit organizations. They have a simple-to-use interface with custom forms and your incoming data can be integrated with other applications or documents using webhooks. Like many payment processors, your account is free to set up, and they get paid by taking a small percent of each transaction.
ActBlue is the largest payment processor serving Democratic campaigns. ActBlue is not quite as intuitive to use as Anedot, but it has a couple of advantages. 1) Tracking donation sources scales well to larger campaigns, and 2) it is easy for third-party supporters to include you on a donation form with other candidates. With ActBlue, its possible you could find yourself on someone’s list of “Targeted Florida Districts” or something, and see a flood of very small donations from that.
Canva is probably the simplest way for a non-designer to create good-looking images. This especially useful for adding a design element or small amount of text to photos for social media. Canva has a pro plan that costs $12.95/month, but you should be able to do everything you need for free.
Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer are professional graphic design applications that replace Photoshop and Illustrator respectively. Affinity products have a very reasonable one-time fee, as opposed to Adobe’s products that drain you dry with subscription fees ($20 per month per product). If you have some design skills and are going it alone, Affinity is a good choice at $50 a pop.
Inkscape is a free and open source vector design application. That makes it an alternative to software like Adobe Illustrator. If you are creating or editing a logo (or any other vector graphics) and you’re not willing to pay, this is the way to do it.
Scribus is free and open source desktop publishing software. That makes it an alternative to applications like Adobe InDesign. These are not generally critical tools to political campaigns. Our sample campaign prospectus was made in Scribus, and you can open the working file there to modify it and make your own custom prospectus.
Here are some other resources you might find helpful. I’m not currently doing consulting work, but I’m also happy to talk with you about your race — just reach out to me using the ‘contact’ page.
Arena Academy is one of several good training programs for Democratic campaign staffers. They also make their toolbox available for free, which includes a whole range of resources broken out by category — campaign management, comms, data, etc.
Take a look at the Arena Academy toolbox and see what useful resources you can dig up.
National Democratic Training Committee
NDTC also runs training programs, often coordinated with state or county parties. They also have an extensive set of online trainings that range from mini-lessons to very in-depth curricula. You do need to register with them and confirm you’re a Democrat before you can access their resources.
EMILY’s List recruits and supports women running for office. Their name is an acronym: ‘Early Money Is Like Yeast’ — it helps the dough rise. If you are a woman considering running for office, I would definitely sign up on their list and take any support they’re offering. My experience is that they mainly play in bigger races, but they also offer training and other resources for everyone.
You can start with their trainings page, which includes recorded webinars.
Run For Something
Run For Something recruits and supports young people running for office. They are a broad organization that tries to help candidates in smaller local races. You have to sign up to access any resources.
Your Local DEC
Your local Democratic party organization (often called a Democratic Executive Committee, or DEC) will have candidate resources for you. They will probably be mostly in person (at least in non-pandemic times. This is good, because one big value of your local DEC is getting to know other local candidates, campaign workers, and activists. Do your best not to get involved in any rivalries; just meet people, listen, and learn. As long as you attend the regular meetings — usually monthly — you’ll hear about upcoming trainings and other resources.
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