Winning the Internet

Efficient, Effective, Affordable: How to Run a Winning Campaign with New Technology

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

As we gear up for Netroots Nation 2013, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s hottest training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Dennis Raj, who’ll be leading Efficient, Effective, Affordable: How to Run a Winning Campaign with New Technology.

NN13 Training Session

Efficient, Effective, Affordable: How to Run a Winning Campaign with New Technology
Your next local campaign can have the bite of the big dogs on a budget anyone can afford. Advances in technology mean small investments net a big return. The availability of detailed digital voter data, combined with call-center capabilities on a budget, means campaigns can reach the voters they need more quickly and for less money. But in a ground campaign with limited financial resources, how do you know what technology is worth investing in? What moves the dial?

We won an uphill battle to raise the minimum wage in San Jose by a 60 to 40 percent vote, and we did it with effective use of technology. We’ll cover on-screen dialing, Firefox plug-ins, the online voter file and predictive dialing systems.


Q: Tell us about your campaign experience.

A: I didn’t start in traditional campaigns. My first endeavor was working on an effort to create grassroots support in red districts for a compromise at the height of the budget woes in Sacramento. I didn’t really even get the campaign bug until I moved to the California Democratic Party in 2010. I got a chance to participate in a statewide coordinated effort to elect Democrats, which really opened my eyes to the need for effective, well-run campaign offices. It also taught me that small increases in efficiency open up large gains in the aggregate. However, it wasn’t until I moved to the South Bay Labor Council that I really got a chance to work on a team that was already at the forefront of the technology spectrum for campaigns.

Q: In your opinion, can a limited budget really be overcome with the right technology?

A: Absolutely, no doubt.

Obviously, if you can’t pay to feed your volunteers or keep the lights on, you campaign is in dire straights and no amount of technology — no matter how wisely chosen — can overcome that. Once you have the basic funds necessary to run a decent operation, I’d argue that the best use of money is to invest in technology. Laptops won’t replace at least one round of campaign mail, but technology always trumps another round of lawn signs.

Q: What is the most important tool campaigners on a budget should consider?

A: Computers; even if they are old and on their way to be recycled. I’m amazed by the number of campaigns that are digital everywhere except in their field operations. One day, we’ll look back at paper lists just like the old school field hacks look back at index cards pinned to the wall. The fact that many people won’t get that reference validates my point.

Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation?

A: The good people of Netroots Nation should attend my session because they are progressive, strongly liberal and willing to put in work all over the country. Netroots attendees are the ones in the trenches during campaigns, and I’m hoping that I can give them a new way to think about using technology to improve their odds of winning. Honestly though, I’m hoping open dialogue about tips and techniques we all use will help us all be better at winning campaigns for progressive causes and candidates. I’m looking forward to someone who does this differently asking a question that starts with “well, on my last campaign we did …” that sparks a group discussion where we all leave the panel with something new to try.


To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2013 in San Jose, register now.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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