NGP & VAN Merge: Field, Finance and Comm need to merge too (Part 2)

By Isaac Salazar on 11.11.10

In Part 1 I took a look at some of the technical implications of a VAN/NGP merger. This post is about a merger of different kind; the staff merger.

Pretty soon the 2012 campaign teams will start to form and one of the first things that each department will do is mark their territory. The result will be a data tug of war that may hurt more than help the campaign. Rather than working against each other, campaigns should sit down and take these 3 steps:

1. Identify each department’s database needs
2.  Identify areas where these needs overlap.
3. Find a data solution (NOT EXCEL) that meets these needs.

The three steps are easier said than done. First of all, for federal elections, the reality is that campaigns almost exclusively rely on NGP for contribution reporting purposes. Meanwhile, Democratic field staff live and die by VAN for voter ID and voter contact. So the NGP/VAN merger should solve everything right? Maybe not.

The communication team may use one of any number of email service providers for email blasts to supporters and press and likely works with the finance staff on email solicits. This email client may already be NGP or VAN, but it may also be Salsa or God forbid, a commercial email service provider. All the while, each department has complete disregard for the frequency with which each contacts supporters and the duplication of efforts. While Finance may be sold on the value of email solicits, field may still be convinced that the ONLY ways to touch supporters is in person and by phone and may completely discount emails, never mind social media.

While this merger will certainly help many campaigns consolidate their data and lead to increased efficiency, the reality is that it will not be the end all be all for supporter management. A campaign’s culture and approach to technology and data is the determining factor.

Having played a part in one of the few successful Democratic campaigns in the country during an extremely difficult political climate for Democrats, I have the fortune of being a over analytical about the systems that we used. However, there were definitely valuable lessons from our campaign and areas for improvement despite the 14 point victory (sorry, it still feels good to say). In races that were determined by much smaller margins, seamlessly integrated online databases may have made the difference in determining which voters to target to turn out and win an election. That is, if everyone is on the same page.