Putting communities at the heart of politics
At the most recent Australian federal election we saw a seismic shift in the political landscape. While there was an obvious mood for change (voters clearly wanted more from their elected officials on climate action, gender equality, and integrity), perhaps just as interesting was the way engaged citizens took matters into their own hands to make change happen. The results demonstrate what passionate, well-organised communities can achieve.
Fed up with feeling their core values were not being represented in Canberra, and inspired by the success of trailblazers like Cathy McGowan and Zali Steggall, a string of community groups sprung up over the past few years, starting conversations, listening to the views of their fellow citizens, and getting organised.
From these community movements emerged a host of brilliant, intelligent, thoughtful and experienced candidates, backed by dedicated campaign teams. However, even amazing candidates and their campaign teams need extra support to make an impact, especially in the face of big party machinery, incumbency, and well-funded scare campaigns. This is why, around the world, leading campaigners have often turned to distributed organising - building sustainable grassroots networks and amplifying their impact by empowering volunteers to take on leadership roles.
How technology can help
This is where we were thrilled to see some of our digital tools in action at the most recent election. A number of candidates that won in marginal (or previously safe) electorates chose to use our powerful community organising technology, SupporterBase (often paired with our best-in-class NationBuilder website themes), to help scale their volunteer recruitment, engagement and mobilisation efforts when it mattered most.
(Pictured above: the campaigns that used SupporterBase in the lead up to the federal election)
SupporterBase syncs with the widely-used NationBuilder CRM, and was developed by our team to give volunteers access to a platform that’s equipped with all the tools they need to connect with their communities, without needing to access an organisation’s main database.
SupporterBase helps supercharge volunteer recruitment and mobilisation by removing a number of key barriers to a scalable organising program.
- Streamlined recruitment and data collection: New supporters can find and sign up for relevant volunteer opportunities via public-facing NationBuilder websites, with volunteer preferences funnelled through to SupporterBase, to help campaign teams better engage with them going forward (i.e. tailoring event invites to the interests and location of volunteers).
- Giving volunteers the tools they need to engage and mobilise fellow supports: Via a simple user interface, volunteers can easily use SupporterBase to create events aligned with the campaign’s strategy (likely flyering, door knocking and voter calling events), then recruit for those events and handle follow up with attendees via in-built SMS, email and calling tools.
- Maintaining data quality and consistency: All supporter data and contact records in SupporterBase are synced automatically with the campaign's main CRM, and supporters can be added to SupporterBase based on criteria established in the CRM, avoiding the need for constant manual data logging and messy collections of different contact lists, stored in different places.
- Protecting supporter data: SupporterBase allows for a much higher level of supporter privacy, data security and oversight than more traditional methods (like shared spreadsheets, the use of personal phones and emails). Volunteer leaders can only see the details of supporters in the groups they lead, and can contact fellow volunteers in their group directly via the application without ever having access to (or being able to download) supporter data like emails and phone numbers.
- Allowing campaigns to maintain oversight and approval processes: Campaign admins can sign off on mass communication and events via an approvals system, as well as have full visibility of all activity across their volunteer network (at an individual level and via an analytics function), without needing to get bogged down in the legwork of creating every event and drafting every piece of communications.
(Pictured below: the SupporterBase interface)
The power of tech-enabled, community organising
This type of integrated approach to digital organising ensures a more seamless journey for the volunteer and serves to boost engagement across an organisation’s volunteer base. We watched this play out in the final months leading up to the election, with teams using SupporterBase to sign up thousands of new supporters, make calls, send thousands of emails and SMS and track replies, as well as recruit thousands of people to events, all through the one platform.
Of course a lot of the hard work then lies in volunteers actually handing out flyers, putting up signs, making calls and having conversations, but with this kind of technical infrastructure in place you can at least help streamline and amplify all the hard work of campaign teams and volunteers. This next level of scale was particularly important in a number of tight races where every vote mattered and it was crucial to have as many active volunteers as possible out engaging with voters.
This election truly demonstrates the strength of well-organised, people-powered movements. We were in awe of the dedication, energy and ingenuity of various campaigns across the country, and equally elated to see our technology play its part in helping to support and scale their efforts.
Excitingly, at the final tally of votes, five new independent candidates using SupporterBase as part of their organising toolkit had been elected!