Running a political party is a bit like trying to manage chaos. Your county party leaders are primarily concerned with unique local issues; your state caucuses in the House and the Senate rarely have standardized processes for running for election; all the while you’re balancing relationships with the national party and assisting federal candidates running for office. Depending on your state, you may not have a lot of resources at hand or a lot of interested and engaged supporters. It’s rare enough that a voter knows who their U.S. Senator is, so you can only imagine how rare it is for a voter to volunteer for their state party. Every volunteer needs to be effective and each dollar donated needs to go to the right place. In short, scaling for political parties is a problem that has yet to be solved.
I’ve worked with state and county parties, as well as with state caucuses throughout the country, and the usual solution to the problem of scale is for the centralized party bureaucracy to either have total control--which often causes relationships and trust with local political units to breakdown--or to have no control at all--in which case, state and local elected officials each run for office on their own and rarely share best practices or data. This rush to extremes often creates a fractured political party that isn’t completely aligned. Alignment is the key to scalability. True alignment isn’t easy, it requires that every level of a political party, from city council members to members of Congress, share the same goals.
Many party officials I’ve worked with assume that their party already does share the same goal: to win elections. However, once you break down what it actual takes to win an election, you realize that you need certain numbers of new supporters and donations in order to achieve success. You also need your progress towards achieving these goals to be updated in real time, so you can experiment and determine if the party’s fundraising strategies are actually effective. How many county party chairs know the total number of new supporters they’ve gained in the last month? Chances are, very few even have access to the tools needed to build political infrastructure to support the party at a local level.
NationBuilder Network is designed to give you the tools to scale your party’s vision by aligning everyone from the bottom up to work together to achieve the same goals. Aligning county parties and elected officials in your party isn’t easy and it is rarely attempted. These groups within your state are untapped resources of new supporters and potential candidates for office, but they have their own priorities. The challenge is to balance the need for centralized direction, without ignoring the local desires of party activists.
Our software isn’t just about providing the technology to strike this balance, it’s about building trust with the wide array of constituencies that make up your political party. This takes time, but NationBuilder Network is meant to help facilitate an environment where these relationships can be built and the alignment of goals can occur. Ultimately, NationBuilder Network creates a platform for you to rally the different levels of your party to have a conversation around what should be prioritized and, at the same time, how to act on those priorities to generate results: more volunteers, more donations, and, ultimately, more elections won.
This is part three of a four part series on NationBuilder Network. Read part two here and check back soon for part four.