As a political fundraiser starting my own firm, I faced unique challenges. I needed to grow my client base while providing a high level of service to my existing clients. I needed to scale my workflows from managing one finance plan to four finance plans. And somewhere in there, I had to bring on my first full-time team member and get them up to speed on everything.
To get more done in a day, I had to be efficient. But most of all, I needed to be innovative.
I started exploring a deep world full of SaaS and tech apps and have barely scratched the surface of what these have to offer. But along the way, I was able to bring in new tools and talent that have helped my firm work more efficiently.
Here are three ways that I was able to leverage technology to amplify my donor data, automate repetitive tasks, and quickly process new emails from third-party consultants and donation processors.
Hire talent from a freelance marketplace.
In Nevada, I needed a workaround to an antiqued campaign finance reporting website. State reporting databases vary wildly across the country. Some have easy ways to download a CSV file full of donor data, and others make it challenging to pull any form of data.
To onboard a new client and to become deeply familiar with the state’s donor community, I needed a way to instantly process new contribution reports without having to pull each donation by hand. When onboarding my third client, I spent a whole Saturday afternoon copying and pasting old contributions from his first campaign onto a spreadsheet. That wasn’t scalable.
To fix this, I went toUpwork and hired a python developer. At a cost of $400, they built a python script that would translate an HTML webpage full of political contributions into an organized CSV file. This script has saved an incredible amount of time.
Small political firms and campaign operations can’t justify hiring a full-time software developer or engineer. Instead, you can leverage a freelance website likeUpwork and bring someone on for a quick project that can have enormous implications for your operations.
Use Zapier to automate simple tasks.
To serve our clients as efficiently as possible, we needed to identify repetitive tasks that could be automated instead of delegated. Luckily for us, there are a ton of easy-to-use automation tech apps on the web today that can be utilized and customized by just about anyone. I started using Zapier and fell in love with it, but you can also check out Integromat, n8n.io, Pipedream, and Parabola.
Through Zapier, you can bring in an ActBlue webhook and immediately trigger actions whenever someone makes a new contribution. By connecting the webhook with a vendor like Postcardmania, Handwrytten, or Thanks.io, you can get a thank you note sent in the mail the next day. You can even use Zapier’s formatting step to title case names and fix any capitalization issues.
To keep track of everything we need to get done for our clients, we also use Asana. This tech platform allows us to create new tasks quickly, assign them across team members, and set deadlines for deliverables. With our call time sessions scheduled via Calendly, we created a Zap that would automatically create new Asana tasks for each call session and assign them to the relevant team member.
For our biggest campaigns, we have to pull in new data from emails sent to us by third-party consultants and vendors. These could be from a PAC consultant, a compliance consultant, or a donation processor.
Through email parsing, you can instantly process regular emails sent to you and apply that data anywhere. To do this, you have to set up email templates that are used by your vendors and custom rules that are used to process each template. Here are three ways our firm uses email parsing:
Check emails: Whenever our DC PAC Consultant receives new checks, they cc our email parsing inbox, and those checks are automatically added to our campaign’s Finance Plan and sent to a custom Slack Channel.
COH Figure & Wire Transfers: Whenever our compliance firm sends us an update on our cash-on-hand figure and whether we’ve received any wire transfers, those figures are automatically added to our Finance plan and into an email draft for our next client update.
Alerts from Donation Processors: To cut down on the number of emails we get in a day, we send contribution alerts from processors like DemocracyEngine and Numero to the email parser. That data is added to our Finance Plan as needed and sent to our Slack Channel.
All of these tools just scratch the surface at the depth at which technology and software applications can make fundraisers work more efficiently. Instead of delegating tedious workflows, we need to be thinking about how to automate and maximize our time.
Fundraisers who can focus more of their attention on soliciting new gifts from donors, and less on administrative tasks, will have a substantial competitive advantage when servicing clients and raising record sums of money.
Kalani Tissot is a principal at Tissot Solutions.