The acquisition of phones fundraising firm Integral Resources could help TargetSmart boost its clients’ digital programs.
TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier told C&E the timing of the deal was more personal than business but the move could still give his firm’s clients an edge as competition for midterm research intensifies.
Bonier recalled how the deal came about after the passing of Integral’s founder, Ron Rosenblith, in July 2021. “We’ve worked with Ron and Page Gardner, his wife, for a long time. She ran Voter Participation Center. So Page was running [Integral] after he passed away and she reached out to us.
“We saw an opportunity there that was clearly mutually beneficial.”
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Bonier noted that the phones firm, which was founded more than 30 years ago, has data on some 10 million active Democratic and progressive donors. That data has been brought in-house and is being matched against the TargetSmart house files.
“To have this large database of individuals, about which we’ve got great information in terms of the causes and concerns that really motivate them and being able to then use that in an audience segmentation perspective can be helpful for voter persuasion, for GOTV, for a whole lot of other things,” Bonier said, adding that the data can also be used to create model universes and lookalike audiences.
The fundraising environment has shifted for Democratic and progressive organizations who enjoyed enthusiastic support throughout the Trump presidency. Now, with high inflation, a murky economic picture and a Democratic president in the White House, fundraising isn’t as effortless.
“We’ve seen how a lot of progressive orgs and campaigns, you know, there’s more competition for resources and looking for new ways to channels the enthusiasm that we see out there,” Bonier said. “That certainly was part of our calculus as well.”
In terms of how Integral was valued, Bonier said he considered the firm’s client list, which has included the ACLU, DCCC, End Citizens United, Let America Vote, Senate Majority PAC, DNC, DSCC, Emily’s List and Giffords PAC, as well as the six full-time staff who remain in place.
Bonier said he introduced Integral’s leadership to the TargetSmart team, which now includes 60 data scientists, engineers, strategists, and fundraising specialists, during a call last Friday.
“Every single person on that senior team in Integral [who is] running the company, came up through the ranks starting as callers, working as shift managers, managing call centers, and then working up to management roles in the business, which is impressive,” Bonier said. “When you look at this from a value perspective, I think the people are the most important part.”
TargetSmart is now preparing to launch a Fundraising Solutions team led by Francis “Robi” Roberts, a 14-year veteran of Integral.
Bonier said Integral’s clients who previously weren’t working with TargetSmart won’t notice a difference post acquisition. But eventually, he expected to help boost their fundraising returns by, for example, providing better lists with up-to-date phone numbers and best times to call prospective donors. “Those are all resources we bring to the table.”
The acquisition comes nearly two years after TargetSmart settled a lawsuit that it launched against industry rival Catalist accusing it of “trade secret theft” during a potential merger of the two companies. TargetSmart had been seeking monetary damages of $75,000, in addition to punitive damages, legal fees and “such other relief as the Court deems appropriate.”
Bonier declined to discuss the settlement, but noted he’s been “cautious” about potential deals. “You’ve got to make sure it’s the right move for both sides to be successful.”